Duke football head coach David Cutcliffe held his weekly press conference today, addressing Duke’s 38-14 victory over Memphis and their next matchup. Here are some highlights from his 30-minute question and answer session. The Blue Devils (3-1, 0-0- in the ACC) face Wake Forest (3-1, 1-1) at BB&T Field this Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
"As we move forward, the biggest and most important part of this season is dead ahead." —Cutcliffe
The Blue Devils will travel to Winston-Salem this weekend for the team's first ACC contest of the 2012 season, and will play a stretch of six consecutive conference games before an open date on Nov. 10. Duke is in unfamiliar territory heading into this weekend's matchup, off to its first 3-1 start since 2008 and halfway to its first bowl berth since 1994 as conference play gets underway. With what should be close contests against Wake Forest and Virginia in the next two weeks, Cutcliffe stressed the importance of performing in highly-contested ACC matchups, especially in a road environment.
"It's critical to compete well and play well on the road in our league if you're going to have a chance to compete in our league," Cutcliffe said. "So we've got that test right off the bat with a team that has beaten us since we've been here. This is an opportunity to test ourselves against an extremely well-coached football team."
Blue Devils look to break infamous drought against Demon Deacons this weekend.
Duke football has not defeated Wake Forest since 1999, with the Demon Deacons taking each of the last 12 contests. Not only have the Blue Devils been haunted by the Demon Deacons over the years, they've developed a knack for losing these games in excruciating fashion. Five of the past six matchups between Duke and Wake Forest have come down to the wire and were decided by fewer than six points. The Blue Devils hope for a reversal of fortune in this weekend's contest, but will face a disciplined Demon Deacons squad on their home turf.
"You have to give credit to their playmakers for making critical plays late in the game. They're a good program," Cutcliffe said. "They take care of the football. They play the kicking game well. They do a lot of the little things right and they've done that for quite some time and that will win a lot of games for you. They've obviously done that better than we have to this point."
"I think the biggest thing is he throws the ball on time and he throws it so accurately, he is not going to make many mistakes." —Cutcliffe
Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price has emerged as one of the most dangerous signal-callers in the ACC, and will be a point of emphasis for the Blue Devil defense heading into Saturday's contest. The junior has led Wake Forest to two victories over Duke in his college career and has thrown for 825 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions this season. Cutcliffe stressed Price's ability to take care of the football as one of his biggest assets. Although the Blue Devil defensive unit played its strongest game of the year in their win against Memphis, Duke did not force a turnover while giving away four of its own. Ball control is one of the Demon Deacons' greatest strengths, as Wake Forest has thrown just two interceptions and has not lost a fumble this season.
"We had some people that couldn't practice today. I'm concerned again about some not being available."—Cutcliffe
After welcoming Jordon Byas and Kyler Brown back to the lineup against Memphis, Duke saw running back Josh Snead and cornerback Lee Butler leave the win against the Tigers with injuries. Cutcliffe said Sunday that the injuries were not as bad as the team originally feared, though would not disclose on Tuesday whether or not Snead and Butler had participated in practice or what their playing status was for Saturday. According to fellow cornerback Ross Cockrell, Butler did participate in practice today for the Blue Devils. More information will be made public about Snead and Butler's injuries when Duke releases its weekly injury report Thursday.
Cutcliffe did say that despite its laundry list of injuries, Duke's energy and intensity in practice this morning was high.
"We're wounded, but we were out there in full pads and you had to back them off some of the contact a little bit," Cutcliffe said. "The team is wounded, but I promise you the program is better than it's ever been."