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Week 2: Quick Hits from Lunch with Cut

Duke head coach David Cutcliffe held his weekly press conference today. Cutcliffe talked about the Blue Devils' 45-0 win versus N.C. Central last Saturday and Duke's upcoming game against Memphis. Here are some highlights from his 30-minute question and answer session. The Blue Devils play the Tigers Saturday at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium Saturday at 4:30 p.m.

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After last weekend's shutout against N.C. Central—Duke's first shutout since 1989, the same year the Blue Devils last held at least a share in the ACC Championship—Duke sets its sights on its first FBS opponent of the year. The Tigers are coming off a 4-8 season under first-year head coach Justin Fuente. Last year the Blue Devils dismantled Memphis 38-14 in Durham in the fourth week of the season.

"They did get better [referring to the second half of Memphis' 2012 season].... You can see it. You could see it all the way through the season; they continued to get better and better. They end the year with three straight wins and ended up being a good football team by the time the season was over."—Cutcliffe

The Tigers finished their 2012 campaign with wins against Tulane, UAB and Southern Mississippi in consecutive weeks and return 16 total starters from last year's team—eight on offense, eight on defense. Memphis had a bye last week, and Duke will have to face off against the Tigers with only last year's film as a guide for pregame preparations. Fuente and his team may have an advantage in that they can analyze the Blue Devils' performance against the Eagles last Saturday, but Cutcliffe indicated that Duke did not show all of its offensive and defensive wrinkles against N.C. Central.

"We were pretty structured going in. We had to execute, but a lot of things we didn't run.... There's a lot more there," Cutcliffe said.

What the Blue Devils did show Saturday, besides a stifling defense, was dominance in the run game. Duke racked up 257 yards on the ground—the highest total in the Cutcliffe era. A combination of five different tailbacks, as well as quarterbacks Anthony Boone and Brandon Connette, teamed up to average more than five yards per carry and keep the Eagles' defense off balance throughout the game.

Success in the run game also helped Boone to one of the highest efficiency ratings for a quarterback in Blue Devil history. The redshirt junior completed 16-of-20 passes for 176 yards.

"Dick Vermiel told me this years and years ago, and it doesn't sound like it makes any sense. It sounds like a Yogi Berra-ism. He said, 'The only way you are going to run the football is to call it.' Every time I'd see him he would say, 'Hey, David, if you want to run the football you have to call it.'... He's right. You have to make a commitment to the run game."—Cutcliffe

The offense will be going up against a more experienced and talented defense this weekend, though. Much of Memphis' returning strength lies on its defensive line, where the Tigers welcome back every significant contributor from a team that led the Conference USA in yards allowed in 2012. Defensive tackles Terry Redden and Johnie Farms return to anchor the unit after combining for 66 tackles and 16 tackles for loss last season.

Despite its strength up front, Memphis struggled in the defensive secondary at times last year and proved especially ineffective on third downs. Two starters and a key reserve are gone from the Tigers' 2012 squad—troubling news for a Memphis team that will attempt to contain Boone and the talented Duke wide outs and tight ends.


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