Duke focusing to defend against explosive plays

Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network
Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network

Blue Devils host Trojans at homecoming

DURHAM, N.C. – Earlier in the week, Duke Blue Devils football coach David Cutcliffe set up this week’s game against the Troy Trojans (2-2) as one to not be taken lightly.

Sure, it will be the first-ever meeting between the two schools, it will be Homecoming on the Duke campus, and the Trojans are following up on two consecutive losses, the most recent being a 62-7 drubbing against Mississippi State (SEC).

However, should Troy pick its spots with surprise plays against the Blue Devils defense, it may be a closer game than Cutcliffe would want to have.

“This is a dangerous team with a lot of weapons, including two outstanding quarterbacks,” Cutcliffe said.

“They’re running about three offenses. You have to prepare for an entire change in offensive system. We spent a lot of time yesterday preparing today’s practice, including getting the repetitions we need. You can’t see everything, so what we did yesterday is spent a lot of time determining how we would prioritize our work and our approach, because they do so much.”

The Blue Devils, currently 2-2 (0-2 ACC), seek to get another win under their belts and move closer to earning a bowl bid.

However, after suffering two consecutive conference losses to Georgia Tech (38-14) and Pitt (58-55), Duke has to deny big plays against Troy and take advantage of its matchup with its Sunbelt Conference opponent.

After allowing an average of 48 points per game in their last two games played, Cutcliffe has focused the defense’s work on denying big yardage gains on explosive plays, and used the Pittsburgh game to illustrate his point.

“Sixty two plays of that game, Pittsburgh averaged 2.8 yards a snap,” Cutcliffe said.

“Seventeen plays outside of that, they averaged 25 yards a snap, so that’s the difference in the defense playing extremely well. How do you prevent explosive plays? How do you keep the ball in front of you? How do you tackle better? How do you leverage the ball and set the edge? Those are the things we’re working on and obviously we need to continue to work better at them. You’re always working on them, but we didn’t execute those things 17 times (against Pittsburgh).”

Expressing disappointment rather than frustration over his team’s loss to Pittsburgh, the Duke coach has continued to keep his players focused on putting in many reps during practice.

His hope is that by maintaining the tenacious work ethic that the Blue Devils have developed since training camp, it will all pay off with more wins as the season progresses.

“When you come to work, you punch the time clock,” Cutcliffe said.

“When you’re on the time clock, and when everyone came to work this morning, it’s your job to do the best you can do every second of practice. That’s the mode we’re in, to take the level of execution to new heights.”

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