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irish insider

Cutcliffe respects Irish but is confident in team ahead of Saturday

| Friday, November 8, 2019

Duke head coach David Cutcliffe addressed the media Tuesday ahead of the Blue Devils’ game against the Irish on Saturday. Duke is an eight-point underdog at home, and Cutcliffe has high expectations for Irish head coach Brian Kelly’s squad.

“They are really big and powerful, but at the same time have a lot of people that can run. They’re explosively fast, they’re skilled on offense, they’re skilled in the secondary, their linebackers are extremely aggressive and Brian Kelly has, I think, been one of the better innovators in college football on offense for a long time now,” Cutcliffe said. “I’ve always watched what he does. I think he’s very much an innovator. They do a great job. Coach [Clark] Lea, has got a great pedigree, Coach [Mike] Elston has been there a while — defensive line coach — so they’re consistent, they’re good and solid at every little thing they do. It’ll be a huge challenge, but we’re thrilled to have them here.”

While Cutcliffe acknowledged the advantage the Irish hold heading into the matchup, he was careful to maintain some perspective.

“I don’t think you have to put them on a pedestal, but I do think that you have to face a reality,” Cutcliffe said.

The Blue Devils are coming off a three-point loss to cross-town rival North Carolina. Despite the disappointing outcome of the game, Cutcliffe said he’s hoping his team will use this as motivation against Notre Dame.

“You know it’s the toughest times in probably anything we do, but certainly in sport is when you have to become your best. And you use it as fuel,” he said. “You don’t let it eat you up under any circumstances. So, we put that to rest during the open date. Our work throughout the week was what it needed to be and that’s the indicator. Not that you say you’re okay, it’s what you put out on the practice field.”

Allison Thornton | The Observer

Irish junior tight end Cole Kmet runs over a Virginia Tech defender in last Saturday’s 21-20 victory.

After suffering a 42-3 loss to Alabama to open their season, the Blue Devils have gone on to beat North Carolina A&T 45-13 and Middle Tennessee 41-18 before picking up a key 45-10 victory over a fellow Notre Dame opponent — Virginia Tech.

Redshirt senior Quentin Harris has taken over the helm following the departure of current New York Giants quarterback, Daniel Jones.

One of the areas Cutcliffe identified as one of the biggest potential threats to a Duke victory was the Notre Dame receiving corps.

“First of all, you have to find some way to generate some pass rush. You have to make the quarterback uncomfortable about holding the ball. Secondly, we’ve got to mix coverages,” he said. “We’ve got to put ourselves in good positions to avoid giving up explosive plays. One of the best ways to do it is for our offense to stay on the field and make a few explosives of their own. We’ve got to take care of the football.”

Cutcliffe specifically pointed to junior tight end Cole Kmet as “explosive.”

“It’s frightening. He is a great player and such a big target himself — he’s really hard to deal with,” Cutcliffe said.

In addition to the 20-17 loss to North Carolina, the Blue Devils also recently dropped a game to Pitt at home 33-30. Although winning those two matchups would have put Duke in postseason eligibility at this point with six wins, Cutcliffe once again reiterated that those loses should only motivate his crew.

“I mean, over and over and over looking at games and you just shake your head. But you have to let it go,” he said. “You have to use it for fuel not fire, if you will. And that’s what I told them. Fire is anger and worry. That does nothing but burn you out and burn you up. If you use something for fuel, you learn to load up.”

Finally, Cutcliffe addressed the weather conditions they’re expected to face Saturday — mid-40s and sunny. While this is a little chillier than the Blue Devils are used to, those are conditions the Irish gladly welcome, having come accustomed to playing in 20 and 30 degree weather at this point in the season.

“You know we practice early in the morning, so we’ve already had cold weather. You know, it’s been chilly in the mornings and afternoon teams don’t get that,” he said. “But I mean, that’s one advantage for us in November. When we’re out there at times, it starts in the 30s and may end up in the low 40s.”

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