Duff Ready for Big Challenge

The game of football is a game of match-ups--one player versus another player and 11 match-ups at a time on any given play. One of the best match-ups of the day on Saturday will be Irish cornerback Vontez Duff going against Pitt wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Irish Eyes caught up with Duff to talk about this particular match-up.

Vontez Duff is not a player lacking in confidence. Duff has seen the nation's best receivers for the last two years and has held his own against many of them. Fitzgerald is a certain first-team All-American this year but Vontez Duff wants to show people that he belongs on that list as well.

Duff knows there is no bigger stage than the stage he'll have on Saturday to show the country who Vontez Duff is. "I've got to be ready, I've got to be prepared to play every play," said Duff when asked what he needs to do to stop Larry Fitzgerald. "I can't take a play off and I know if I just play my game, be physical with him, it's going to be great battle."

Duff says Fitzgerald is a great receiver and he'll have to be physical with him on Saturday. "He's a good receiver—he goes up and gets the ball. No matter how he's covered, he's one of those guys that always catches the ball away from his body. That's why I feel like guys like him, you've got to get in his face, disrupt some of that and get him out of his game."

Does Duff expect a lot of one-on-one coverage against Fitzgerald this Saturday? "Depends on what's going on in the situation—down and distance. I'm ready for it, it's a match up that I'm really looking forward to and pretty sure he's looking forward to it as well."

The Copperas Cove, TX native says he won't be talking in this game and says he hopes Fitzgerald will have nothing to talk about either. "I don't say nothing, I just play and my play talks for itself. It's kind of hard (for him to talk) if he aint doing nothing but if he's doing he's doing his thing, he can say whatever he wants to. I'm always going to be in his face and be ready to play."

No matter how good Duff's coverage might be, he knows the ball is coming his way. "I know its coming, everybody else knows its coming and we've just got to be prepared to play our technique and be in great football position to make plays."

Duff clearly is the best corner on the Irish defense and he faces the best receivers every game. He says this is just another week for him and he expects to be in this position every week. "It's like every week to me. This is the next number one. It seems like every (team) we've played this year, their best receiver has worn number one. I'm just ready for the next opportunity to showcase my skills and just go out there and let the nation know who Vontez Duff is."

Defensive coordinator Kent Baer told Irish Eyes that he thinks teams and corners make the mistake of trying to play Fitzgerald instead of the ball. Duff agrees and says he'll be watching the ball and not Fitzgerald. "I think most people do think about him more and try to get into great position to play him but I don't know if anyone has really got up in his face and been real physical with him. They just let him run down the field and run all over the place. I feel as though I'm going to be a little more physical—that's the type of person I am. We're going to get up in his face, try to disrupt his timing and play our style of football."

Fitzgerald is a physical receiver and a consistent player. Duff says you can't afford to play Fitzgerald the same way every play. "You can't get too lackadaisical and want to play off all the time—you've got to mix it up a bit. Play off sometimes and get up in his face. Always have it to where he really doesn't know what you're going to be in—what the coverage is. Disrupt his route and running and that makes the quarterback hesitate a little bit more and gives you an advantage."

The outcome of this game will not likely come down to this one match-up and Duff agrees this is a team game and the entire defense has to play well to win this game. "It's still a team game. It's not just me against him. It takes the quarterback to throw the ball down the field and it takes other guys blocking. There's going to be times where we're out on an island and it is just me and him but I got to make sure I win more battles than he does."

Duff has won many battles over his career at Notre Dame. He'll need his best game in this game to win against what we feel is the best receiver in the country. We love Duff's confidence and he'll need every bit of that as well as a short memory to play against Fitzgerald because Fitzgerald will catch some footballs on Saturday.

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