COACH CUTCLIFFE: No question that we are hitting the stride of our schedule and it starts with a really physical Northwestern team. The game against Stanford, I've just continued to watch all three phases, and pretty special. They dominated Stanford physically in every aspect of that game, which is impressive, if you know anything about Stanford football over the last few years.
So a big test for us. I think our guys understand that. They are preparing with a great intensity. It should be exciting to see how we match up against this kind of team. I hope our guys are looking forward to the opportunity, but I also hope they realize and understand how hard we are going to have to work and match up with this team.
With that, I'll take your questions.
Q. In your first two games heading into this game against Northwestern, I wanted to talk about your run defense. You allowed 25 yards and the first game 54 and the second to under 102 combined. You can say about the run defense of Duke so far?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: I think that opener, our team, we were very determined after a year ago giving up as many yards rushing as we did to Tulane to make a better show. But we are playing a lot of people and we are able to stay fresh. I think we are faster and more athletic.
And the experience of the secondary is a big part of the run defense. Again we all realize, and it's easy when you turn on the tape, that we will be challenged in a much different way this week. So hopefully we are up for a challenge.
Q. When you look at this week, coming off a 55-0 win, Steve Addazio just said a couple minutes ago, that it's not necessarily a great thing when you have a game like a shutout when you know that you're going into a big opponent, a Top-25. How do you view a win like this? Is it a good thing or a bad thing for the team? Does it help you kind of get a little bit of a litmus test for what your team is all about going into Northwestern?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: I think what I've always done, and is focused on, did we get better. If the answer is yes -- it's always a good thing to win big, I'll promise you that. I'll never say differently.
But I think one of the best parts of our game last week is that our best play came in the third quarter. Our guys took it to another level. Our effort, our execution, all of it, which is what you should do. None of us nearly scrimmage enough any more, just because you don't have the numbers, and you can't.
So any game is important because it's 11-on-11 football. You're training a quarterback so much different than when it's real live football. I think we got better as a team, and I think that was an important step for us to take.
Q. You’ve got two senior kickers this year. Will the red-shirt senior, and you brought Will in and he kicked as a true freshman -- it looks like you're going to be in a similar situation next year. You have a kicker you're red-shirting this year, a punter and you're bringing in a scholarship place kicker next year. Is that something you do by choice or has it just worked out that way?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: No, it's by choice. It's hard to carry four or five guys on scholarship that are specialists. And so we try to keep a punter, a place kicker and a snapper on scholarship. They are all extremely important to us.
But we will take one year and try to sign a punter and red-shirt him and that's four -- I don't know if you remember, but when we came in here, we had about six or seven guys that were specialists on scholarship because -- they were failing, if you recall. You kind of remember that, right?
So that hits into your depth. That was very difficult for us to deal with on offense and defense. So I believe a place kicker can come in, but that's very similar, other than kicking off the ground. But now high school guys are kicking off the ground, the really good ones all the time, some of them in games but in everything else they do.
So I think it's easier to teach a place kicker your system and how you do things. I think a punter is a different animal, and the punter is No.1, catching a college snap, and it's much different, much faster rhythm.
So I'd like to red-shirt a punter and train them. And we have got Austin Parker right now is not a good job, but is doing a great job of making a practice like a game. If he'll keep going, he has got a chance to be a special, special player, just like Will has been for four years.
And whomever -- and I can't comment, we haven't signed anybody yet. But we have recruited and continued to recruit always special people as place kickers. I think they can come in and play really well as freshmen if they are the right kind of people.
Q. Will has the highest punting average in Duke history. Russ Martin has more field goals than the best field goal percentage in Duke history. Is it possible Duke has the best kickers they have ever had right now?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: You know, you've been around here longer than I have, so you may be able to answer the question better than I. But I don't know that I've ever been around two better anywhere. And so they would be hard to beat. I would say that based on the statistics, you would have to say, absolutely yes. But I don't want to offend anybody that's ever played here before.
Q. When you look at the Northwestern defense on film, what stands out to you in terms of why they have been so stout so far this year?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: Well, the first thing is they don't make mistakes. Extremely, extremely experienced and well-coached and, you throw Cobb in there. They are unique and they are really big up front, their front four.
And then you look at their linebackers, and you would call them really athletic; not exceptionally big, not small, but athletic, and then a secondary that's really athletic. They know what they are doing. They are schematically really good.
But I don't know if they have made a mistake this year, honestly. And that being the case, they played a great offensive team in Stanford, and then a team that they were physically better than, but giving up six points in two games, haven't given up a touchdown; that's not an accident.
Q. You mentioned earlier about the physicality of Northwestern, the Northwestern team in all three phases of the game. What impressed you the most from game film about their defense?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: Well, they play together so well. They are talented obviously. They are big, they are strong. They are athletic in the back end. They have got athletic linebackers and safeties and corners. But they just play together so well. They have eight returning starters and their other guys have played a lot. They do play a lot of people but they just don't make mistakes. They are about as good as you can getting where they are supposed to be and doing it really well.
Q. And also, I don't want to overlook the fact that Duke would be part of a five games consisting of ACC vs. Big Ten teams this weekend. Your thoughts on that process?
COACH CUTCLIFFE: Well, it's interesting how that happened. The power five is obviously continuing to schedule more and more games. We talk about it at Amelia Island in our spring meetings, coaches do. We want to represent our league, and it's okay to feel that way and I think it's important.
Hopefully we'd love to see us go 5-0 if possible. I'm a big believer in our league and our coaches and our players. I think it's a great opportunity to see ACC football on national display.