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November 21, 2012

David Cutcliffe

COACH CUTCLIFFE:  I want to start off by wishing Michael Kelly well publicly on this teleconference.  He's been a big part of my transition into the Atlantic Coast Conference, and he'll be missed.  Everybody there in the office does a great job, all of you, Mike Finn, and we appreciate that.
It's hard to believe it's the last ballgame.¬† It's also hard to believe that these are seniors, fifth year seniors that came in with us the same winter that we came in.¬† This game is obviously a celebration in that regard.¬† Got a really good, talented, good football team we're playing in Miami.¬† And Miami whipped us badly a year ago.¬† A well‑coached team, a team that's got skill and athleticism in all three phases, a big challenge for us.
We haven't won in a while now, so hopefully our team will play its best football game Saturday because it will take that for us to be successful.  With that, I'll take your questions.

Q.  I wanted to follow up a little bit on something we were talking about yesterday about Conor, and the great year he's had the last couple of games his production has been down a little bit.  I'm just wondering if that's because of the opponents, because he's getting special attention or has it been some carry over from that knee injury suffered against NorthCarolina?
COACH CUTCLIFFE:  Yeah, he's not been full speed.  He's missed a lot of practice time, so he's not quite been what he was.  He's better this week.  He's able to work Sunday and Tuesday and today.  In fact, I just talked with him a few minutes ago.  He said he feels better.  He's worthy of a lot of attention, particularly last week.  Georgia Tech didn't take a lot of chances.  There was a lot of double coverage there for Desmond Scott.  Scott caught ten balls in the middle of the field so that was part of it last week.
But Conor's feeling better, and I certainly hope that's the case Saturday where he can play his last game in Wallace Way full speed.

Q.¬† You've talked about the secondary and how guys have made up for some of the losses there and things like that.¬† Can you talk about the receiving corps?¬† You went into the season with one returning receiver.¬† One very promising young guy that hadn't done a lot, and then a converted running back because of the off‑season stuff you had lost a couple of guys you were counting on.¬† Now you've got three guys with 60‑plus receptions.¬† Can you talk about those three guys?¬† Are you surprised by the production you've gotten at that position?
COACH CUTCLIFFE:¬† Well, we took some really tough blows to kind of retrace people that don't know completely what we're talking about, we moved Brandon Braxton who was a starting receiver to the secondary.¬† Then we lost Tiree Watkins last spring.¬† A guy that had lettered twice as a receiver, a good player.¬† Then the injury to Blair Holliday who came out one of our starters.¬† Then an injury to Braxton Deaver, who is kind of that hybrid receiver‑tight end who was the starter there.¬† All of a sudden, we were left in a pretty difficult circumstance.
As it ended up, we've had three guys that have had great years.  First thing I've got to do is say Matt Lubick has done an incredible job to teach Desmond Scott.  To have never played receiver and go from running back to receiver in that 57 catches is incredible.
And then James' development, and Conor continuing and Matt's mentored Conor for three years now.  I think it's one of the best jobs I've seen done.  Thank goodness, knock on wood for the most part those guys have stayed healthy, which we needed.  We haven't been as deep there as we have in the past, but very proud of what they've all accomplished.

Q.  I think you've been with us long enough to be considered an ACC guy.  How did the Maryland announcement strike you this week?
COACH CUTCLIFFE:  Well, I had heard this speculation almost a year ago and then it died, and then it came back.  With the landscape of college football being what it is and going to be, I'm certainly not going to overreact to it.  I am an ACC guy.  If they don't want to be in the ACC, I'm kind of like that about recruiting, if you don't want to be here, I don't want you here.  I'm being honest.  I'm not being ugly, I'm just being honest how I feel.  I won't let it bug me or bother me.  I can promise you that.

Q.  Coach O'Brien said earlier today he would like to see the divisions realigned in 2014 and have all the original ACC teams in what he called the old guys division, and have the other division be the new guys division.  Any thoughts on ACC alignments going forward?
COACH CUTCLIFFE:  Well, I haven't looked at it, you know.  I certainly haven't had time to look at that.  So I couldn't comment on that particular one.  I don't want to be called the old guy.  So I might question Tom's choice of words.  That would be it.

Q.¬† I know this topic is on the top of your mind, but could you offer your thoughts on the match‑up between Florida State and Georgia Tech?
COACH CUTCLIFFE:  I would say number one, Georgia Tech's mad at us for not winning (laughing).  Playing Georgia Tech and playing a different offense and Georgia Tech's playing very well, but it's difficult for Florida State.  It's probably not what they were seeing a few weeks ago.  They got a big game with Florida in a very short period of time to get ready for that offense, and that's difficult.  It's a game that can have national implications.
So they're going to be lined up.  Florida State's one of the more talented teams that we've coached against in a long time in any league.  Georgia Tech is playing extremely well.  I told Paul after the game they're just not making any mistakes, and they didn't make any mistakes defensively, which helped them a great deal.  It wasn't just that their offense didn't make mistakes.  They didn't do much against us.
But they have a very capable return game.¬† Florida State is an excellent kicking team.¬† If you'll study the statistics, those stats don't lie.¬† Florida State's the best kicking team in our league, best field position team in our league.¬† So it's an interesting match‑up in that regard.¬† But I think the big thing is how they're going to defend the option, and how well they can do that in a week.¬† So it should be a great game for those folks and they're going from both schools.¬† I would encourage anybody that wants to see a good football game go to Charlotte December 1st and watch the ACC Championship game.

Q.  Florida State obviously hasn't played Tech since 2009.  I'm curious from your experience, how much will an additional challenge when they haven't seen it in that long as opposed to you guys when you're seeing it every year at least?
COACH CUTCLIFFE:  Well, it's hard.  I don't know what Florida State has done.  We kind of put an emphasis on learning about it when we came into this league.  We really have a playbook that's independent for option teams.  We play Navy and Georgia Tech next year.  We played Army and Navy, and we've seen it a lot.  We still can't stop it.  So it is difficult.

Q.  Your senior class obviously you guys took a leap of faith buying into what you're selling.  I'm just curious not only all of them but the Durham guys too that did the same thing.  Obviously there are so many reasons why getting to a bowl game is important for the program.  But rewarding these kids, is there some satisfaction in that?
COACH CUTCLIFFE:  Absolutely.  When you say leap of faith.  I don't know if it took a leap, but it takes commitment, and they have done all of that.  They've bought in and done everything we've asked them to do.  They've worked hard and been very committed to the process.  You knew it was going to happen.  I just prayed for this group that this is the team that broke that ice.  Once the ice is broken, we don't intend to go back.
We preach hard on leaving a place better than you found it.  I can promise you these seniors have done that when it comes to Duke football.  So very, very happy for them.

Q.  When you look at the names, Vernon and Renfree, and Kenny's not in here but would be, Desmond Scott, Austin Gamble, and there are others, obviously.  But the names have almost become synonymous with your kind of game because they've played it so much in their careers?
COACH CUTCLIFFE:  Yeah, they have.

Q.  Is it harder to lose a senior class like that than it is otherwise because these guys have played so early and played so often?
COACH CUTCLIFFE:  Yeah, it does.  It's an emotional thing.  Walt Canty is a fourth year guy, but it's the same kind of connection in that regard.  You know, you're right.  They've become synonymous with our tenure, but the thing to recognize is that group of guys is synonymous with good football.  When could you say that last?  You're naming people like Conor, and guys that set records, Desmond Scott, only one of three guys in the history of the league that threw over a thousand yards rushing, receiving, and kickoff returning.  I could go on with all the awards and national recognitions.
So you start thinking of football excellence.  Well, that is what you call change in the culture.  That's what these seniors have done.  So you're darn right it's going to hurt to lose them.  We've got good, young players.  We're not losing a large, large number.  But we're losing some very special people, and that will be a challenge.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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