by Mike Potter
BROOKS FOOTBALL BUILDING/DURHAM It’s still a long shot, but Duke is alive in its quest for a bowl bid if the Blue Devils can win their remaining three games.
“It keeps getting more exciting,” Cutcliffe said during his weekly press luncheon on Tuesday. “I’m happy for our team that it makes the next game more important. There were a lot of good things we did against Virginia, but we’ve got a lot of areas to improve in. We’re concerning ourselves with Duke, and certainly we should be concerned with Boston College who’s playing really well.
“(Chase) Rettig is playing well at quarterback and (Montel) Harris has been real successful running. And on defense they’re solid as a rock. And they have one of the premier players in (linebacker) Luke Kuechly, and his supporting cast is really special also. (Coach) Frank (Spaziani) has a team that doesn’t make mistakes and you have to beat them. That’s a difficult task.”
Most people who saw the Blue Devils’ 55-48 win over Virginia seemed to think it was one of the most exciting football games they had ever seen.
“We ran the ball really well, especially in the second half, and that made a difference,” Cutcliffe continued. “We were saying all week long last week that the team that ran the ball the best would win. They ran it effectively, but we did as well and that countered that to some degree. We certainly wouldn’t have done it without (offensive linemen) Bryan Morgan, Brian Moore, Dave Harding, Kyle Hill and Perry Simmons.”
The win, following the upset at Navy, has seemed to do wonders for the confidence of starting quarterback Sean Renfree.
“Everything’s been good the last few games, but we’re going to play a totally different team in Boston College,” Renfree said. “It’s good to have some momentum and more energy going into this week. The most obvious thing we’ve been doing is protecting the football, especially me personally. We’re just making little plays here and there that turn into big plays because we’re letting our receivers and running backs make plays.
“The turnover margin has been really important for us. If we protect the ball we’ll win the game or put ourselves in a position to have a very good chance to win.”
Renfree and No. 2 quarterback true freshman Brandon Connette combined for 100 rushing yards and four touchdowns against the Cavaliers. Cutcliffe said he doesn’t favor a “two-quarterback system,” but instead has a “package” that Connette goes into run in set situations.
“I love the role that I have right now,” Connette said. “We have a comfort level we have with getting me in and switching me and Sean in and out. We’ve found a place where I feel comfortable and the coaches feel comfortable putting me in. Sean feels comfortable, and that’s a big deal to me, knowing Sean is comfortable with me having the ball when I go in. I’ve found my role and I think the coaches have found my role too.
“Second-and-short, there might be a good chance I might be going in. Third-and-short, there might be a chance. And they’ve started getting me in on some first-and-tens to shorten things for Sean as well.”
In every win this season the Blue Devils have won the turnover margin, and in every loss they haven’t. Duke was plus-1 against Navy and plus-2 against Virginia.
“It’s a huge plus,” cornerback Ross Cockrell said of the turnover differences. “We went into the season saying we want to get three turnovers every game. That’s definitely what we want to cause for each game that we played this year. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. This week we hope again the turnover margin is in our favor.
“We know what we can do defensively, and we know that Boston College has a very solid defense with one of the best linebacking corps in the ACC. We know what they can do. We have to play our game, play solid defense and compete with them to the best of our ability.”