DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Their schedule may have said they were off last week but that is just semantics. Duke didn’t play another school. They dealt with the toughest opponent anyone will face – the man in the mirror.
Coming to grips with your hard work and effort through eight games that produced a 2-6 record can take a toll on a normal person.
It’s a good thing we aren’t talking about normal people and instead the special breed of young men we call Blue Devil football players.
“I am really proud of this team being as resilient as it has been,” said head coach David Cutcliffe. “They have not run away from the work. The challenges mount and obviously we did not play well against North Carolina but you don’t hang your head. You don’t run from the work and you don’t make excuses.”
Feelings weren’t spared during meetings. Coach pointed out the problems and issues that did them in. He also showed them tape of how well they compete when they execute plays and use proper technique. Team captains challenged their teammates to step their games up. With the way UNC pushed Duke around on the field, the physicality in this week’s practice was ramped up.
“The only way I know to address that is to create in an open date good versus good, ones versus ones lining up. I wasn’t worried about seeing an opponent’s look,” said Cutcliffe. “Our defense playing our defense. Our offense playing our offense and going head-to-head on some inside drills. The same thing on some outside drills. I think our players embraced that. They didn’t view it as a negative. It was a lot of enthusiasm and energy that was created from that. Competitiveness always creates energy and knock-on-wood thank goodness we got no one injured so I think it paid dividends.”
Naturally, all of this competition creates opportunities for players to stand out and play their way on to the field.
“I don’t know that we’re going to see a flip of the depth chart but we have people that have earned playing time,” said Cutcliffe. “We’re also having a look and still involved in some potential adjustments and position changes because of injuries and departures we have some areas were concerned with.”
Of course, the off-week was a great chance to get key players the rest they need to heal up even if it is just a week off.
“I think that some of them certainly have been able to benefit from not having 50 to 60 snaps in a game,” said Cutcliffe. “The injury list is still long.”
For years the ACC was regarded as a one-team league. For years, Florida State carried the banner, and recently it has been Clemson taking over the role of being the one to watch out for. The drop off from first to second place was severe. When asked about the ACC being a top-heavy league now, Cutcliffe was quick to point out the fallacy in that statement.
“There’s a lot of good football teams, there is a lot of balance. Boston College is having a very good year and wasn’t as predicted maybe as others,” said Cutcliffe. “When Miami is playing Virginia Tech in Blacksburg or Virginia’s on the field or any of our teams. North Carolina certainly, Wake Forest certainly, NC State these are all really good football teams. Really good football teams so it’s very difficult to sit and say we’re top-heavy with Clemson and our guest Notre Dame. They’re both great football teams, no question, but those teams can be challenged by a multitude of teams in this league.”
Kickoff between the Blue Devils and Demon Deacons is set for 12 p.m. Saturday. The game will be broadcast live on the ACC Network.
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