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November 12, 2014

David Cutcliffe

DAVID CUTCLIFFE:  Obviously, after only seven weeks and only one home game, our team is really excited, and I think our staff is too being back home, getting more of a normal routine than traveling every week.  We are playing a familiar foe on one that we have the deepest respect for.  It's been the benchmark for us.  We've had to challenge ourselves to raise our level, and that's what we've aimed for is what level the intensity and physicality that Virginia Tech plays with.
So we know it's a huge challenge, and our guys are working hard in hopes that they can find a way that they can match that and make it a four quarter game, and see if we can find a way to come out on top.  With that, I'll take your questions.

Q.  Dave, Thomas Sirk seems to have picked right up where Brandon left off last year as your goal line quarterback.  How similar or dissimilar are those guys?  Are they doing the same way, or is Thomas doing a little bit differently?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE:  They're very similar, both are big people.  Thomas is a little bigger than Brandon and probably a little bit faster.  I'm really proud of the way he's embraced the role.  He's a tough guy.  He's a very dedicated guy.  He's a really good runner, but he's a 6'5" guy that has great vision, and we got a lot of things out of that that he can do well throwing the football.  So he may give us a little bit more flexibility, to be honest with you, overall.

Q.  Is that something you're a proponent of, or is it something that has more to do with the talents of the two kids, Brandon and Thomas, that have allowed you to use that system?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE:  I've always done some of it, particularly if I have a young backup that I trust and I like because it's a good way to give them meaningful snaps, not just a mop‑up duty one way or the other.  I really like a guy‑‑ Anthony Boone did it to some degree for us.  Brandon Connette did it, now Thomas Sirk, Parker Boehme, another young quarterback gets that work in practice and is capable of doing it.  So when it comes time to compete as a starter, they and we have a little more idea what it's like than them playing under fire.
So I think it's a big bonus if you can find the right people to do it.

Q.  When we talked last week, it was about A.J. Long when you're going up against Syracuse and preparing for him.  You saw two other quarterbacks in Austin Wilson and Mitch Kimble.  You came out with a victory.  Just what last week, with you having such a great ability at seeing quarterbacks and knowing their strengths but you're in a situation last week where you had a couple new guys out there going up against your team and just how you felt the team responded and what you saw from it.
DAVID CUTCLIFFE:  Well, I‑‑ we didn't know until Thursday that it looked like A.J. Long was doubtful or not going to play.  So we went and got the snaps that we had on Austin, which I think he had around 50 snaps, and we looked at all those, made cut‑ups, different kind of player, a big arm.  I think he's a good player.  Very accurate, big arm.
The other youngster didn't really have tape.  We went back and looked at stuff in high school on him, knew that he was a better runner but also a capable guy.  It was‑‑ obviously, it's hard for Syracuse to be playing‑‑ they'd love to have their original starter.  It's very difficult for those other players.  But hats off to Coach Shafer and his staff.  They managed to put together a good plan, and it was a tough win for us and those young men really for the most‑‑ we had two interceptions that were exceptional interceptions.  For the most part, those young men took care of the ball.  So I thought they played pretty well.

Q.  And then when you look ahead to what's to come in the rest of your season, obviously, you've worked to turn Duke around and really put the team in a good place, not only in the ACC but overall.  You have Virginia Tech as your next game‑‑ I know you said it's important for the guys to get home now.  What can you say about where the team is at, in your mind, up against Virginia Tech and kind of where you needed them to be at this point in the season?  Have they really gotten to a place where you're happy?  Obviously, you're 8‑1.  Or is there more room that you kind of are waiting for the team to excel a little bit in certain areas?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE:  Well, we're an extremely mature team.  I'm really happy with the way they approach their business, the way they prepare.  Our leadership, our peer leadership is outstanding.  We've got a lot of things we need to do better and can do better against a team like Virginia Tech.  Offensively, our execution wasn't quite what it needed to be, and if we don't execute better than that against this Virginia Tech defense, it will be tough.  It will be a long day.
Defensively, we've been a little bit up and down, but, again, a very mature team, a team that works really, really hard, and we're going to have to continue to do the same thing.  As I mentioned earlier, Virginia Tech is a program‑‑ not just a team.  It's a program that has set the bar.  And as we came in the league and started competing, that was the team that was the benchmark for us in the Coastal Division, and they're tough to match their intensity, the physicality, extremely well‑coached by a Hall of Famer.
So it's going to be no different.  We know we're going to have to prepare well, and not only prepare well, but play well to have an opportunity to win.

Q.  David, you talk about Virginia Tech being a program that sets the bar.  What do you think it did for your program last year to go into their house and come away with a victory and get Bowl eligible there?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE:  Well, it was huge for us a year ago.  Our guys were elated.  I mean, that's a team that we have admired and respected.  Our players really have great respect for them.  Our guys are the ones out there on the field with them that know how physical they are, know how hard they play.  It's been tough.  And we've tried to match that as best we could.  But to be able to get a win at their place at such a critical time for us to kind of keep our season moving forward was a great momentum boost for us.
We had that same respect.  I mean, we haven't beaten them here.  So we're going to have to line up and know we have to play‑‑ I heard players talking about it amongst themselves.  If we don't play well, there's no opportunity.  So we've got to focus on Duke and focus on our execution and to be as prepared as we can.  They're coming off an open date.  So they're going to be a little healthier and rested.  It's late in the year.  Everybody's bumped and bruised, and we've got to play past that.  That's the big part of this.

Q.  Given the stature of that program, did you feel that way, it was kind of a coming of age moment for the players in terms of realizing they could play and beat anyone?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE:  It was huge for us.  We went for it.  I made a decision.  I don't know, it was inside the 45 but not inside the 40, somewhere in that area, to go for it on fourth and one.  We needed to make it to win the game a year ago, to preserve the win, and that was a big statement play for our team.  Brandon Connette, who was mentioned earlier, was able to pick up a first down on a great effort on his own.  I think that play in itself was significant for our team and that game that we were able to gamble and win.
They're a team that, again, like I said, there's a lot of people there that know a lot about winning, players and coaches.  So we know.  We know that.  We're not in any way‑‑ we know exactly who they are.  We're not thinking any differently.

Q.  I just wanted to ask about Michael Brewer.  Guy comes from a passing background at Texas Tech and stepped in this year and running their offense.  He presents a different problem than you faced last year with Logan Thomas.  Can you talk about the problem he presents?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE:  I watched the Texas Tech tape on him.  There's a lot of tape out there, spring tape and game tape, et cetera.  He's what everybody's looking for.  His success at Lake Travis High School is incredible.  Plays in Chad Morris's system.  He's got quick hands, spreads the ball around, has got great weapons.  As he gained experience in the Virginia Tech system, he's become more and more comfortable.  He's had some huge games.  He's elusive, mobile.
I don't know if there's anybody like Logan Thomas, other than maybe Cam Newton, as far as having to deal with the size and the speed, but this guy gets the ball out so quickly.  Gets it out to people who can run, and they have got weapons everywhere.  It is a new Virginia Tech offense, a new challenge, and one that we'd better be ready for.

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