Duke coaches not pleased with receivers' execution at Memphis
For all the focus on Duke’s quarterback position this week with Brandon Connette taking over for the injured Anthony Boone, Blue Devil coach David Cutcliffe has concern about another area on that side of the ball as well.
Even during Saturday’s 28-14 win at Memphis, Cutcliffe and wide receivers coach Scottie Montgomery saw some things about the wide receivers that disturbed them.
“I thought we had too many people interested in trying to make plays as opposed to executing their jobs,” Cutcliffe said Tuesday. “There’s a big difference. When we play offense, it is absolutely about execution. It is not about playmakers. Playmaking comes from perfect execution not someone being a superstar. I’ve never been interested in that.”
Boone and Connette completed 25 passes for 297 yards against Memphis. Blue Devil wide receivers and tight ends caught 21 of those passes, amassing 267 yards and scoring two touchdowns.
The win allows Duke (2-0) to carry a perfect record into its ACC opener against Georgia Tech (1-0) on Saturday (3:30 p.m., ESPNU) at Wallace Wade Stadium.
But to emerge with a win in the Tech game, even standout receiver Jamison Crowder admits the group must shore up some inconsistencies.
“Just execution,” Crowder said. “That was the main thing. Fumbling, route running, not paying much attention to detail of the routes and everything. This week, that’s something coach Montgomery has been putting a big emphasis on as far as detail. Doing the little things like catching the ball and protecting the ball.”
Crowder had a big day, catching 11 passes for 140 yards. But he also fumbled a punt, one of three turnovers the Blue Devils committed at Memphis.
That’s the kind of stuff Cutcliffe knows the Blue Devils can’t afford if they are to compete against a solid team like Georgia Tech.
“Sometimes guys have to make plays, guess what they forget to do?” Cutcliffe said. “They forget they have to have the ball with them to make the play. You are trying to do something extra? There goes the ball.
“The most important thing to learn about any play offensively or in the return game is, at the end of the play, you have possession of the ball. Nothing else matters at that point than at the end of the play, you are the one who hands the ball to the official. Sometimes we forget that.”
Boone, Duke’s No. 1 quarterback, suffered a broken collarbone that has him out indefinitely. Connette is taking over as starting quarterback for the foreseeable future.
The Blue Devils responded well to the adversity at Memphis. Connette threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes — to Issac Blakeney and Brandon Braxton — to lead Duke to a win that gave it at 2-0 record for the first time since 1998.
Crowder said the atmosphere in practice has remained upbeat with Connette taking over. But, speaking about his receiver group in particular, there is an extra edge because they have been challenged to improve.
“It’s a different atmosphere among the receivers,” Crowder said. “Coach Mo (Montgomery) pretty much felt we played terrible as a receiver group. That’s how most of the receivers felt. It was a lot more energy coming from the receivers now to get on track. It’s a big ACC game.”
Cutcliffe said it doesn’t matter what the statistics say or the final score reads. If his players don’t meet expectations, they will hear about it.
“I’ve coached some of the best to play the game and if our execution wasn’t what we expected, we let them know quickly,” Cutcliffe said. “I told them that at halftime (at Memphis) and had to retell them that again. We don’t need plays made. We need execution. If we don’t execute, we are not going to be successful. Read your keys and play as hard as you can play. We got away from that as players.”