Duke head coach David Cutcliffe and selected members of his team addressed the media Wednesday morning at Media Day for the 2012 Belk Bowl in Charlotte, N.C. Here are some highlights from the event. The Blue Devils (6-6) face Cincinnati (9-3) at Bank of America Stadium tomorrow at 6:30 p.m.
Senior wide receiver Conner Vernon on his team's approach to tomorrow's game:
"Now we're getting into game mode, especially with the game being tomorrow. That's kind of our focus now, is our game. We've had a lot of fun events here this week, but now it's time to get down to business and win a football game."
Vernon on the differences between the regular season and preparation for a bowl game:
"The first week of bowl prep was actually more intense than any week we had during the year from a hitting and physical standpoint. Now this last week we've just backed up and focused on our execution heading into tomorrow's game."
Vernon on the team's NASCAR experience earlier this week:
"Going to Charlotte Motor Speedway was quite an experience. Being able to get into a car and go at those kind of speeds like those guys do, you get a greater appreciation for the sport. There were only six of us on the track at the time, I can't imagine 20 or more cars going as fast as we were at such close distances."
Vernon on his team's hopes to get off to a fast start tomorrow:
"That's huge for us. We have kind of been a second half team and coming out of the gate is really important. Cincinnati is a really good football team. They had nine wins this season, so that's no secret there. We're going to have to come out of the gate because it's easier to stay ahead than to catch up. So we're going to have to execute right off the bat."
Senior safety Walt Canty on the defense's point of emphasis in bowl preparation:
"We're just trying to get as consistent as we can. We know we are a good football team. The tough part is being able to put it together day after day. Even those games that we struggled we had good things going on also, but we just want to become more consistent."
Canty on Cincinnati running back George Winn, the Big East's leading rusher in 2012:
"He's a great football player. Luckily we play in the ACC, so we see good football players week in and week out. But he is definitely going to be a challenge for us."
Redshirt cornerback Ross Cockrell on changing his signature hairstyle:
"It was just time to let it go. I went to the barbershop and it took me three years to grow out and only an hour to get it all chopped off. It's a strange feeling. I hope that makes people remember my number a little more, so we'll see if that works. My head is a little lighter and it's a little colder as well, so we'll see if that makes me any more aerodynamic."
Cockrell on the keys to success for the Duke defense against Cincinnati:
"We have to limit our explosive plays. We've given up a lot of yards the last few games, and we've been working to try and limit those big gains down the field. We can't fall behind and we can't give up those big plays and give the other team momentum."
Cockrell on Duke not having won a bowl game since 1961:
"I was actually surprised. I had no idea it had been that long since Duke has won a bowl game. It's been a long time. We've talked about it and it's something we are looking forward to changing."
Redshirt senior defensive end Kenny Anunike on staying focused throughout the Blue Devils' busy bowl week schedule:
"Obviously there's a lot going on down here. We have a lot of people, a lot of activities and a lot of media. But at the same time we know we have a job to do. We have to focus on the task at hand. The guys definitely understand what we have to do and what we have to get done."
Anunike on the keys to Duke's defense in bowl preparation:
"We've been focusing on correcting our mistakes. I think the effort has always been there, but sometimes I think we've been out of position or we've been down late in the ballgames and have been unable to pick ourselves back up. I think we've definitely tackled that in our film study and we'll be ready to go for tomorrow night's game."
Senior wide receiver Desmond Scott on having an extra month of football season leading up to the Belk Bowl:
"It's a wonderful feeling. To be with my teammates for 13 weeks, the bond that you build together is great. Being here and playing foosball and air hockey with the guys, it was already a close-knit team but doing all the activities together has brought us together even pretty closer."
Scott on his team's mentality going into tomorrow's Belk Bowl:
"Today is like a Friday in the regular season. We're just finding those little things and getting knit-picky and getting ready to execute tomorrow."
Head coach David Cutcliffe on his team's first experience with bowl preparation:
"They've been incredible. The first meeting they were on the edge of their seats because they were so excited. The thing they've done surprisingly well—maybe better than any team I've ever had—is they've balanced the fun and activities with really excellent practices."
Cutcliffe on the transition of defensive tackle Nick Sink to the tight end position:
"Nick Sink has been great. I don't know if he is going to factor into this gameplan as much as he will in the future. But I love the idea of having a very athletic, 285-pound tight end. Nick's got great hands and I think he'll impact our team as we move forward."
Cutcliffe on stopping the Bearcats dangerous ground attack:
"We've worked extremely hard in that area. I think it's the best work that we've had, but that remains to be seen. Cincinnati has a very athletic offensive line, and they're big too. I want to see some defensive lineman and linebackers make some plays. I don't want to see our safeties lead the team in tackles tomorrow."
Cutcliffe on utilizing his offensive weapons:
"We're going to get our weapons going with Jamison Crowder, Conner Vernon, Desmond Scott, and certainly Isaac Blakeney and David Reeves. But what we really need to see, is what we need to get our backs going. We're the one that needs to run the football. I've really tried to convince our offensive line that at this point they can be a real weapon. We're good there, but let's play great."
Redshirt senior quarterback Sean Renfree on the importance of clinching a winning season:
"It's been our only focus, to be really honest. Since our last game, we've had a good amount of time to get healthy and focused. We've gotten three weeks to lift and stay loose and practice for two weeks, but that whole time it's been about getting a winning season."
Renfree on his team's emphasis of consistency:
"We have to play a four quarter game. We can't expect to just come back in the second half and score points. When you're playing a good team like Cincinnati, you have to play hard and keep the game within reach from the start. That's what's going to give us a chance to win."
Cincinnati quarterback Brendon Kay on playing the game in Charlotte:
"It's a bowl game but basically it's a road game. They're going to have a great atmosphere, I'm guessing, but we'll bring a lot of people as well. It should be fun."