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October 4, 2017

David Cutcliffe

Greensboro, North Carolina

DAVID CUTCLIFFE: We realize that we are playing a Virginia team that's playing an extremely high level. That's as good a win as you can have to go to Boise and play on a Friday night and play as well as they did in all three phases. I was going to say both sides of the ball, but actually all three phases.

The team is doing a lot of very special things offensively, and a very typical Bronco Mendenhall defense, gets after the quarterback and defends the run as well as anybody out there.

So we have got a lot of improving to do over what we've been the last couple weeks to have an opportunity in Charlottesville.

Take your questions.

Q. Daniel had such a rough game against them a year ago, the interceptions and then the fumble and I know it's more than the quarterback when you have those moments. But as a young guy, how did he handle kind of such a personally disappointing afternoon?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, obviously it was early in the season. Early in his career as a starter, Daniel Jones came in a year ago as his third team quarterback, and then due to injury, found himself a starter in the ACC football and it didn't go very well. Virginia did an outstanding job, was part of it. Other part of it was he knew he could play better.

He's a pretty resilient person. He's extremely bright. He's a great character person. He knows it's all through preparation and continuing to work hard, and I think he's really -- that affects any quarterback, to throw five interceptions in one game, have six turnovers. But I'm proud of him. He's a solid -- about as solid a person as you can get.

I don't think he's thinking about that in particular as you go play Virginia again. I just think that's probably something that we'll always be -- a lesson that was hard-learned a year ago.

Q. He's obviously made tremendous strides in his game, and the experience is such a big factor. What are one or two things that you notice about him that have developed the most?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, he is so much stronger than he was a year ago. It not just in arm strength; his ability to run. He's faster. He was 205 pounds a year ago. He's 225 pounds now. He's a big guy. His pocket presence is better, and quite honestly, as you would think from experience, his decision-making is much better.

Q. To what do you attribute your dramatic improvement against the run this year?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, we have worked really hard defensively to recruit better and better. That's part of it. We've got experience back at linebacker. We've got a great leader in our front, Mike Ramsey, who is a senior, but we've got some young, talented defensive linemen.

Outside of that, we do have some athletic safeties that are part of defending the run that fit. I think our defensive staff has done a tremendous job of putting us in a more aggressive mode. Hopefully we can continue on that path.

Q. You mentioned your staff. You added Coach Albert a couple years ago. I'm guessing he's a big part of that.
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: No question. No question. His coaching ability, his recruiting ability, the mentality he brings to our front is different than anything we've had since we've been at Duke.

Q. You caught Kurt Benkert on one of his best days last year. He slipped later in the year. What have you seen from him this fall so far?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: It's been pretty incredible what he's done on third downs as a quarterback where a lot of people measure quarterbacks, obviously being able to convert third downs and being able to put points on the board. He's doing both of them really well. He looks more comfortable in the system. The system has grown his second year as you would expect it to.

He is accurate in a lot of different throws, a lot of different ways, whether you are pressuring him, whether you are making him move. He still just seems to make plays.

I think he's a better product than he was a year ago without a doubt.

Q. How much has an improved receiving core helped, do you think?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, that's obviously a huge part of any quarterback. They will be quick to tell you that. And those guys are all playing at a high level, and if they have a read back that's just another flash of a bonus; you can see his talent pretty quickly, whether it's as a receiver or as a kickoff return man, even a year ago. So it's a good-looking group offensively.

Q. Scottie Montgomery told us this morning he's been getting some advice from you amid the rough start to his second year. Can you shine some light on some of the things you guys have shared?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, I think the biggest thing is he stayed the course of things that you know are good. I've been there and done that, particularly early here, where you felt like winning was never going to be a product of all your hard work; but it will be.

The thing you can't do is start changing principles, start reaching for answers that don't really exist, and that's kind of the approach I've taken with Scottie. Scottie knows how good he is. He knows what are the basic ways to go about building a program. If you start trying to quickly fix a team, sometimes you hurt your program, and you can't afford to do that.

We we all understand that patience isn't a part of college athletics always, and I'm not necessarily talking about patience. You can be getting better every day, but it's got to be about your program. And taking your best people -- and what I mean by that, you start with players and I'm not talking about necessarily the best players but your best people, and you build that culture. You can do it when it's not going so well; it's not easy, but you can still do it.

Just good reminders like that helpfully coach in those circumstances.

Q. If you could just speak to what you've seen from UVA offensive line play, why it's gotten better and how that matchup you see playing out with your defense, which obviously has gotten a lot of sacks.
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: You know, they have got some experience back in certain spots. You know, when you have a couple seniors, it always helps. We had three that's helped us a great deal. I think they have three that are starting.

But experience, the second year in a system, understanding what a coach wants from you; a commitment in another year of the strength program and development, all of that shows up on tape. They look much more comfortable. They are fit and strong and they are in sync with each other.

That's one of the things people don't understand about offensive line play. It's not individuals. There's five guys that have to be in sync. The more you're in a program, the more you're in the system, the better off you're going to be in that regard, and they look like they are playing really well together.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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