Duke football head coach David Cutcliffe held his weekly press conference today, addressing Duke’s 41-20 loss to Virginia Tech and their next matchup. Here are some highlights from his 30-minute question and answer session. The Blue Devils (5-2, 2-1 in the ACC) face North Carolina (5-2, 2-1) at Wallace Wade Stadium this Saturday at 7 p.m.
"It was at a point where you're either going to perform against a team who was playing really well or you could get run out of the stadium, and obviously the latter happened."—Cutcliffe
After taking a commanding 20-0 lead 11:48 into last week's contest against Virginia Tech, the Blue Devils allowed the Hokies to come storming back with 41 unanswered points. Duke's defense was dismantled by the Virginia Tech offense during the game's final three quarters, but clinging to a 20-17 lead at halftime, Cutcliffe said he still maintained confidence in his team. Ultimately, the Blue Devils came out flat offensively in the third quarter and the Hokies capitalized on big plays in front of a raucous home crowd of more than 65,000 fans.
"Everybody feels like they're a top-tier team in the ACC and we always have a good shot to beat them every year. They're talented and everybody knows this is a big rivalry."—Sean Renfree
Duke's starting quarterback sounds off on the latest installment of the battle for the Victory Bell. Although the Blue Devils and Tar Heels have a rivalry that spans back nearly a century, it has not been much of a rivalry on the gridiron in recent years. Duke has not beaten North Carolina since 2003, dropping 21 of its last 22 contests against the Tar Heels. The last time the Blue Devils defeated North Carolina at Wallace Wade Stadium was 1988.
"It takes at least two people every time he touches [the ball]. I haven't seen anybody tackle him one-on-one. You just have to do the best you can to leverage him, he's a great football player."—Cutcliffe
The Blue Devil defensive front will have its hand full this weekend with North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard, who enters the contest as the ACC's leading rusher with 652 yards. The Tar Heel running back averages an astounding 8.3 yards per carry and has found the end zone seven times this season. Bernard has carried the ball 50 times for 439 yards in North Carolina's last two victories against Virginia Tech and Miami.
"They have the best running back in the ACC," cornerback Ross Cockrell said. "We have to limit him and his explosive plays."
"I would expect that we have an outstanding crowd. With the circumstances like they are I'm really looking forward to our students seeing their first North Carolina-Duke game."—Cutcliffe
Although the Blue Devils and Tar Heels are familiar foes, they are not used to meeting one another this early in the year. The Tobacco Road rivalry is typically reserved for the final week of the season, which typically takes place the Sunday after Thanksgiving. This will be just the fourth time since 1965 that Duke will play North Carolina before the season's final week. This scheduling adjustment will allow for many students, who would otherwise be home for Thanksgiving break, to take in their first battle for the Victory Bell. This year's contest between Duke and North Carolina marks the earliest meeting between the teams since 1926.