‘Next play, next game’: Duke pushes on in search of 1st win of the season


DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — David Cutcliffe is in uncharted territory at Duke. The 0-4 start is his worst in Durham and the team’s worst start since 2006. That year the team finished the season winless going 0-12. It has some asking the question if this group has what it takes to win games.

“Learning how to win means you know where the seeds of victory are planted and that’s on a practice field, not a game field,” said head coach David Cutcliffe. “You go out each day with the same focus. They are focused executed reps that lead you to be a good football team and that leads you to be a good football player.”

One of the hardest working in practice is their quarterback Chase Brice. The most high profile player on the field he gets the bulk of the attention for the team’s struggles. Through 4 games he’s thrown three touchdowns but has given up seven interceptions. With no spring and a shortened summer camp, he’s still getting comfortable with the nuances of the offense.

“Each week, I sit down with him and ask what are you comfortable with, what are you not comfortable with,” said coach Cutcliffe. “Because really what we have to come up with is what is the functional part. What he is comfortable with what pass concept, what protection concept, and then we move it from there.”

As losses pile up players start to press. It’s tough to stop someone from thinking they need to do more if what they are doing is leading to another loss. In a sport where one athlete’s mistake can ruin a play for the other 11 on the field, it’s easy to fall into that trap. It’s something the coaching staff is trying to stay on top of.

“We’re going to have to get to where all 11 positions are doing their job. Just do your job. Nobody has to be Superman, said Cutcliffe. “You don’t have to do more than what’s required. You just have to do what’s required. And if we take that approach in all of our phases we’ll be just fine. We’ve got enough good football players to play and win when we play well together. That’s got to be the theme.”

The coaching staff and team leaders have done their best to keep the energy positive around practice. Develop a next play, next game mentality. They use buzz words like ‘hot stove.’ It means treat the ground like a hot stove. Get up quick. Everybody gets knocked down but how fast are you going to get up or pick a teammate up and come back for the next play.

“That’s one of the ways of being a great teammate is you immediately see opportunities to pick people up. That’s one of the things that you have to do as a coach, said Cutcliffe. “You’ve got to be the best teammate on the field. You don’t have time to hang your head. And we’ve got to move forward. This is something that obviously for us right now is a big challenge, but it’s also a work in progress and we’ve got to get there.”

What you don’t want is for the team to fall into an attitude where they are comfortable with losing. Where one bad play or falling behind kills the enthusiasm when things don’t go right.

“You’re going to give up some big plays. Things are going to happen sometime that isn’t good, said Cutcliffe. “You don’t want that ‘here we go again’ mentality to creep into your team. Don’t let one mistake become two.”

Of course, a reward for all the hard work put in would be the best medicine for what ails the Blue Devils. A win this Saturday against Syracuse is just what the doctor ordered.

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