After turning the ball over five times against Florida State Saturday, Duke will emphasize protecting the football in practice this week as it prepares to face against Clemson.
Head coach Ted Roof spoke extensively about the Blue Devils’ efforts to cut down on turnovers and control the time of possession during his weekly media luncheon Monday.
“It’s going to be tough for us to win a football game turning it over five times,” Roof said. “We’ve got to protect the football, to take care of it. If you look at the time of possession, we kept it for over 35 minutes.... [Imagine] what it could have been if we had taken care of the football.”
Entering the matchup with the Seminoles, Duke held a four-turnover advantage over its opponents. But after registering just one take away of their own in Tallahassee, the Blue Devils and their opponents are even with 21 giveaways on the season.
“You don’t want to be average, you don’t want to be even, you want to be on the plus-side of the ledger,” Roof said of the turnovers. “We’ve got to finish strong in that area in the last two weeks and the same thing as far as taking care of the football and holding on to it.”
Every day in practice, the Duke players participate in ball security drills, Roof said. The coaches impress the importance of protecting possessions upon the players during every aspect of their weekly preparation, both on the field and while watching film.
“When they do lay it on the ground in the practice situation they have a reminder that reminds them not to do that anymore,” Roof said. “We spend a lot of time talking about taking care of that ball about it being more precious than gold.”
Roof would not elaborate on what that “reminder” is, but senior tight end Ben Patrick said that the punishment works.
“I’ve fumbled once in practice in two years, so if that is an incentive to let you know how that is dealt with, then so be it,” Patrick said of Roof’s tactics. “He emphasizes it in practice a lot.”
Considering the Blue Devils surrendered a number of plays of more than 40 yards against FSU, the defensive staff will also stress the importance of eliminating opponents’ big plays.
“We can’t give up the big plays on defense early in the series,” Roof said. “You look at where we came from. Florida State was 0-for-11 on third down. I don’t know that I’ve ever been in a football game where the other team did not convert a third down.”
Although Duke is preparing for one of the hottest teams in the conference—Clemson has won four straight—Roof has maintained that his players have shown no let-down.
“Our team’s motivation is to win a football game,” Roof said.
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