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Cutcliffe: Duke must play with discipline vs. Northwestern

Ahead of his team’s big match-up against Northwestern on Saturday, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe spoke with the media on Tuesday afternoon.  Here’s the transcript...

OPENING STATEMENT: Northwestern is a very good football team. That’s not surprising. We’ve played them before here. Pat Fitzgerald and his staff do a great job of coaching. They do a great job of recruiting. We recruit against them, and a lot of the players they have, we tried to recruit. That’s going to happen in this business. 

They had a great first win over Stanford, which was very impressive. They are a very physical football team, and they won that physical battle in every aspect. They won it on defense, offense and the kicking game. They’ve got a young quarterback that is playing at a high level. He’s got a big-time arm and is a very fast football player. They’ve got good skill around him and a big offensive line. 

Defensively, eight starters return and they play like that. They don’t make mistakes and they are very big up front, very physical. They can run at linebacker and in the secondary, so this is certainly one of the better, if not the best, Northwestern team I’ve seen through the years watching them play football. 

They’re very thorough in their coaching. For us to have an opportunity, we have got to play really well from a technique standpoint and from a discipline standpoint, and certainly evaluate and try to make some plays on both sides of the ball against a very good top-25 football team. It’s a huge challenge, and that’s what the rest of the season will be. That’s what we’re faced with, and looking ahead from this point will be exceptional teams throughout the rest of the season. 

Q. On facing a ranked Northwestern team and Duke not being ranked: 

COACH CUTCLIFFE: I think they have earned their opportunity to be ranked. They have a big win over a big-time Pac-12 team. I respect that and I voted for them. As far as our regard, I think our players would agree with this, we’re going to focus on getting better. If we can keep getting better, we’ll have an opportunity for one of those special seasons that you end up in the top 25. We will worry about that later. I don’t find any extra juice about that other than you better juice up when you’re playing a top-25 team. That’s the competitor in you. You know you’ve been challenged when you look at them on tape. 

Q. On the challenge of facing a quarterback that you only have two games of film to study: 

COACH CUTCLIFFE: It’s not just watching the player. They are very systematic. They do what Northwestern does, regardless of who basically is at quarterback. We all alter little things based on talents, but he can throw it, he can run it. There are not any major differences in what they’re doing this year and what they’ve done in the past. I looked at them all summer, and all our early opponents and I’ve watched all their seasons from last year. There’s not that big of an adjustment. They’re very versatile on offense. They give you a lot of formation problems. They know, on both sides of the ball schematically, very well what they’re doing. They’re extremely well coached. 

Q. On areas of the offense that are still growing: 

COACH CUTCLIFFE: We had 10 people catch passes. We will have things designed for certain players, because players win games, but we’re not going to always go in knowing where the ball should go. I think right now, one of the positives about our offense is that you couldn’t just say who you have to stop, to stop us. Obviously you would probably start with the quarterback because he’s the center of it, but we’ve got some guys being good players or great players or outstanding players as we grade them. 

I think we can get more out of our people as we move forward. The other thing you hope is that as you play, the five, six or seven offensive linemen that are playing a lot, or that starting five, start to gel. Those are the things that you’re looking for. And then we have other things like personnel groupings that we haven’t really used yet that we will as we move forward. 

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