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November 9, 2011

David Cutcliffe

MIKE FINN: We welcome Duke head football coach David Cutcliffe. We'll ask for a brief opening statement and then go to questions.
COACH CUTCLIFFE: Well, Scottie Montgomery was Donovan's position coach and recruiting coach when he came to Duke. I know that Scottie would be very pleased to see what Donovan has accomplished as we move forward here.
Getting to our challenge, we have a huge challenge playing arguably the hottest team in the Atlantic Coast Conference in Virginia. They're winning football games like you're supposed to win them. They're running the football, playing great defense, playing great in the kicking game.
When a team's playing that solidly and soundly, it's very difficult to beat them. So a huge challenge. Biggest challenge we face is obviously us playing better than we played a week ago. Hopefully we will take that challenge or we will have a long day in Charlottesville if we don't.
With that I'll take any questions.
MIKE FINN: Questions for Coach Cutcliffe.

Q. Yesterday you told us y'all had a really physical practice Tuesday morning. You said there would be another one Wednesday. You explained to us why you thought you needed to do that. Did you come out of it okay physically in terms of not banging anybody up?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: Yes. We have not had an issue at practice. As I said earlier in the week, a little tougher in the ballgame than we had hoped. But we have not reinjured anybody, to answer your question. It's been great work, work that we needed. We've dodged that bullet at this point.

Q. When you look at your young defensive front, you were really happy with the way they played against Virginia Tech. It looked like they got manhandled against Miami. Can you address the ups and downs. Was that a function of youth or something else going on?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: Part of it is matchups. It was a little tougher matchup in two or three slots for us down there. The other part of it is that it is a function of youth to be inconsistent. Without the work, without keeping it on point as well as we were able to, we had a lot of them beat up. They didn't get the technique and formal work we would like to give them for a couple weeks. It took its toll. We weren't given a choice but to go back to a little spring practice atmosphere.
I know it's helped us and hope it will help us on Saturday.

Q. Coach, Michael Rocco, the UVA quarterback, as you're getting ready for this game, studying tape from game one all the way up to now, are you seeing a different quarterback? What is your analysis of what his maturation is? Are you seeing that as well?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: I think he's a talented player, for one thing. He's got a nice arm. He's got good vision, good feet, all the things you need to be successful. When you're running the football as well as they're running it, a quarterback can play smart and mature and grow. He's taken advantage of that. He has taken care of the ball better, picking his spots. He has become a much better third-down quarterback.
The more you play at this level, if you got talent, the better you're going to get. He's got talent and you see it happening.

Q. You've been able to win the last three against UVA. Is there something you guys are consistently doing against Virginia football allowing you to come out on top?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: No, not really. There are other teams in our league that if we would have played a little better in those particular games, we might have won all three of those games against those opponents. We've had two really close games against Virginia that fell our way, and probably more than anything else just a little luck of the draw. It just happens sometimes.
But I'm not a big believer in one season to the next or any circumstance like that playing in a ballgame. As a player, I never thought about that. As a coach, you don't ever think about that during the heat of a ballgame at all.

Q. David, last week there was a lot of talk about Virginia becoming bowl-eligible, of Maryland having to win out to become bowl-eligible. It's now mentioned you have to win out to become bowl-eligible. Do coaches give any thought at all to becoming bowl-eligible?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: Sure. I think it's got to be one of the goals of your program when you're in a BCS conference. Everybody hollers for a tournament all the time. You're watching it. We're in a playoff system. Got a lot of big games all year long. In November, the stakes get higher.
All of us want that opportunity for our players. Particularly when you're in my shoes here, I've been so fortunate in my career to have been a part of so many bowl games, I would love for these great young men we have to experience it sooner than later.
So, yeah, I think we all do pay attention to it.

Q. Last year Connette, your backup quarterback, did some good things against Virginia. Is he being redshirted or is he just behind the boon at this point?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: He's injured and out for the season. He had a major shoulder separation. Just has not been able to make it back. So he played very little at the beginning of the year. Obviously our hope would be with him being unable to play the rest of the season that he may get the year back and serve as a redshirt year. That's what I would hope would occur.

Q. Coach, mentioning Donovan, what has he meant to the program in the four years since he started there, the kinds of things that he has added to what you're trying to build?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: Well, the first thing is his durability. He brings it every practice, every game. I don't even know what he weighs, 170 pounds. He is just a physical warrior as well as a great speed guy. It's just every day.
You look for Donovan - I've thought about this already - you look for Donovan in practice to create energy and excitement. He loves to compete. Every game, you just heard the statistic, he's there every game catching balls, making conversions on third down. He's really quite a special young player.
There's been a lot of great small players all through different eras of college football. He is very much one of the fine small players of this era of college football because he has been so consistent as a true sophomore. He led the ACC in receptions. He's continued to play well, particularly as we spread the ball around, have better players around him, he has still remained a big factor in our offense.
MIKE FINN: Coach, we're out of time, but thanks for being with us. Good luck this weekend and we'll talk to you next Wednesday.

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