David Cutcliffe told the media Monday yesterday that his Duke football team was hungry
Safety Lummie Young IV and center Jack Wohlabaugh addressed the media Tuesday and addressed that point in advance of this Saturday’s game at Virginia.
“I feel like we definitely are hungry,” Young said. “We’ve come close to winning a couple of games that we should have won. That right there has driven everybody to be better in practice. That’s what I see. Hungry on the practice field, hungry in the meeting rooms, focused on the details and trying to fix those little things so we can get those wins we know we should get.”
“I think we’re definitely a hungry football team going into ACC play. That was a really close game last week and we were right there and we played well and we just have to tweak some things up. We know we’re right there.”
Of course, hungry only helps if it leads to better on-field results. Duke’s defense has been vulnerable to explosives this season and Virginia has lived on hitting long passes.
How does Duke flip the script this Saturday?
“We have to play tight defense in the backfield,” Young said. “Our D-line has to get after their offensive line so we can rattle him [Brennan Armstrong] and make him make mistakes. We’re trying to get turnovers. So we’re focusing on details on maintaining coverage in the back end, getting after the quarterback and forcing turnovers.”
Duke did get two interceptions last week against Georgia Tech and likely will need that or more to come back with a win against the Cavaliers.
“That was the plan coming into the season,” Young said. “I feel like in the back end we’ve really taken ownership of getting the ball out when it’s in the air, winning those 50-50 balls and making sure that on our end we’re doing everything we can to take the ball away. The group we have now has been playing for awhile so we understand the coverages and what people are trying to do to us. It makes it easier to go out and there and play free.”
Wohlabaugh said this week’s Bloody Tuesday was dialed back a bit due to the physicality of last Saturday’s Georgia Tech game.
That physicality included Mataeo Durant’s school-record 43 rushes.
“Definitely, when we trust ourselves to run the ball and do what we want to do, it is a sense of accomplishment,” Wohlabaugh said.
But Duke wasn’t always able to do what it wanted to do, not always able to finish drives by converting short-yardage runs.
How does that improve?
“With those short-yard situations a lot of it comes down to everyone pretty much knows what the other people are going to do most likely. It’s kind of just about nitty gritty. They’re going to put people in the box and as a line and the running backs and the quarterbacks, we all have to come together and decide that we’re going to get this and no one is going to stop us and we’re going to keep driving our feet and get some movement off the ball.”
Young and Wohlabaugh are veteran leaders and both say the veterans are embracing the opportunity to help turn things around.
“That’s what we’ve been doing better than last year,” Young said. “Our veteran group has more people that are able to be vocal and when something isn’t going right, the older guys are able to step up and voice that.”
This week’s game is Duke’s longest road trip of the season and Duke’s first game outside the state of North Carolina. Wohlabaugh said the extra time away from home might prove to be beneficial.
“A little more team bonding. The opportunity to talk through things more as a unit, where maybe compared to a home game, you don’t have that longer bus ride, that little different hotel time. We definitely enjoy playing away games and going into these places and spending time together and trying to get better as a team.”
Young and Wohlabaugh both sketch a similar scenario, a team that’s close, a team that’s hanging together, a team that knows it needs to fine-tune the details to turn those close losses into wins.
Charlottesville, this Saturday, will be a perfect time and place to see if that work is paying off.