From his first college game to his first college loss to his first college road game, the lessons keep coming for Daniel Jones.
Duke’s redshirt freshman quarterback has done plenty of promising things for the Blue Devils in the first two games.
During a 49-6 win over N.C. Central and a 24-14 loss to Wake Forest, both at home in Wallace Wade Stadium, Jones completed 65 percent of his passes. He ran for three touchdowns and threw for two others.
“If you took some of the clips and wanted to make a highlight reel of him from that (Wake Forest) game,” Cutcliffe said, “holy smoke, there were some great things in that game he did.”
But against the Demon Deacons in Duke’s ACC opener, Jones also lost two fumbles and threw an interception. He was sacked five times; some of those could have been blamed on him for holding the ball too long in the pocket.
So Jones’ learning continues.
“I was certainly disappointed,” Jones said. “The whole team shared that sentiment. But it’s about improving at the end of the day. Taking what we saw on that film and what we experienced in that game and improving from it. We can’t afford to hang our heads and dwell on that. We can obviously focus on it and get better. We have another big game this week.”
On Friday, Jones and the Blue Devils travel to Chicago. On Saturday night they’ll play on the road for the first time this season, albeit against the winless Wildcats (0-2). The following Saturday, Duke plays Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.
The challenges get tougher, so Cutcliffe is tutoring Jones to get him ready.
“The first thing a quarterback can never do is try to win the game,” Cutcliffe said. “That’s not your job. First you have to make sure you are not keeping your team from winning the game. You’ve got to make 10 people around you right. You’ve got to make 10 people around you comfortable in what you are asking them to do.”
Jones’ teammates on Duke’s offense say he’s been good at doing that. He inspires confidence even as he’s growing accustomed to the college game.
And there’s no doubt that Cutcliffe is steadfast in his belief that Jones is the quarterback who gives Duke the best chance of winning this season.