Duke football head coach David Cutcliffe held his weekly press conference today, addressing Duke’s 42-24 loss to Georgia Tech and their next matchup. Here are some highlights from his 30-minute question-and-answer session. The Blue Devils (6-5, 3-4 in the ACC) face Miami (6-5, 4-3) at Wallace Wade Stadium this Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
"We've got a big hurdle in front of us. We have a huge carrot in front of us."—Cutcliffe
Eliminated from the race for the ACC Coastal Division crown with its loss to Georgia Tech last Saturday, Duke remains focused on securing the team's first winning season since 1994 with a win against Miami. A 7-5 finish by the Blue Devils would also help their chances of being invited to a more prestigious bowl game for their first postseason appearance in nearly two decades.
"The prospects of a seventh win, the prospects of then that allowing an eighth win, if you accomplish that, is significant," Cutcliffe said. "But the hurdle is Miami—an extremely talented football team that can just ignite things offensively."
"He's fast. He's dangerous, he's talented, he's strong. He's got great lower body strength and when he opens up and runs we don't have anybody who can catch him."—Cutcliffe
The Blue Devil defense will have all eyes on Duke Johnson this weekend. Miami's freshman running back ranks third in the ACC in rushing yards with 781 on the season and has found the end zone seven times on the ground. As one of the staples of the Hurricanes' dynamic offense, Duke's defensive unit will be on high alert after allowing 330 rushing yards against Georgia Tech last Saturday.
"We're celebrating 20 seniors' last game. I'm really excited about everything these guys have accomplished."—Cutcliffe
Duke will honor 20 players in its annual Senior Day festivities Saturday, marking the graduating class's final home game at Wallace Wade Stadium. Among those who will be featured are quarterback Sean Renfree, running back Juwan Thompson, wide receivers Conner Vernon and Desmond Scott, center Brian Moore, cornerback Lee Butler and safeties Walt Canty and Jordon Byas. The Blue Devils' senior class will be the first in 18 years to not play their final game of their college football careers on Senior Day—the group has Duke's bowl game to look forward to.
"Kenny Anunike will return for his sixth year. I'm very excited about that for Kenny and I'm very excited about that for our program."—Cutcliffe
Cutcliffe announced that defensive end Kenny Anunike will not be among those honored at Senior Day next weekend—he will return for a sixth year at Duke. Anunike was granted a medical hardship waiver by the NCAA last March after suffering a season-ending knee injury in the fourth game of the 2011 season, granting him a rare sixth year of eligibility. The Galena, Ohio native has had four surgeries on his left knee since arriving at Duke as a freshman. Annunike is scheduled to graduate from Duke next month with a degree in biological anthropology and anatomy. This season he has recorded 36 tackles, 6.0 tackles for a loss and a team-leading 5.0 sacks.
"I am excited about returning and taking this rare opportunity to play another year at Duke," Anunike said. "It is truly great to be a part of this new era of Duke football. with Coach Cutcliffe, the staff, my teammates and our fans, I believe that coming back will be my contribution in helping take our program to new heights."
"I haven't been here long enough to get emotional about anybody leaving this league. My take is if anybody doesn't want to be here...go."—Cutcliffe
Following Maryland's decision to depart the ACC for the Big Ten in 2014-15, Cutcliffe took a moment to react to the ever-changing landscape of college football. The Terrapins' move to the Big Ten will have only a marginal impact on Cutcliffe's Blue Devils—as a member of the ACC's Atlantic Division for football, Duke and Maryland have not squared off on the gridiron since 2010.
"I think it is unfortunate because it's a part of the league that has been here from the beginning," Cutcliffe said. "I'll be interested to see what happens, but I don't worry about things I can't control. They're not on our schedule anytime soon nor now will they be."
"It's really my favorite day with the football team. We'll go out and practice Thursday morning and then we'll go have lunch."—Cutcliffe
Even with their final contest of the season approaching, Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils will take some time Thursday after practice to celebrate Thanksgiving together. The holiday, which traditionally falls just before the final game of the college football regular season, is deeply rooted in the traditions of food, family and football. After a rigorous final practice Thursday morning before taking on Miami, Cutcliffe plans to be entertained by watching his team chow down on a Thanksgiving feast.
"It's pretty awesome to watch those guys eat Thanksgiving—wow," Cutcliffe said. "I just watch I don't even eat much. They go by with these plates and I'm thinking how can you get this much food on one plate? They love it."