Updates from Duke football Tuesday press conference
Notes from Tuesday’s Duke football press conference as the Blue Devils prep for a game with N.C. State on Saturday (4 p.m., ESPNU).
Hot start -- The Blue Devils (6-2, 2-2 in ACC) have won their last four games and have started 6-2 for the second consecutive season. Duke hasn't won five in a row since the 1994 season, when the Blue Devils started the season 7-0.
Getting healthy – Per ACC guidelines, Duke isn’t required to release injury information until Thursday. Same goes for N.C. State.
So on Tuesday, Duke coach David Cutcliffe was a big cagey about the availability of two starters who suffered injuries on Oct. 26 at Virginia Tech.
All-ACC cornerback Ross Cockrell, who can also play safety in Duke’s defense, was in a protective boot and out of practice last week with an ankle injury. The Blue Devils were on a bye week, so it allowed Cockrell a bit more rest.
That apparently helped because he wasn’t wearing the boot on Tuesday and he said he was able to practice.
Still, Cutcliffe preached caution.
“Until Thursday we won’t make any kind of declaration,” Cutcliffe said. “We all know that you get better from ankles every day and sometimes it jumps forward.”
Brandon Braxton, who suffered a shoulder injury against Virginia Tech, was considered doubtful to play against N.C. State just 48 hours ago. But Cutcliffe said Braxton is improving.
“In my mind on Sunday he was doubtful,” Cutcliffe said. “He looked much better today. He got a little work and he will practice (Wednesday).”
Both Cockrell and Braxton are listed in their usual starting positions on Duke’s depth chart that was released on Tuesday.
“I’m just taking it day by day, trying to make sure I’m as healthy as possible on Saturday,”
Cutcliffe did say that sophomore safety Dwayne Norman, who isn’t listed on the depth chart, has seen improvement in his sprained knee ligament enough that he was able to practice on Tuesday.
“We’re going to get him available,” Cutcliffe said.
Norman started six of Duke’s first seven games before injuring his knee at Virginia on Oct. 19
Addressing November – Duke is 1-19 in games played in November since Cutcliffe became its coach for the 2008 season.
Part of that is the talent disparity the Blue Devils faced in relation to the rest of the ACC when he arrived. But even last year, when Duke made a bowl game for the first season since 1994, the Blue Devils lost all three November games.
That was part of a season-ending five-game losing streak that left Duke at 6-7.
“Everybody is aware of what happened a year ago,” Cutcliffe said. “We didn’t win. We had all the losses. But it’s easy to forget we played a lot of good football in November. People just assume you didn’t play well when you didn’t win. That’s not the case. We prepared well and played well at times. We got overmatched a couple of times and didn’t play well.”
Duke was overmatched in a 48-7 loss at Florida State, which occurred on Oct. 27. That was followed by a 56-20 loss to Clemson on Nov. 3 loss.
Even though Miami is the only team that Duke will face this month that currently has a winning record, the Blue Devils are working to sharpen their focus.
The team’s veteran players called another players-only meeting Tuesday morning to offer some brief words on the matter.
“These guys have that taste in their mouths,” Cutcliffe said. “Coming close or playing well isn’t enough for them. I know their focus and attention is on winning, which is where it should be.”
The Blue Devils also held a players-only meeting in the week between their 35-22 win at Virginia and the 13-10 win at Virginia Tech.
“Anytime our leaders want to talk to their teammates, I’m not going to ask them to do it, but I’m encouraged when they do,” Cutcliffe said. “They get in there. It’s not disorganized. I like the fact that they do it in a 2-3 minute span. I’m a big believer in do what you mean and mean what you say.”
Said Cockrell, “Our team has continued to come together after last season and the five-game losing streak.”