It was senior left guard Dave Harding who reminded us it was the players who had the first belief in this program. The first belief in Duke head coach David Cutcliffe and how that commitment to his program has brought this football team to where they are today.
“We believed in coach and committed to be a part of this football program when it wasn’t cool,” explained the Orlando, Fla., native. “This is the reason we came to Duke. We came here to change things, there is no luck involved in how we have won games, coach has taught us about preparation and execution and how if we follow the plan we will be successful.”
"Being a part of a change in the program is the most amazing feeling you can have," added linebacker David Helton, who made 19 tackles on the day. "It feels out of this world."
It was a very weird football game at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va. A combined eight interceptions by both teams, Duke was 0-11 in third-down conversations, 1-of-1 on fourth down conversions, while Virginia Tech was 4-of-6 on fourth down conversions. The Blue Devil defense held the Hokies scoreless in the first half and Duke did not complete a pass in the second half.
“What we did do, as a team, we brought 72 players up here,” explained Cutcliffe. “There’s only 11 on the field at a time, but I said it’s going to take all 72 players focused and in the game on the sidelines if you’re not in there. And I thought they did that.”
They did, as they won numerous battles in all three phases of the game of football.
There were outstanding performances by the Duke defense, the offense at appropriate times and the kicking game. Ross Martin hit a career long 53-yard field goal while adding a 51-yarder in a swirling wind to give the Devils a 6-0 lead at halftime.
“The thing we did, among all the good things we did in this game, we competed and hit them the entire game,” explained Cutcliffe. “We stayed intense the entire game and I couldn’t be more proud of the players and coaches for how we played – we played hard.”
This is a very interesting football team; they really have no star player and win as a team. They get big interceptions from Ross Cockrell and Kelby Brown, huge kicks by Martin and Will Monday and key plays on offense by Anthony Boone and Brandon Connette. The offensive line is mature and strong, while the defensive line causes opponents trouble all day long.
It was the key moments in this game, all sorts of little moments, fumbles first lost then recovered, big stops on defense and a key block for yardage that were the individual battles that eventually won this game.
Cutcliffe reminds this team every time they go onto the field that execution, each man carrying out his job on each and every play, is what will make the difference in the outcome of the game.
He has been able over the last five years to find players that buy into a system that makes every man responsible for the success of the team. That one man is no more important than another.
“One of the keys in coaching is to locate guys that are talented and convince them they are a little bit better than what they are,” said Cutcliffe. “If you are a winner inside then that approach will work. Our guys may believe in each other more than they believe in themselves. They strongly believe in each other.”
And they also validated a belief in their head coach that began years ago while they were still in high school and has now come to fruition with a win over a nationally-ranked team, a second trip to a bowl game and establishment of a very relevant college football program.
Remember if you have any questions or comments about this column to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for taking the time to read these ramblings and have a safe and wonderful week.