DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – On the scorecard, a loss is supposed to be a loss. It all counts the same, whether 1 point or 100 points. The Blue Devils’ most recent loss to Georgia Tech just hits different for some reason.
That’s mainly because Duke held the lead late and only needed to run out the clock to secure the win. They couldn’t and they didn’t. Monday, in his press conference, head coach David Cutcliffe took full responsibility for the loss.
“It fully falls on my shoulders to have a team prepared to do the little things that win games. Offensively, we came away with no points out of 2-plus side turnovers and couldn’t finish the game on offense.”
Cutcliffe has never been one to point fingers at others — only at himself. It’s an admirable trait and in short supply in this day and age. But at last check, Cutcliffe hasn’t thrown a pass, run a route, or caught a pass since Richard Nixon was president. The players need to shoulder some of the burden on this one and need to step up this week, as well. They have already started by hitting the practice field hard, working on the little details that are the hallmark of every Duke football team under Cutcliffe.
“We’ve never been a team to hang our head, and you can’t improve upon the effort and the toughness this team has,” Cutcliffe said. “We have to find that magic that does put us in position to win games in the fourth quarter.”
One of the guys they will need to perform against Virginia is running back Mataeo Durant. He carried the ball 43 times against Georgia Tech, which showed his durability. He’s going to need to get his average yards-per-carry back above 4 if the Blue Devils want to get out of Charlottesville with a win.
“He can run 50-yard touchdowns. He’s proven that, but he also is a guy that consistently gives you what I call the dirty yards,” Cutcliffe said. “If a run is 3 yards, he’s likely going to get 4 to 4.5 out of it.”
The Cavaliers have won six straight games over Duke. More accurately, UVA head coach Bronco Mendenhall started a streak of six straight wins over them when he became head coach at Virginia.
Ending that streak will be a tall task not because of the man on the sideline, but due to the Cavaliers’ man under center. Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong has been putting up some unbelievable numbers thus far. Through six games, he’s racked up 2,460 yards with 17 touchdowns and only six interceptions.
When asked how you stop a guy like that, Cutcliffe didn’t hold back.
“I guess you start every morning with a good prayer. Playing coverage against a guy like him, he’s mobile and that increases the hardship of staying in coverage if he breaks the pocket, because he sees downfield well. He’s very accurate, so we have to mix coverage. We have to have vision on receivers. We have to generate some rush.”
Without a pass rush to shake up Armstrong’s rhythm, Duke doesn’t stand a chance in Charlottesville. Despite their record and the back-to-back losses, the Blue Devils aren’t in panic mode. The practices are enthusiastic, and the drills run crisp and tight. They show all the hallmarks of a team that’s still all-in and feels like they can turn things around.
“They’ve reached a mentality that we’ve got more, and we know we have more. The tank is not even close to being empty. Nobody is feeling pushed against a wall because that suggests panic or anxiety,” Cutcliffe said. “I think hunger is a better term. I’m hungrier than I’ve ever been for lots of different reasons, and I hope our team — and I believe they do, based on the way they’re practicing — feels the same way.”
Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m. Saturday in Charlottesville, Vairginia at Scott Stadium.