It’s always interesting and exciting, this Bull City Gridiron Classic. Two schools not more than five miles apart. Players know each other. It's unique to say the least, an opportunity to celebrate Durham, North Carolina, and two really fine institutions. North Carolina Central, another great opener, won 72-0. It's not an accident. They were balanced.
They were good on offense, good on defense, and very good in the kicking game. We have to prepare and prepare well to move from game 1 to game 2 in the hopes that we play better. With that, I'll take your questions.
Q. Converting 9 of 17 on 3rd down in game 1, just what you can say about not only Thomas Sirk but about the offense as a whole when 3rd down is obviously one of the key points of any offense?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Yeah, we really -- that's one of the reasons we won the football game is that we were good on both sides in 3rd down. Tulane converted 2 out of 15, and as you just mentioned, we converted -- I was really pleased with Thomas, pleased with the plan. I thought Coach Montgomery had them ready. You can't count on that all the time, but I would have liked to have been a little bit better on 1st down than what we were. But really proud of our guys on the road being able to go and produce that kind of 3rd down statistic offensively.
Q. And then as far as Thomas Sirk in his first career start, statistically it looks good. On film, what did you take away mechanically or anything that you saw that you liked or disliked moving forward with Thomas Sirk?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, he had a couple of balls dropped, so his accuracy was outstanding. He played really, really well. Very few problems in managing the ballgame, which is really encouraging. Again, when you're on the road, there are always going to be little things that experience is going to teach you. There were a couple of other opportunities that maybe he missed, just took a little bit of the conservative side of things, and that'll grow as he comes forward with experience.
Q. I think from the outside I think sometimes we underestimate the difficulty of going on the road to start the season, an FBS opponent, first-time starter quarterback. Overall how did you feel about the way your team handled that situation?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: I thought we did an outstanding job. As we were landing in New Orleans Wednesday evening, I could hear chatter on the plane, hey, there's the Superdome. When a Power Five conference team travels often, it's only to the places you go every year or every other year, conference places. I knew then this was new, unique, had a lot of freshmen, redshirt freshmen that had never traveled, but by the time we got to our meal Wednesday evening, I think our seniors did a great job of setting the tone as to why we were there. We more than passed the test in that regard.
We managed Thursday, which was a long day. We kicked off at 9:30 eastern time, 8:30 central, and I was really proud of our team. And obviously in team meetings I expressed that to them. That may be the best thing we did in every aspect of the game.
Q. Early in the year with games like this, before you get into ACC play, is not beating yourself as important as beating the opponent?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, I think that's probably true most of the time. I think more games if you really look, I had a chance to watch Saturday since we were an early Thursday game, I really believe oftentimes more games are lost than they are won. I think you have to -- and I'm not talking about conservatism. I'm talking about attention to detail, doing every little thing well to avoid getting yourself beat.
So I think that everybody thinks that when you see an FBS team playing an FCS team, but it's going to just be the same. It's going to hold true. And of course this one is unique because of the uniqueness of the rivalry being in the same town five miles apart. So I think our focus has been on a team that won 72-0 as well as playing well from our perspective; we always want to focus on how well Duke plays.
Q. Johnell Barnes, 11 receptions, 109 yards, your thoughts on his performance and your expectations for him from this point forward moving?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: I thought particularly in the second half, he played like I think he can play. I had to remind him, Jamison is not out there. You're not an understudy. This is your year. Let's play like it. Let's go to a whole 'nother level, and hopefully that is a continued trend.
He has got loads of talent. He's got great hands. He's got great top-end speed and quickness, strength, is just taking each step to be as good as he can be. I'm anxious to see how he responds from having a really good game to being hungry and taking care of the little things to have another back-to-back -- I don't know if Johnell has had really outstanding back-to-back games, and it's time for him to do that.
Q. I wanted to ask you about the secondary, Alonzo (Saxton) and Jeremy McDuffie, kind of what you saw on film from their first game starting out there.
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Yeah, I thought they both were a little nervous, that both of them played well, not what I would call outstanding, but both of them played well. The big play that Jeremy gave up didn't bother me. He was in good position. It bothered me as much that they didn't tackle a little better, and they've got to do a good job of that, and they've got to play technique, and they've got to play with a little more confidence. It's very difficult to play corner if you don't play with confidence. I'm hoping from game 1 to game 2 we may see more improvement at that position than any other on the field.
Q. I know you like to do this on the field where you play multiple people throughout the game to keep them fresh; is that kind of what you're going to do with that position for the time being?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Yeah, and also, we're trying to figure out what's the best combination. Alonzo does a great job playing corner and a number of our safety positions, so we're open to that. We have Zach Muñiz is finally back from injury, so Zach kind of works into this picture at corner. I'm anxious to evaluate how we play best; which five play best together is what we're trying to find.
Q. How well do you think Thomas Sirk performed considering that was his first career start?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: I thought he played outstanding. His game management was really good. His poise was good. His decision making outstanding, and his accuracy was really outstanding. Certainly something to build on.
I think watching the tape and watching the tape with him, he sees where there are other things that were available. I think it's probably the right path to be a little on the conservative side in some of your thought process, but I think other than that, he was really outstanding.