2007 Football Game Preview: Virginia Tech at Duke

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Saturday, October 13th, 2007, noon

TV: Lincoln Financial Sports/Raycom
here for station listings

Forecast (from WeatherUnderground.com):

Click the “Durham Weather” link to the right.
Game time forecast, as of 3:00 pm Wednesday: Mostly sunny, 67 degrees, no chance
of rain.

Click here for TechSideline.com’s VT/Duke roster card

Game Preview: #12 Virginia Tech (5-1, 2-0 ACC) @ Duke (1-5, 0-3)

by Chris Coleman, TechSideline.com

The Hokies take to the road again, this time heading down Tobacco Road to
take on the Duke Blue Devils in Durham. Tech will look to win its fifth straight
game and improve to 3-0 in the ACC. That would likely set up a huge matchup in
Lane Stadium between two top 10 teams when Boston College comes to town on
Thursday, October 25th.

Duke is an improved football team. They defeated Northwestern 20-14 on the
road. They lost to Navy on a last second field goal, played Virginia tough in
Charlottesville before falling 24-13, lost to defending ACC Champion Wake Forest
by just five, and trailed Miami by only three points with less than three
minutes left in the game in the Orange Bowl. They could easily be better than
1-5 at this point, but they haven’t learned how to close out games.

The Blue Devils also have five starters out with injuries, and for a team
that is shy of depth, that will cost you down the stretch.

The Duke Offense

Duke’s offense returns all 11 starters from the 2006 season. Unfortunately
for the Blue Devils, the 2006 offense was one of the worst in the country (105th
in total offense, 112th in scoring offense). Here is how they rank so far this

Duke Offense
Category Stat ACC

Rushing Offense

66 ypg
12 116

Passing Offense

250.83 ypg
3 41

Total Offense

316.83 ypg
9 101

Scoring Offense

23.33 ppg
10 87

Sacks Allowed

3.83 spg
12 115

Not very good, although there is life to their passing game.

That passing game is led by true sophomore quarterback Thad Lewis (6-2, 190).
Lewis had a very good season for a true freshman last year, and with a solid
group of receivers around him, he’s putting up big numbers in 2007.

For the season, Lewis is 109-of-191 (57.1%) for 1,491 yards, with 15
touchdown passes and seven interceptions. Those are excellent marks for a true
sophomore quarterback playing behind an offensive line that is arguably the
worst in the ACC. Lewis has been sacked 23 times this year, and Duke is 115th in
the nation in sacks allowed.

Although Lewis was regarded as a dual threat quarterback coming out of high
school, he doesn’t run unless he has to. He actually has -75 yards rushing on
the season.

Only Graham Harrell (Texas Tech), Brian Brohm (Louisville), Curtis Painter
(Purdue), Andre Woodson (Kentucky), Sam Bradford (Oklahoma), Alex Brink
(Washington State) and Colt Brennan (Hawaii) have more touchdown passes than
Thad Lewis so far this season.

Lewis has a solid group of wide receivers to use in the passing game. His
leading receiver is senior Jomar Wright (6-1, 200). Wright has solid size. He is
a good route runner and catches the ball very well. He has 31 catches for 346
yards and three touchdowns on the season. He is Duke’s possession receiver.

The big play guy for the Blue Devils is junior Eron Riley (6-3, 200). Riley
is one of the most explosive players in the ACC. He enters this season with a
career average of 20.7 yards per catch. Last season he had 32 catches for 643
yards and three touchdowns. This year he is even better.

far this year, Riley has proved himself to be nothing short of an All-ACC
player, currently leading the conference in receiving yards per game. He has 25
receptions for 544 yards, an average of 21.8 yards per catch. He also has seven
touchdown receptions on the season.

Riley completely took over Duke’s game with Navy early this year with an
amazing performance. Against the Midshipmen, he posted six catches for 235 yards
and four touchdowns. He had touchdown receptions of 76 yards, 35 yards, 9 yards
and 69 yards.

Duke has other players who can make plays. Senior Ronnie Drummer (5-9, 185)
is a good player in the open field. He is listed as a tailback, but he is Duke’s
third leading receiver and probably the most versatile player on their offense.
Drummer can line up anywhere and has 13 catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns
on the season.

In the backfield, Duke uses a number of guys, but their best player is junior
Re’Quan Boyette (5-10, 210). The Blue Devils don’t run the ball very much, but
Boyette is their best runner, with 237 yards rushing on the year and 5.2 yards
per carry. Justin Boyle (6-1, 215) and Ronnie Drummer will also see carries, but
they are averaging less than three yards per carry.

Duke is very similar to Virginia Tech offensively. The Blue Devils have a
talented quarterback, good receivers, and a capable running back, but the poor
play of the offensive line is holding the rest of the offense back. Duke is dead
last in the ACC in rushing yards per game (66 per game) and in sacks allowed
(3.83 per game). With such a one-dimensional offense, and the fact that he is
facing pressure virtually all the time, it’s amazing that Thad Lewis is putting
up such impressive numbers.

Duke’s offensive line is small, and they will be physically abused by
Virginia Tech’s defensive line.

Offensive Line
Position Name Height Weight Year


Cameron Goldberg
6-6 280 Jr.


Zach Maurides
6-6 290 Sr.


Matt Rumsey
6-4 285 Sr.


Rob Schirmann
6-5 285 Jr.


Fred Roland
6-8 310 Jr.

Last season Virginia Tech sacked Duke eight times and knocked Thad Lewis out of
the game. The Hokies are doing a good job getting to the quarterback this year
(11th in the nation at 3.5 sacks per game), and I expect we’ll see a lot of Tech
guys in the backfield on Saturday.

Duke is also missing two important offensive players. Wide receiver Raphael
Chestnut and fullback Tielor Robinson are out for the season with injuries.

The Duke Defense

The Duke defense has not held up well this season. The Blue Devils have been
banged up, and they are starting some inexperienced players at key positions.
They are also starting players who were recently moved from other positions.

Duke Defense
Category Stat ACC

Rushing Defense

177.33 ypg
11 88

Passing Defense

259.83 ypg
11 98

Total Defense

437.17 ypg
12 94

Scoring Defense

32.33 ppg
12 95


1.83 spg
10 62

Duke runs a combo 4-3/3-4 scheme. They have one player on the field who can
either line up as a defensive end or an outside linebacker. Unfortunately for
the Blue Devils, that player is done for the season. Patrick Bailey is a senior
for Duke, and a very solid defensive player. He had seven tackles for loss and
4.5 sacks so far this year, but now his career is over with a knee injury. Duke
only has 11 sacks as a team, with Bailey getting a good portion of them (4.5,
good enough for 36th in the nation).

His replacement will be Greg Akinbiyi (6-2, 250, Jr.). He has played in every
game this year, but has just 12 tackles and 0.5 tackles for loss. There will be
a lot of dropoff at this position for Duke.

Tech’s offensive line will have their hands full with defensive tackle Vince
Oghobaase (6-6, 310, So.). Oghobaase has six tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks so
far this year. He was a big-time recruit coming out of high school, with
scholarship offers from Miami and Oklahoma, as well as a number of other
high-profile schools.

Duke’s defensive line is very young. Oghobaase is a sophomore, as is nose
guard Ayanga Okpokowuruk (6-4, 270). Defensive end Wesley Oglesby (6-6, 250) is
a r-freshman. The Blue Devils are now missing both starters at defensive end.
Besides Patrick Bailey, Ryan Radloff has been out since the UConn game, the
season opener.

Linebackers Vincent Rey (6-0, 255, So.) and Michael Tauiliili (5-11, 235,
Jr.) are very productive. Rey, who plays the weak side position, has come out of
nowhere to lead the ACC in tackles. He has 72 tackles through six games, and has
also added 6.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Tauiliili has 43 tackles and five
tackles for loss on the year. He is a very instinctive middle linebacker.

At strong side linebacker is Marcus Jones (6-3, 220, Jr.). This is his first
year on defense. He has started at quarterback and wide receiver for the Blue
Devils in the past. He took the majority of reps at quarterback for Duke last
season against Virginia Tech because Thad Lewis was knocked out of the game.

Duke is also missing a starter at linebacker. Charles Robinson was expected
to man the strong side spot this year, but he had knee surgery following the UVA
game earlier this year. That’s three starters in Duke’s front seven that have
gone down at some point this year.

Duke’s secondary just isn’t especially good. The Blue Devils have experience
at safety, but free safety Chris Davis (6-0, 205, Sr.) isn’t much of a
playmaker, and neither is strong safety Adrian Aye-Darko (6-2, 210, Jr.).

Duke has one very small cornerback in sophomore Leon Wright (5-9, 165, So.).
Tech will probably go after him with their bigger receivers, although he is
Duke’s top playmaker in the defensive backfield with three interceptions this
year. Glenn Williams (5-10, 185, Jr.) is the other cornerback, and he can be
beaten as well.

Duke’s defense suffers from a severe lack of depth. They could not afford for
three starters to go out with injury. As a result, they are starting three
backups in the front seven. Combine that with a secondary that doesn’t cover
very well, and this is a Duke defense that Virginia Tech should be able to move
the ball against.

Special Teams

Jabari Marshall (5-11, 200, Jr.) has proven to be a very good kick returner.
He is averaging 26.1 yards per return (40th in the nation), with one return for
a touchdown. He is a member of the track team and has been timed at a 10.97 in
the 100 meters. The Hokies need to contain him and not give Thad Lewis a short

Punter Kevin Jones (6-3, 185, r-Fr.) has been solid. He is averaging 41.2
yards per punt this season, but opponents are averaging over 12 yards per return
against the Blue Devils. Eddie Royal has a chance to have another big game in
the return game.

Tech’s kick returners will also have a chance to make some plays. Duke has
just one touchback in 26 kickoffs this season. Their kicker, Joe Surgan (6-4,
210, Jr.), has also struggled with field goals. He is 1-4 on the year, and
backup Greg Meyers (5-8, 150) is 0-1. Things got so bad that head coach Ted Roof
held an open tryout for kickers a few weeks back.


This is a game the Hokies should definitely win. Although Duke has a very
good quarterback and playmaking receivers, they can’t carry the entire team.
Duke’s offensive line against Tech’s defensive line is a major mismatch. The
Hokies should be able to get a lot of pressure without bring many blitzers. I
like Thad Lewis quite a bit as a quarterback, but I think Saturday might turn
out to be his worst game of the season.

Defensively, I think Duke will have problems as well. With Nick Marshman back
at guard, and the Blue Devils missing three starters in their front seven and
lacking depth, I’m expecting a little better push this week from Virginia Tech’s
offensive line. I’m not asking for a 200 yards on the ground or anything like
that, but I think we’ll see a little bit of improvement.

I think we’ll also see Tyrod Taylor put up big numbers in the passing game.
He has failed to pass for 100 yards in four of his five college games. I don’t
think that will be the case this week. Tech’s receivers are a good matchup
against Duke’s defensive backs. The Hokies always torch the Blue Devils through
the air. Marcus Vick threw for three touchdown passes in 2005, including deep
bombs to Josh Morgan and David Clowney. Last season, Sean Glennon passed for 301
yards and two touchdowns.

I think Taylor will post stats closer to his numbers against Ohio than any of
his other four games, and the Hokies will win fairly easily. Remember, Duke
hasn’t scored on Tech since 2004.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 34, Duke 7

Will Stewart’s Take: The biggest thing the Hokies have to guard against
this week is a letdown. There’s a tendency to take Duke lightly, and you can
forgive the Hokies if they look beyond the Devils to the murderer’s row of their
last five games: BC, @GT, FSU, Miami, @Virginia.

A mistake against Duke would be very costly, because the Hokies have a chance
to go to 3-0 in the conference, positioning themselves very well for the Coastal
Division stretch run. Not to mention that dropping a game against Duke would
shatter the collective psyche of the Hokie Nation.

There’s not a prognosticator on the planet who would actually pick the Devils
to win, though, and the biggest factor here is the beating Thad Lewis will take
from the Hokie defense. Lewis is 29th in the nation in passing efficiency, a
darn good ranking for a guy playing behind five turnstiles, so he’s no shrinking
violet … but that hit Aaron Rouse laid on him last year has to be in the back
of his mind. Or maybe the front.

Duke has scored at least 13 points in every outing this season, including 14
against UConn, who is fourth in the nation in total defense (250 yards per game)
and scoring defense (11 points per game), so the Devils know how to score. But I
just don’t see it happening.

As for VT’s offense, I don’t know what to expect. I think we’ll see continued
improvement from Tyrod Taylor, but I also think that Branden Ore, with his
mysterious ailments and unknown frame of mind, will continue to be unimpressive.
And the Hokie OL, with the changes, is an unknown.

With all that, though, it should be another easy victory for the Hokies over
the Blue Devils.

Will’s Prediction: Virginia Tech 27, Duke 3