Opening Statement: “I can quickly tell you that this is as good of a team as we will play, if not the best team. It’s not just about some of the outstanding stars or the 22 starters on offense and defense. They are a complete football team that is extremely well coached. They are extremely talented, physical on both lines of scrimmage, fast and physical in skill positions and have the most productive quarterback in all of college football.
“This is a huge and monumental challenge for us. Teams have tried to stay on the field with them, and that’s the bottom line when you play them. We have to work smart and minimize errors to be able to have a chance against a team like Louisville.”
How is the defense doing in its adjustments from one offense to a completely different offense?
“Obviously it’s not the ideal time to have a short week, but I thought our work last night and Sunday was good. We got right to it without reviewing the Army West Point game, but we will have an opportunity to look at that during the open date. That film will also apply to our next opponent, Georgia Tech. We went straight to planning and practicing in preparation for Louisville defensively the last two nights. We extended our work a bit last night and I think it helped us, but I’m anxious to see where we are when we practice today.
“Again, Louisville has so many weapons that make them so challenging, but you’re playing against a style of offense that we commonly see, so it’s not like we’re having to readdress everything that we know.”
I imagine as a coach it’s hard to find a way against a team this talented. If you get down, how do you keep your guys in it?
“I think the focus in games like this is playing one play at a time. If you’re the two best teams in the country, I believe it’s the same approach. When you’re playing a great team, even if you’re a great team, you have to compete at every play. You must separate any other thought process from that play, and that is the only way to go about it. We’re a prideful program with guys who know how to play hard.”
Any update on Jela Duncan and Austin Davis?
“Again, it’s a short week with Davis and Duncan both moving around a little bit. They’re both not practicing at this point, so we will see.”
If Duncan can’t go, are you comfortable with the Wilson-Ajeigbe rotation or will Boden get some work in there?
“Boden can work in there and there’s also Quay Mann and Nico Pierre. Hopefully we get Jela back sooner than later, but we will see.”
I suppose offensively this game proposes a challenge as well?
“They’re a defensive challenge to everybody when you watch tape, whether it’s Clemson or Florida State. It’s difficult to drive the ball on these guys so you’re going to have to take and hit shots. That’s the only way you’re going to score a point. Those have to be calculated and come without turnovers. Clemson was able to be patient enough to hit the shots. Their quarterback was able to create plays, and sometimes during games with great defense, creativity comes into play.”
How does this Duke team compare to the 2013 team that played No. 1 Florida State?
“That was a good Duke team because it won the ACC Coastal Division championship and it was very mature by that time of year. Florida State was gifted in that many players went on to the NFL, so it’s difficult to compare the two.
“Right now, Louisville is dead in my sights, so they’re better in my eyes, but they very well might be better. Florida State was complete as a team and Louisville is as well. I’ve given that a lot of thought and I find myself going back and forth. In that era of Alabama football, this team is more talented than the Alabama team that came here. However, I can’t say that right now because we aren’t playing Alabama. Certainly Louisville presents a big challenge for us right now.”
How do you coach your defense against a creative playmaker like Lamar Jackson?
“You have to have discipline in the back end because Jackson can throw it. It was interesting to hear people say, ‘well, we’ve just got to tackle him,’ Well, it would help if I could borrow five or six guys that could tackle him.
“I think he’s faster than Johnny Manziel, so he presents even a bigger problem. He’s a long-touchdown threat and probably has a stronger arm than Manziel. I haven’t seen Jackson in person, so the comparison is only on film. I do know he’s probably as fast as any quarterback I will see. Our past experiences do help us as a staff, and we’ve had a lot of conversations discussing the best way to go about this. At the end of the day, it has to be functional and you have to find a way to get him on the ground. We just have to be thoughtful on how to go about that.”