DURHAM — In college football, the saying goes, "They'll remember what you did in November."
And just for that reason, November is the month Duke coach David Cutcliffe calls his favorite of the football season. He said on Tuesday that teams often define their year by what happens during this month.
With three games remaining in their regular season, the Blue Devils (3-6, 1-4 ACC) face a defining moment as they head to Charlottesville, Va., to meet Virginia on Saturday. They can snap a four-game losing streak and give themselves another chance to secure a .500 record - and keep alive the possibility becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 1994.
But Duke has won just one game in November since Cutcliffe arrived in 2008 - a 55-48 victory over Virginia last season.
"I can't really put a finger on what it is," redshirt junior quarterback Sean Renfree said during the team's news conference. "Whether it's who we play late in November. It's hard to say. Coach has absolutely harped on it."
Cutcliffe said his team's losses in November are directly related to depth and opponents. He said his teams at Tennessee, where he was an assistant for 19 years, fared better because the competition level decreased during November.
"Our schedule at Tennessee got friendly," he said. "Ours gets unfriendly. ... Schedule has more to do with it than depth. We're equipped right now to play well and win if we'll just play well. ... You can't do things that get you beat."
Last week, in a 49-14 loss to Miami, the Devils started slowly, committed six penalties and converted just six of 14 third-down chances.
Cutcliffe said the Devils gave up eight plays of 10 yards or more, hurting themselves with fundamental errors such as lining up out of place.
In 2008, the Devils lost to N.C. State, Clemson, Virginia Tech, North Carolina during November. In 2009, they lost to North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Miami and Wake Forest. Last year, they lost to Boston College, Georgia Tech and North Carolina.
Duke players certainly are aware of their history and eager to change it. They have won three straight against the Cavaliers.
"It definitely means a lot," senior running back Jay Hollingsworth said. "November is the time where you find out what kind of team you are, if you're going to make a bowl. To win any game in November makes you a better team."