Flat Hokies Survive Scare from Duke

The Hokies played their sloppiest game of the season on Saturday afternoon, but survived a scare from Duke, beating the Blue Devils 14-10 in Durham. Tech has now won 11 straight road games, the longest streak in the country. They head into the bye week with an 8-1 record, including a 4-1 mark in the ACC. Duke dropped to 3-5 and 1-3 in conference play.

Virginia Tech outgained Duke 444 to 326. They outrushed them 243 to 100. They held the ball for 32:30. They intercepted Duke quarterback Sean Renfree three times (he had only four picks for the entire season coming into this game), held the Blue Devils to below 50% passing, and allowed them to convert just 25% of their third downs.

That all sounds like a blowout victory, but it wasn’t. Tyler Weiss, kicking in place of the injured Cody Journell, missed a 29 yard field goal. Logan Thomas threw an interception inside the five yard line to Matt Daniels when Marcus Davis ran the wrong route. Thomas threw another interception later in the game to Daniels in the endzone, and the Duke defender beat Randall Dunn for the football against man coverage.

The Hokies also committed nine penalties for 94 yards. Three of those penalties and 45 of the penalty yards came on Duke’s lone touchdown drive. Eddie Whitley was flagged for a late hit, while Jayron Hosley was called for two pass interference calls, one of which came on a critical fourth down play.

Virginia Tech shanked a punt, they had a couple of fumbles (that fortunately were not recovered by Duke), they missed a field goal, they had turnovers, they had a receiver run the wrong route and miss a big block, but despite all that Duke couldn’t do enough to win the football game. Tech led 14-7 at halftime, and held on for the win despite some tough situations in the second half.

Logan Thomas was 17-of-28 for 190 yards, with a touchdown pass to Eric Martin and two interceptions. Though the interceptions look bad, he didn’t misread the coverage on either throw. One came on a miscommunication with Marcus Davis, and the other came against man coverage in the endzone, and it was a great play on the ball by the defender. Thomas also ran for 27 yards on 10 carries.

David Wilson finished the game with 148 yards on 23 carries. 42 of those yards came on three carries on Tech’s final drive of the game when the Hokies desperately needed to run clock. Wilson had runs of 11, 26 and 15 yards on the drive, which saw the offensive line establish themselves up front.

Josh Oglesby added six carries for 44 yards and a touchdown, including a big 31 yard run that set up his own one yard run into the endzone.

Jarrett Boykin led Tech with six receptions for 62 yards. Logan Thomas went to the tight ends a lot as well. Besides Eric Martin’s touchdown catch, Chris Drager had four catches for 39 yards, including a couple of key third down grabs.

The player of the game for Virginia Tech was Kyle Fuller, who had eight tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, three passes defended and a fumble recovery. Duke was in Virginia Tech territory three times in the fourth quarter, and it was Fuller who ended each drive.

On third and five from the Tech 13, Fuller blew up a short throwback pass to tight end Cooper Helfet, limiting him to a two yard gain. Fuller was the only defender in the area, and saved a sure first down. On the next play, Duke kicker Will Snyderwine bounced a field goal off the uprights.

On Duke’s next possession, they had the ball at the Tech 40 on third down, and it was Fuller who broke up a pass intended for running back Juwan Thompson. However, he saved his best play for Duke’s final threatening drive of the game.

The Blue Devils went for it on fourth and two from the Tech 15, with just over 4:40 left in the game. The play called for Renfree to roll to his right, and a playaction fake would suck in the Tech defense, leaving tailback Desmond Scott all alone in the flats ahead of Renfree. Renfree would have the option to keep it, or throw it to Scott for the first down.

It was a good playcall in that situation, but Kyle Fuller was simply the better player. He read the play perfectly, drilled Scott as he crossed the line of scrimmage, knocking him to the turf. Then he accelerated towards Renfree and tackled him for a three yard loss. All by himself, Fuller took out Duke’s top two options on that particular playcall, and it was one of the most mentally and physically dominating plays that you’ll see in college football. He continues to be Virginia Tech’s best defensive player this year.

The Hokies will now head into the bye week looking to nurse their many banged up players back to health. Tech will return to action on Thursday, November 10 at Georgia Tech in a huge Coastal Division matchup. Kickoff is scheduled for 8pm on ESPN.