‘Groundhog Day feeling’ among Blue Devils after 3rd loss to begin season

ACC Football

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – For the third time in a young season, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe spoke with the media Monday following a tough loss. He fielded the same questions about the same questions. If you’re having déjà vu, you likely aren’t the only one.

“It does become a groundhog thing when you step up every Monday after a loss talking about getting better,” Cutcliffe said. “I think the thing that we have to focus on is re- re-loading our motors, but reshaping the path of preparation.”

One of the problems Duke and all college teams are dealing with is practice time. The idea is to run a play enough times so muscle memory kicks in and players will execute without thinking. The Blue Devils haven’t had anywhere near the amount of time to prepare as in years past. Spring camp was canceled due to COVID-19. The team was away for 129 days and summer camp was roughly a week before school started.

Throw in the one scrimmage and you can see why things aren’t silky smooth just yet. The question is, how do you develop familiarity and get the players in shape to go a full game while in-season?

“I think sometimes, maybe if I would say we were guilty of something, it’s trying to do too much rather than being OK with doing less better,” Cutcliffe said. “I think if we continue on the path of trying to do too much, it’s going to bite us, so we’re taking (a) long, hard look at every little thing we’re doing. What we have to do is put a very well-prepared football team on the field, regardless of our circumstance.”

The other issue is having enough players to run the drills needed. That isn’t always possible in the age of COVID-19 with the precautions being taken.

“When your numbers get lower, it makes it very difficult to practice with the kind of tempo we’d like, so we are reinventing the wheel a little bit,” Cutcliffe said. “I was hopeful that we would stay healthy and that we would have a full contingent at practice, but that hasn’t happened. You have to go with Plan B. I think we will see this improve hopefully over the next 2-to-3 weeks.”

Despite the 0-3 record, problems on offense, defense, and special teams, Cutcliffe is optimistic. He doesn’t think the answer is to strip it down and rebuild it from scratch, but rather to tweak and fine-tune.

“You might not believe this, but we’re close and we are certainly not going to lose hope,” Cutcliffe said. “We’re not going to run from the challenge. We are going to run to it and we are going to be prepared to play Virginia Tech this Saturday afternoon at home.”

It will indeed be a challenge to stop Virginia Tech. In their first game, the Hokies beat North Carolina State 45-24 and they were missing two dozen players due to COVID-19. One of those, starting quarterback Hendon Hooker, could be ready in time to face Duke this weekend.

Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. at Wallace Wade Stadium.

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