Mike Elko Press Conference Quotes: Wake Forest


DURHAM – Duke football head coach Mike Elko met with members of the media on Monday afternoon for his weekly press conference.

The Blue Devils hosts Wake Forest at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at Brooks Field at Wallace Wade Stadium. The game will be broadcast on ACC Network with Wes Durham, Roddy Jones, and Taylor Davis on the call. The game can also be heard on the Blue Devil Sports Network from LEARFIELD through the Varsity app or goduke.com


Mike Elko Duke Football Head Coach

(Ref.: Opening Statement)

“Happy thanksgiving. I appreciate you guys coming out on this special week. Recapping the Pitt game, disappointed with how we played for three quarters. I didn’t think that we played at a level that we were capable of. I think we made too many self-inflicted wounds. Credit to Pitt, they won the physical battle, and we just could never get the run game established like we wanted to, and I thought that put us behind the chains a lot more then we needed. Obviously, some uncharacteristic mistakes on special teams that really hurt us. We got behind two touchdowns on the road and that is never a place you want to be and then our kids do what they have done all year and they fought. They fought all the way back and the defense made some critical stops, and I thought the defense played well all day and we were able to put some drives together. We were fortunate on the special teams play and Rocky [Shelton II] makes a big one to tackle the punter and we give ourselves a chance to tie it there at the end. Again, proud of our fight and how we continue to keep battling and keep coming after things, but we’ve just got to execute better and play better football for three quarters to give ourselves a chance against a good football team on the road. That was the takeaways from that.


“Moving on to Wake Forest. Obviously an extremely talented team. Offensively, certainly one of if not the best quarterback in this conference. Him and Drake Maye will certainly go head-to-head for all of those honors at the end of the season. Sam [Hartman] just plays at an extremely high level. He sees the field really well and can make every throw. He throws the ball all over the place and has been doing it for years and is just a tough gritty competitor, that just finds ways to will that team to win. They are extremely talented on the outside. A lot of big, tall talented wide receivers who have been extremely productive. Two dynamic slots that go out there and can really make plays. An extremely experienced offensive line that knows how to run that system really well and is extremely effective doing it. They just roll through tailbacks, who are very comfortable, very physical runners who are capable of making explosives. Offensively this group is extremely dynamic. They run a great scheme and are very well coached and have been doing it for a long time. There will be a huge challenge on that end and then defensively they have made a lot of strides and a lot of improvement. I think they are playing really hard and are getting very comfortable with what Coach [Brad] Lambert is asking them to do. I think you are starting to see them get more and more comfortable each week with how they want to play their scheme and play their system. They play extremely hard and have the ability to get after you up front. I am really impressed with their defensive line. Obviously, I have known Coach [Dave] Cohen for a long time, and they are extremely well coached, fundamentally sound and so this is going to be a big challenge for us. It is going to be really important that we come out and play the way we are capable of. We are trying to send our seniors out the right way in what is going to be a very special day for our seniors at Brooks Field at Wallace Wade Stadium. We have to refocus and reenergize and get ourselves back with a great week of practice. A couple other things that I just want to talk about really quick, shoutout to our men’s and women’s soccer programs. We are very excited to see both of those teams advance. Our men’s program is heading to the sweet 16 and the women are onto the elite eight so congratulations to those guys and best of luck moving forward to those groups.”


(Ref.: On the reason behind struggling to run the ball)

“It was just a combination of them committing to stop the run. That is a big part of what they do, and they play a lot of man-to-man coverage on the outside and force you to throw the football, so that is a part of it. We weren’t able to get the physical push that we have been able to get in most of the games that we have played this year and so we weren’t able to create a lot of space. If you have a lot of people in the box and can’t move them around and create space that is a problem. It wasn’t a movement challenge, it wasn’t necessarily a blitz challenge, there was just a lot of people in there and we weren’t able to win our space the way we needed to in order to create the runs that we needed to. Then you get behind the chains and it becomes harder and harder, then you get behind on the score and it gets harder and harder, and it just wasn’t a great day for us. Obviously, we have been extremely good at that all year and just didn’t get it done on Saturday like we wanted to.”


(Ref.: On how to balance the mistakes showing up late in the year versus the fact that there have been minimal up until this point)

“Anytime anything shows up, you get worried about it as a coach. That is just the coach in you. You address them like they are a big deal and you fix them like they are a big deal, but you fix them in weeks prior if ball security wasn’t exactly what you wanted it to be or decision making wasn’t exactly what you wanted it to be and so nobody ever intends for those things to happen and it certainly isn’t from a lack of want to or a lack of care. Those kids were extremely broken up and I put Jontavis [Robertson] in that category too, obviously nobody wants those plays to happen. They are certainly trying to make them not happen, but when they happen like that, they’d become more critical and cost you games. Those kids have made so many plays for us this year that we are certainly going to put them right back into the fire and count on them again and expect them to play like they have the majority of the year.”


(Ref.: On how Jordan Moore became so good so fast at a new position)

“I think he is extremely athletic. I think he’s got tremendous raw athleticism and that is where I think most of it starts from. I think he will be the first one to tell you that he still has a lot of work to do developing his craft as a wide receiver. Not to look ahead, but just excited for what he can become with a full offseason of training and prepping himself to become a wide receiver. I think there were some circumstances in that game, obviously he is capable of making electric catches, we have seen that all the way back to August, so his ability to make the one handed catch that he makes on the sidelines, or the one handed catch he makes the week before against Virginia Tech, that to me is just pure athleticism and he’s been able to do that since day one. Some of those plays were him doing a better job than he’s done in previous weeks. Some of that was the circumstance of the game and how it played out, getting certain coverages and getting more balls.”


(Ref.: On Jordan Moore continuing to master a new position after not winning the starting quarterback job)

“He is a tremendous kid. We have said it before and we can continue to say it, that is what he is and so it is a testament to him and his family and how he was raised. It is awesome to see that stuff because you don’t see it much anymore. He is a team player and wanted to do whatever he could to help the team win and has certainly impacted football games for sure. Congratulations to him for being the Co-ACC Player of the Week this week.”


(Ref.: On how they plan to prepare Riley Leonard for another quarterback shootout this weekend)

“I am going to do what I’ve done every other week and let you guys take care of it. I am sure you guys will write the stories and continue to write them the same way as you have all year and Riley will go out on the field with a real big chip on his shoulder and it will be a lot of fun. He handles these things well. He’s extremely competitive. He knows the perception of the league and who the highly thought about guys are, and that is no disrespect to Sam [Hartman], he has earned it. Sam has been in this league for a long time, and he has played a lot more football and made a lot more plays. I think Riley is going to compete, he has shown that every week.”


(Ref.: On how Riley Leonard performed without using his legs much last Saturday)

“That was a challenging day in a lot of ways. I think the way that they set up their box, took away a lot of the zone read plays, which is what Riley has become pretty good at. They’re going to make you hand the ball off in a lot of those instances and not allow the quarterback to run it. Then it gets into how many design runs do you want him to play against a nine-man box with safeties screaming downhill. We certainly ran some and in critical situations when we needed to, but you don’t want to run him 20 times in a game like that with the way they set up and the way their box looks. Then you get into the situation where you have to count on the running game and we couldn’t, so now he got to throw it and he’s throwing it into this 20-mph gusting wind across the field and that wasn’t easy. So, I thought there were times where it looked good and there were times that he played well. There were certainly times where he didn’t, and he didn’t get to his reads fast enough or his progressions fast enough or didn’t deliver the ball the way he would have liked. It is all a learning curve for him as a first-year starter. He is learning how to do it in every element and how to do it in every environment, against every defense and he’ll come out of it and be better this week for it.”


(Ref.: On the two interceptions by the defense in the second half)

“I thought Speedy [Datrone Young] made a really good play on the one. He was in zone coverage, and they tried to throw a trail wheel down the sideline, which is kind of a typical fringe redzone play. Speedy saw it and just did a really good job of reacting and coming out of his own and making a play. That was certainly just more credit to the kid. One of the things that we tried to do a lot of the day was drop a lot into coverage. There were a few times that he had more time than previous weeks. We anticipated them to be ready for the blitz game, so we tried to drop eight a lot into coverage. We dropped eight and I think he kind of panicked and tried to find someone late over the middle and Shaka [Heyward] was able to get underneath it.”


(Ref.: On if the outside noise matters in a season finale and continuing to build the brand)

“I think it all matters. I don’t know that it is added pressure or an added want to, but there are certainly things that we talk about. We talk about eight and four being a big deal, we talk about five wins in the ACC being a big deal. We talk about trying to put ourselves in a better position to play a better bowl game. We talk about winning games against instate opponents, and so all of those things are certainly things that we talk about. Those are things that are really important to our program, but we try not to look at it from a standpoint of added pressure or added importance. I think our kids will have their antennas up and they’ll be ready to play Saturday.”


(Ref.: On being familiar with Wake Forest and stopping the slow mesh of their offense)

“It honestly didn’t start until I left. It was really something that started to show up in the last game I coached in the bowl game against Temple. It really took off after I left. I wasn’t really there when it was running the way it is running now. We’ve spent a lot of time as a staff on it, schematically, and it is certainly different. It requires a lot of attention. It requires a lot of detail in terms of how we are going to have to execute to stop it. I don’t know that I have the inside knowledge that I wish I had from my time there.”


(Ref.: On the focus of the scout offense to replicate the slow mesh)

“If I had a scout team quarterback who could replicate what Sam [Hartman] does on Saturday’s I’d be in a really good spot right now. Every week you are trying to do that. This week we are going to spend a little bit more time with our scout team watching film and we’ll spend a little more time walking through. We are fortunate to have Gavin Spurrier and Ty Lenhart as our scout team quarterbacks and those two kids are very smart kids. They both understand the game very well. I think we can, at the very least, teach them what we are trying to get done on each play and they’ve done a really well on executing and giving us really good looks all year.”


(Ref.: On if there is anything outside the realm of a normal schedule for thanksgiving)

“We are going to let them go see family on Thursday. We’ll practice early Thursday morning and then we are going to let the guys go. I think it is important when you play at home, you probably only get home every other year for thanksgiving weekend, so I just think it’s important to let them get around family. We will practice early and then have a lunch over at the Washington Duke for anyone that doesn’t have anywhere to go or needs a place to go eat a thanksgiving meal. I think a lot of our guys, since most of them are local, are either going home or bringing guys home with them just to try to enjoy some family time. It is interesting because sometimes coaches make too much of that. If we have a normal practice on a Thursday morning, we don’t see the kids until they show up Friday for walkthrough. Its Thanksgiving, so we’re not going to keep them here as if we would see them anyway so we are going to let them do what they want to do Thursday afternoon to kind of be around family.”


(Ref.: On how much people should read into the senior day ceremony on Saturday)

“You can certainly read into guys who aren’t there, probably meaning their intentions at the moment are to come back and stay part of the program. I don’t know that I would read intentions for anybody who is there. I think anyone who is uncertain about what they are doing in their future, anyone who is not sure what direction they are going, is going to walk, because we’ve encouraged them to. I don’t ever want a kid to go through this program and never have a chance to get recognized as a senior. There will be some guys on the field that will be back and there are some guys on the field who won’t be back. I think you can feel comfortable saying that anybody who is not on the field, at least their intention at the moment are to come back.”


(Ref.: On how he would describe his first year with just a few games left)

“Hectic. How about that? It has been a lot of fun and I have certainly enjoyed getting an opportunity to go through this and leading a program. I am appreciative of a lot of people at this university. People in our administration, people in our athletics department, the kids in our locker room, the coaches and players in our building, there’s just a lot of people that have supported me through this and it has been a lot of fun. It has been a lot of fun building this program and building this culture. We continue to elevate Duke football to where we believe it can go and it is just getting started. The first year is always a race. We used to always talk about this, it’s a race until the first signing day. From the time you get hired, until the signing day the following year, you feel like you never stop running, so we are getting closer to that.”




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