Cutcliffe: Duke can still be a bowl team

Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich

Duke coach David Cutcliffe said it was “deathly quiet” in the locker room following Saturday’s 24-16 loss to Richmond. He said the players had that “deer in headlights” look about them.

“They were shocked,” he said. “They were.”

He told them their effort was unacceptable.

“There’s never shame in getting beat,” Cutcliffe said, “but in anything in life you do, there’s a shame in not being as good as you could possibly be. It’s not loafing -- don’t take it that way. We didn’t loaf. We just didn’t give the kind of fierce effort it takes to beat a good football team.”

Cutcliffe said he thinks his team might have underestimated Richmond, which won the FCS national championship last year under former Virginia assistant coach Mike London. Richmond, Cutcliffe said, is an even better team this year. All summer long, Cutcliffe maintained he thought this team had the capability to become bowl eligible, and though he was disappointed with the outcome in the season opener, Cutcliffe said he still thinks the Blue Devils could be a bowl-bound team.

“I don’t change that evaluation,” Cutcliffe said. “We should be a bowl team, we can be one. We’re good enough to be one, and we are. But you can’t play like we played. You have to play with an edge. We don’t have enough ability to play on ability alone. We can’t go out there and try to look pretty and play. We’re going to have to win the hard way. I let us forget that. That’s my responsibility.”

Because only one FCS win counts toward bowl eligibility, the Blue Devils no longer have to worry about winning seven games. Six will do, but they’ve got to regroup quickly with back-to-back upcoming road games against Army and Kansas.

Cutcliffe said he’s got his players’ attention right now, but being mad isn’t going to accomplish anything.

“I expect them to respond extremely well,” Cutcliffe said. “We have faced a lot of adversity and a lot of our youngsters have had to come back from a lot of defeats. But I want to come back differently than we have in the past. I want to come back angry. I want to come back with a focus that’s second to none.”