Contrary to my prediction, it was anything but pretty for the Hokies in Durham on Saturday, but Tyrod Taylor and company got the job done.
Taylor enjoyed his first 300-yard passing game as a Hokie, and Josh Oglesby scored two crucial late-game touchdowns to preserve Tech’s 34-26 victory over a hungry Duke team.
The Hokies struggled to create their own energy in a sparsely crowded stadium, allowing Duke to come up with too many big plays to be able to hang around.
The Hokies were penalized 12 times for 105 yards, a season high. The lack of concentration with so many penalties exemplified their sluggish day.
Looking back on the keys to the game, here’s how the teams graded out Saturday.
Stretch the field – A+
Duke coach David Cutcliffe had said before the game he would look to insert backup quarterback Sean Renfree into the game early and see whether he or starter Thaddeus Lewis would lead the offense better. He never needed Renfree, as Lewis lit up the Hokies defense for 359 yards and two touchdowns.
The Duke receivers frequently found open seams downfield, especially in the middle third of the field as Kam Chancellor was once again exposed at free safety for long plays. There were also several occasions where the Hokies blew assignments in coverage, including Duke’s first score of the game.
On a play action pass from Lewis to Brandon King, Lewis faked the handoff that fooled both Hokie defenders in the flat, leaving King wide open to catch the short pass and run 48 yards for the score.
Lewis and the Blue Devils’ passing game did their part in the upset bid.
Stack the Box – A
This was probably the most important aspect of the game coming in for Duke, as many people expected Tech running back Ryan Williams to have field day against the Blue Devils’ porous rush defense. Instead, Duke clogged the line of scrimmage, dominating at the point of attack to keep Williams from breaking free much of the game.
Vince Oghobaase, the Blue Devils’ star defensive tackle, was in the backfield on nearly every play to stuff Williams. The Hokies only engineered a successful running game midway through the fourth quarter, when it was clear the lack of depth on the Duke defensive line took its toll.
Believe – A
From the first few possessions, you could tell this was not the same Duke team that lost to Richmond, and it was not the same Tech team that beat Miami. The Blue Devils were playing with confidence on both sides of the ball.
Lewis made several good throws under pressure, and as the Duke defense continued to stuff the run, its confidence grew. The problem for the Blue Devils was they were simply outmatched talent-wise. They played the better football game, but were not able to cover the Hokie receivers down the field in man coverage, which led to big games from Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale.
Duke never quit, even in the final minute when they were down by 15 points, scoring a late touchdown to keep a sliver of hope alive. Frank Beamer would say after the game that this is not the old Duke football team, and he is absolutely right.
Feed Williams – C
Technically, the Hokies did this. They tried to pound the ball with their star running back early, but to no avail. The offensive line could not block the undersized Duke defensive line whatsoever, and were beat on nearly every running play.
It was not Williams’ fault he could not generate any momentum with his runs; it’s hard to do much when there are three defenders in the backfield as you are handed the ball.
The offensive line has had its struggles this season, most notably against Alabama and Nebraska, as well as Saturday. Instead of only playing well every other week, they need to start performing more consistently if the Hokies want to run towards a national title.
Don’t sleep until halftime – D
Tech didn’t completely fall apart in the first half, leading 17-10 at the break. However, all the mental errors in the secondary and offensive line, as well as the penalties, showed Tech was not focused for this game.
Other than those two personnel units for Tech, the rest of the team played very well. The receivers enjoyed a great game, the defensive line put a lot of pressure on Lewis, and the linebackers helped stuff the Duke rushing attack.
Those groups’ performances keep this grade from being a failing one.
Keep blitzing – D-
Bud Foster must have thought he could get enough pressure with his front four that he could drop the rest of the defense into coverage to stop Duke. Instead, there were several plays where Lewis sat back comfortably in the pocket and sliced the Hokies defense.
The defensive line did play a good game, hurrying Lewis at times, but the biggest reason Foster needed to continue to pressure the opposing quarterback is to continue to develop his defense’s attitude.
Tech makes a living off of rattling quarterbacks and stuffing the run. Yesterday was a step back in the progression of this year’s edition of the “Lunch Pail” defense.
There’s not much else to say than what’s already been said: it just was not pretty. That just goes to show how a team needs a complete performance every week, and can’t afford to have only part of the team on the right page. Hopefully for Beamer’s squad they can fix the leaking in time for next week’s homecoming game against Boston College.