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Michael Carter & Casey Holman On Duke’s 0-3 Start, Virginia Tech On Saturday

Nothing to do but to try to do better

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 31 Chick-fil-A Kickoff - Duke v Alabama
ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 31: Duke Blue Devils offensive tackle Casey Holman (78) during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Duke Blue Devils on August 31, 2019 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.
Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

On Monday David Cutcliffe emphasized the importance of quality practices in turning around Duke’s struggling season. Duke has had one full-scale practice since then. Safety Michael Carter II and offensive tackle Casey Holman spoke to the media Tuesday morning and the subject of quality practices came up.

Carter said the emphasis was on “practice like you play. Every rep has to be game-like. What you want to be on Saturday is up to what you do on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.”

Holman was on the same page.

“You’ve got to win the game on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday before you can win the game on Saturday.”

That includes film work. Cutcliffe and the offense watched film of the Virginia game together Sunday, every single play and apparently it was intense.

“We had to look at it with a fine-tooth comb,” Holman said. “We had to get out there and understand what we did right and transfer that over to what we did wrong. We had a lot of positives out there . .. . On those negative plays we have to focus in and figure out what we did good on the other plays and how we can carry that over to the bad plays, whether that’s effort or execution or whatever. It varies from play-to-play. We have to finish blocks. We have to get the first step right and finish the final step.”

Duke will have to finish those final steps against a Virginia Tech team that overcame the COVID-19-related absence of 23 players to shred NC State 45-24 in its season opener.

The Hokies rushed for a staggering 314 yards, with no single player rushing more than 10 times. They averaged eight yards per carry.

But when they passed, they passed well, 11-for-17, for 181 yards and two touchdowns. That’s almost 11 yards per pass attempt, almost 500 yards of total offense, without a turnover.


And they did all of this with presumptive starting quarterback Hendon Hooker out. Backup quarterbacks Braxton Burmeister (an Oregon transfer) and Quincy Patterson II had outstanding games. Hooker may be back, giving Justin Fuente three quality options at quarterback, assuming Burmeister has recovered from an in-game injury.

And who knows about those 23 COVID-19 positives.

In other words, preparing for the Hokies is going to be a challenge.

“Definitely focus on stopping the run, while being physical at the back end, while defending explosives,” Carter says. “They’ve got dynamic receivers and tight ends, so we can’t just sleep on that aspect of the game. You’ve got to prepare for the whole game. They’re the same hard-playing, physical, dynamic team we see every year.”

“We do have some game film,” Holman adds, “so we’re going to study everybody that we know can be a contributor. We’ve got to trust our techniques and fundamentals . . . and win individual battles.”

That 0-3 start?

“It’s not what anybody imagined,” Carter says. “But after that [final] whistle blows there’s nothing you can do but change the future. I think we’re headed in the right direction. It’s tough starting that way but it’s behind us now and we’ve got to focus on improving.”

Holman has a slightly different take. He says you have to take the sting of losing and turn that into motivation, “not wallow in it, but focus on that, remember how it felt after the game and carry it over because we don’t want to feel that again.”

Carter says that senior leadership will be a key to turning around the season.

“All of us captains have been vocal keeping everyone lifted and making sure we stay the course because we’re going to get better week by week and continue to improve.”