Cutcliffe: Duke's Bad Tackling Gave Wake Forest Extra 140 Yards


Duke had been solid defending the run much of the year, but in recent weeks, the team has taken a step back in that area.

“It (had) been really good,” coach David Cutcliffe said. “I go first to the Wake Forest game. They're different and unique. It's very difficult. Then I go back to the Notre Dame game – a little bit of the same kind of style of blocking. We have to respond better to that. The Syracuse game, we didn't play very well. That's how I would chalk that one up. We can't afford not to play well against anybody we play. So, it's an emphasis. When you don't tackle, people are going to run the ball. If you will look at the Wake game where first contact was and say that was the end of the play, there may be 140 to 145 yards of less run game. So that kind of explains it, right?”

A large part of the problem in tackling has been with the Blue Devils’ technique.

“I talked to our coaches about this,” Cutcliffe said. “It's an interesting era of tackling. You know everybody does the 'rugby tackling' and the different thing from this fundamental is the fundamental I talk with the staff about – you still have to hit with your shoulder and then grasp. We're reaching and then trying to deliver a blow. There's a huge difference. And Koby (Quansah) had a couple of real nice tackles in the last game and I pointed it out to the staff. Look where first contact is. It's with the shoulder, and then you lock up. It's not reach. We worked hard on that today. It's not a slippage of what you're teaching. Everybody has default mechanisms. I've coached quarterbacks for years, and you train them here and they see and they've got visuals and then they forget about what their body's doing. If you’re not careful, the default mechanism—everything’s wrong in mechanics. Same thing can happen in tackling. There's only a limited amount of time during the season with the team on the practice field. So, you've got to work really hard at those default mechanisms of being contact then lock, contact then lock. I take full responsibility for that. We can tackle better than we have. That's a fundamental that I'm concerned with.”