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September 3, 2014

David Cutcliffe

COACH CUTCLIFFE:  All right.  A big challenge knowing the history of Troy and the history of Larry Blakeney, great place to go play, great atmosphere and deep, deep football tradition.  I think Coach Blakeney and his staff do about as good a job of getting everybody in the building.  Obviously they've put together a career that's just incredible at that institution.  You don't see it that often at all anymore, and you haven't seen anybody do it any better.
They're going to play well, I know coming off a loss.  That is the history of what they've done.  They respond, and it's a good program and a good football team and they'll have to be well prepared to go down and win.  With that, I'll take your questions.

Q.  I wanted to take a look at that first game against Elon.  When Anthony Boone gets out there, no sack, no interceptions, four touchdowns, when you're playing in a game like this and you're not in ACC play and you're playing in a different conference not at the same level, what can you take away from Boone's performance and how he played in that game?  Is there a lot you can take from what you saw?
COACH CUTCLIFFE:¬† Yeah, I've said this all week long, and Elon is very, very, very good schematically and well‑coached.¬† So it wasn't like we were just kind of playing and not having to execute.¬† I really thought they did a nice job.¬† I think we were able to critique what we did well and what we didn't do well.¬† Anthony did a lot of things better than he's done since he's been here, which was encouraging.¬† I think it was a great game for us in that regard.
We had some players make a lot of plays, but I think we also saw some of the deficiencies as a team that we need.  We can be on the same page a little better in our pass offense, and one of the things we need going in, we felt like we could take another step.  I thought it improved as the game went on.  So it actually was a very valuable game for us in that regard.

Q.  Wanted to inquire how this game got scheduled?  Is there a personal connection with coach Blakeney that made it a natural choice?
COACH CUTCLIFFE:  Well, there is a personal connection.  We've known each other a long, long time and I have great respect for him and their director of athletics John Hart who worked at Ole Miss.  But this day and time with people changing schedules, and we got caught a game short, they were as well.  We were able to work this thing out.  They're good people, so we made the decision to go home at home with them on this.  And knowing it's a very difficult place to go play, but it's a good game for them.  It's a good game for us.
It was an incredibly competitive game a year ago here and an entertaining game.  We're going to have to play well to go there and win.  So Troy's a good program, and will be and has been for a long time.  I think Larry's won 175 games there, which is incredible.  You just don't see it much anymore.

Q.  I wanted to ask you about Jamison Crowder as a punt returner.  Obviously with the success he had last year, Elon went into that game determined not to let him return any.  But can you talk about the advantages of forcing a team to kick short and wide?  I think they averaged 31 net yards or something on punts by trying so hard to keep him from returning it?  Can you talk about the advantages of that?
COACH CUTCLIFFE:  Sure it's a little frustrating to Jamison.  It's a little frustrating to our guys that block for Jamison.  We spent a lot of time in the area of punt return.  But it is a great advantage, and I tell you, it's a great thing to bring it up because we had to really point that out to our guys, because they get frustrated not being able to do their thing.  And rather than being frustrated, we should be appreciative and when we get our chances, we can't go to sleep.  That's kind of what you have.
It is a great advantage it's in the punter's mind.  We think we can also, because of that punter trying to place it or do certain things, I think one of our goals is this is to turn it into more of an opportunity to block on it when you start dictating to people.  So it's a great advantage, a great weapon to have.  Also at any point in time it can win a football game for you, which it has done for us here.

Q.  It didn't get a lot of attention, but in the game, Jamison went over 200 career catches.  He's the third receiver you've had that's reached that goal, and I think there are only like ten guys in ACC history.  Can you talk about that milestone and what it represents?
COACH CUTCLIFFE:  Yeah, I tell you, I'm very proud of that, and I'm proud of our players because of that.  The other two in our era have been Conner Vernon and Donovan Varner, and now Jamison, and it becomes something that is a tradition here.  It's a tradition of excellence and of work ethic.  All of them kind of passed it along the way.  The beautiful part of this, we've got some good young football players that are watching this happen as he does it.
Good Lord willing, Jamison stays healthy.  He may well become the most prolific pass catcher in ACC history, which Conner is right now.  So the impact of your younger players, the impact to see how hard they work every day, their focus starts becoming a positional thing for your program.  I'm glad our receivers have really done a great job of setting the bar very high.

Q.  Coach, I know after Saturday's game you talked about wanting to create Issac on the complete package, blocking and all those other things.  After reviewing the tape, how would you assess Issac's performance against Elon?
COACH CUTCLIFFE:  Issac had a really good football game.  He was dominant physically in the game when we asked him to be.  He's a big guy.  He's 6'6", 225 pounds, and it can really run.  I thought it was his best game from a standpoint of playing without the ball.  He's worked very hard at that, and then taking advantage of all of his opportunities that he had to get the ball to him.  So nobody's perfect.  We didn't have a single guy grade 100.  But I thought he played extremely well, and he also could see those areas where he could continue to grow and build.

Q.  When you have a receiver like Jamison on one side, and we talked about obviously eclipsing 200 catches, how much of an advantage is it to have a receiver like Issac to play opposite Jamison?  Somebody who can take advantage of a defense maybe focusing too much on No. 3?
COACH CUTCLIFFE:¬† It's been big to us when Conner better man was here, and we had Jamison catch over 60.¬† Conner catch over 60, and Desmond Scott caught over 60.¬† I think they were all over 65.¬† I think we had a chance to be a little more like that because of not just Issac, but Max McCaffrey can go into the slot, the boundary on the field.¬† With Deaver and the loss of Braxton Deaver, it's become more and more important to have a guy opposite of Jamison, my guys, it's very difficult to match‑up with one‑on‑one.

Q.  You all won against Elon and leading up to games like this is it a difficult task sometimes getting the attention of your team in situations like this?
COACH CUTCLIFFE:  Not really.  This is not a traditional opponent.  Our guys are pretty aware of the history and tradition of Troy itself, but it's not a team we're going to play every year or all that often.  But I like a lot of those games early in the season.  It's not an emotional rival conference game.  The meanest of the season will have a squad anywhere pumped up and focused on getting better.  Your energy level is high, you're not as beat up.  So I think in this case both teams that aren't used to playing each other a lot are going to play physically better than you do later in the season.
So our guys, we better stay pretty hungry at Duke, and anybody we look at or play we certainly will never be able to take anybody lightly or I can promise you we won't win.  It's as simple as that.  Preparation is very, very important to our ability to win at Duke.

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