In the visiting locker room in Blacksburg, Duke coach David Cutcliffe hit his players with the truth -- and that might have hit them harder than anything Virginia Tech’s defense did over the final three quarters of the Hokies’ 41-20 win last Saturday.
Cutcliffe said Virginia Tech played a more fundamentally sound game, and his players were “out-hit.”
“So I told them in the locker room, I wouldn't beat a dead horse on Sunday, and I didn't,” Cutcliffe said. “I moved right to where we -- what I believe our team is, and I went through each position of our team with an evaluation, a week seven evaluation, what I thought each position had to do to fundamentally get better what we were doing well, what our capabilities were, etc., etc.
“And then afterwards, I challenged them that it's up to them to make the decision, you know, what they are going to do about it,” he said. “I can't fix it with the talk. And the only way we can work on this is on the practice field and they responded Sunday night and they to this point haven't quit responding. All that means is you've got a chance.”
Duke is going to need a chance and a prayer on Saturday against rival North Carolina. The Tar Heels have won eight straight and 21 of the past 22 meetings. The Tar Heels are looking like the best team in the division right now – even though they’re ineligible – and it’s going to be another tall task for Duke to find that elusive sixth win this weekend. Duke isn’t out of the ACC race just yet, though. At 2-1 in ACC play, Duke can still win the Coastal Division – unless it picks up where it left off against Virginia Tech. The one thing Duke must avoid at all costs is a here-we-go-again mentality in which losing snowballs right back into the status quo.
“You look at the program now to before David got there and Duke is a very fundamentally sound, good football team,” said UNC coach Larry Fedora. “He’s got them believing that they are as good as they are. That’s a big piece right there. He’s got them believing and as long as they believe, then they’ve got a chance in each and every game they play.”
Cutcliffe said he began to pace the sideline on Saturday in Blacksburg and was concerned by what he saw.
“What we became is a frustrated team,” he said. “So my message then and it was on Sunday, as well, is you cannot let frustration be a guide for anything you do in line because it accomplishes nothing, zero. And if you can feel challenged, you can be concerned, you can be a lot of things, but frustration is not one of them, and I saw a bunch of frustrated individuals up-and-down our sideline, and I kept trying to relay that and trying to encourage -- and I guess I am old enough now to realize that I don't get frustrated if I can help it very, very often, rarely, because I've never seen it accomplish anything, and I don't want to see that emotion on our team.
“So after the game I said, here is what happened and what I do want to do is put this game behind us emotionally. I don't want to see the emotions that have come out of this game again, either during or after and that's -- like I said, I told them the truth and we have gone on from there.”