Duke football head coach David Cutcliffe held his weekly press conference today, addressing Duke’s 42-17 victory over Virginia and their next matchup. Here are some highlights from his 30-minute question and answer session. The Blue Devils (5-1, 2-0 in the ACC) face Virginia Tech (3-3, 1-1) at Lane Stadium this Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
“That’s pretty significant for a wounded team to get some bodies back. For Sean Renfree, I’m going to wait until later in the week to make a decision.”—Cutcliffe
After quarterback Anthony Boone threw four touchdown passes in the Blue Devils’ victory against Virginia, the team welcomed starting quarterback Sean Renfree back to practice Tuesday. Renfree and Boone split snaps with the first team, and although “Renfree got some good work in” according to Cutcliffe, the team will wait until Thursday to announce Renfree’s status for this week’s conference tilt with Virginia Tech.
Renfree’s return was also accompanied by some much-needed reinforcements on the defensive front. Safety Brandon Braxton, who did not play against Virginia due to an upper body injury, returned to practice Tuesday. After undergoing surgery to repair a torn left meniscus less than three weeks ago, safety Chris Tavarez was available at practice as well. But perhaps the biggest bright spot for Duke was the return of nose guard Jamal Bruce and defensive end Justin Foxx, who were both projected starters on the defensive line this season. Foxx has not played since Duke’s loss to Stanford on Sept. 8, and if Bruce were able to go this weekend he would be seeing his first action of the 2012 season.
“It boosted our defense’s morale today. We had four players repping that hadn’t been going at all, so that was definitely a positive,” Cutcliffe said.
“Looking at Virginia Tech on tape, it’s the Virginia Tech we all know.” —Cutcliffe
As Duke prepares to face Virginia Tech, it experiences a bit of a role reversal from years past. Sitting in unfamiliar territory at 5-1, the Blue Devils travel to Blacksburg, Va. this weekend to take on a Hokies team that has struggled, dropping contests against Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and North Carolina. Despite Virginia Tech’s early-season mishaps, Cutcliffe was not quick to declare his team the favorite entering Saturday’s contest in a tough road environment.
“They’re undefeated at home. Some hard knocks, some difficult circumstances here and there, but there’s talent,” Cutcliffe said. “It’s a great program, I’ll tell you that. I know they’ve won four ACC championships and I think this is their ninth year in the league. I was hoping they weren’t going to look as good as they did, but to be honest with you, they do.”
“Could he have played better? Yes, he knows he could have played better. But he ran our offense flawlessly. I’m very pleased with what Anthony did.”—Cutcliffe
Cutcliffe said Anthony Boone’s four-touchdown performance in last week’s win against Virginia was “probably the best” he had ever received from a backup quarterback. Although the Blue Devil head coach added there was room for improvement, he seemed very pleased with Boone’s play. With Renfree’s injury status for Saturday’s game against the Hokies still uncertain, Boone may be looked to once again to lead the Blue Devils into a hard-fought ACC battle.
“I can’t stop that. I heard players chirping about it in the locker room on Sunday but I told my wife I don’t want to spoil a good party.”—Cutcliffe
At 5-1, Cutcliffe’s Blue Devils sit just one win away from their first bowl bid since 1994. Although Cutcliffe doesn’t want Duke’s bowl chances to become a distraction for his team, the head coach freely admitted that it’s next to impossible to keep it off his players’ minds.
“That’s not the only reason you play the game, but that’s just human nature,” Cutcliffe said. “How are you going to fool them from that? They’re starving. Why wouldn’t they feel that way?”