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September 26, 2012

David Cutcliffe

MIKE FINN:  We now welcome Duke head football coach David Cutcliffe.  We'll bring coach on, ask for an opening statement, then go to questions.
COACH CUTCLIFFE:  I think our team is excited about starting conference play.  Non‑conference games, obviously they all count, they're all important, but there's nothing like playing in your league against opponents that you play annually.
Certainly this game has been very competitive in our world over the last four years, but haven't won it.  A big challenge to our squad.  It will be a big challenge.  A typical Wake team, a Jim Grobe coached team.  They're running the ball well right now, don't make mistakes, play good football in all three phases.  So a huge challenge to start our conference play for us.
MIKE FINN:  Questions for Coach Cutcliffe.

Q.  Coach, you learned under three Hall of Fame football coaches.  Talk about learning alongside three great coaches and what all coaching tactics do you take into your program at Duke?
COACH CUTCLIFFE:  Well, I'm pretty fortunate, aren't I?  I think about what you just asked often.  I absolutely learned different things from three different people.  You start with great organization, great planning, communication, consistency, attention to detail.  Those are the things that were absolutely the same.
It was amazing to watch those men day after day.  They were so consistent, persevering through anything.  It really left a strong imprint on me.
From a management style, all three completely different.  I think the thing that I learned most there was to be yourself.  I saw all three people be successful, end up with Hall of Fame careers because they were sincere in being themselves.
I think that lesson for young coaches is extremely important.  You can push people, you can be challenging, which all three were, but you better truly care for the players.  I would think maybe one of the more important things, you can't fool young people, you have to care about your people.

Q.  Is being your own self coach in your own eyes how you've been able to develop quarterbacks so well?
COACH CUTCLIFFE:  I think that's a big part of it because those relationships are so real.  That's kind of, number one, my management style is more of a building of a relationship with not only the players but the staff.  I think that certainly helped me through the years.

Q.  Now that you guys are halfway to a bowl game, is that something you stress to the team or try and stay away from?
COACH CUTCLIFFE:  They're aware of it.  I've talked to some of our captains and seniors about that very thing.  You're not going to fool kids.  It's on their mind.
But I think this team has got a lot of people that's played a lot of football.  So you don't get there unless you win the next one, whatever the next one is.
For our team, it should be an easy task to focus only on what's there in front of you, and I hope we do that well.  We're going to need to do that as a team.  For us to win, period, each week, it takes us playing well in all three phases.  That's what our team has to focus on.

Q.  I know you're friends with Jim Grobe, but is he driving you nuts in this series or what?
COACH CUTCLIFFE:  I am very good friends with Jim Grobe.  I think he's great for college football.  He's not just an outstanding football coach, he is an outstanding man.  His teams do things to win.
I would like to think we can be competitive and win our share, but we got to prove that.

Q.  David, what were the factors that went into the decision to move Brandon Braxton from wide receiver to safety?  What did you see in there that led you to make that switch?
COACH CUTCLIFFE:  Well, he was so aggressive as an offensive player.  Anybody that saw him cover kickoffs, cover punts, he's a natural tackler.  He has a nose for the ball.  He takes great angles to the football.  We needed some athleticism back there, someone that do tackle in the open field.  Brandon can do that.
This day in time with all of the bubble screens, spread formations, you've got to develop your secondary with people that can make plays in the open field, and Brandon is one of those guys.

Q.  How do you like the way he's playing back there so far and how good can he eventually get, considering he's just a junior?
COACH CUTCLIFFE:  Well, I wish we would have done this move earlier, to be honest with you, because I think he can be outstanding.  He's big.  He's a 6'2" guy with good size and strength, can run.  There's no top end for him.  Everything that's happening to him basically is happening to him for the first time.  It's all still new.  He's playing really well.
I tell you what he's doing better than anything else, he's tackling really well, making big plays at critical times for us.

Q.  David, could you talk about the impact of Michael Campanaro?
COACH CUTCLIFFE:  Well, Michael, he was the same last year.  He does everything well.  He is really strong.  He's really fast.  So he's physically talented.  He is fiercely competitive.  Once he gets the ball, you can tell he thinks he can score, break a tackle, make a move.  Great hands, he's a deep threat.  He goes across the middle and catches the ball with no fear.  He takes those screens and makes them immediately dangerous because he's such a good open‑field runner.
He's a guy that makes a lot of things about their football team go.

Q.  The last two years you have been right at the bottom of the league in sacks, pass‑rush.  This year you're third, right near the top.  It's almost all coming from your defensive line.  I think only one combined sack from secondary linebacker guys.  Can you talk about the improvement there, where it's coming from?
COACH CUTCLIFFE:  Those guys, as you know, have now played a lot of football.  They're not puppies any more.  We got slapped around a little bit.  Rick Petri has done a tremendous job in every respect with them, being aggressive.  I think we have more people, which helps us be a little fresher.  We've had a lead.
You also have to put this into the equation.  We have a pretty sizable lead in three of our ball games, that forces opponents to throw and put you in those positions.
It's a good trend.  Let's just keep it going.

Q.  The converse of that is you have the lowest sack rate per pass of anybody else.  Can you talk about what your line is doing so well and how much of that is Sean getting rid of the ball?
COACH CUTCLIFFE:  Well, that's a tribute to Kurt Roper and John Latina's planning and work with those particular people.  That's a product of our system.  Those guys, John and Kurt, have been in this a long time, trying to throw the ball on time.  Wake Forest does a great job of that.  Throw the ball on time, know your protections well, know where your problems are.
Again, experience is a phenomenal teacher.  We have a very experienced quarterback and a very experienced offensive front.  So we're pleased to this point.  Again, we're a work in progress one week at a time.

Q.  Sitting where you guys are now at 3‑1, seeing how the rest of the schedule sets up, how crucial do you feel this game is if you want to get to the six wins for the bowl?
COACH CUTCLIFFE:  We really don't think in those terms because I'm not sitting there writing off anything left on our schedule.  Every win is critical at this point for us.  It's a conference game.  Each conference game kind of has its own life.  Unfortunately this Wake game has been very difficult for us.  We've lost so many close ballgames.
I think that becomes very important to us, that we feel like we've got to get our competitive edge going in this series.  Hopefully we can be on the right side of a close ballgame.
MIKE FINN:  Coach, thanks for being with us today.  Good luck this weekend and we'll talk to you next week.
COACH CUTCLIFFE:  Perfect.  Thank you.

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