Virginia Tech will face quite a different defense on Saturday in Duke than they did last week vs. Pittsburgh. Instead of selling out to stop the run, the Blue Devils are a bit more varied on their defensive scheme.
“They’re really not going to be stubborn and just stack the box and stop the run, they’re going to do a lot of random stuff,” said Virginia Tech’s Jerod Evans. “They’re going to blitz from each way, the field, the boundary, they’re going to drop eight people into coverage, they’re going to blitz again, they’re going to Cover 3, Cover 2, I mean it’s all random stuff. I mean, it’s all over the place and they’re sound in what they do.”
Though different and multiple, the Duke defense is just plain better than Pittsburgh. Duke ranks 56th in the nation in total defense and 41st in scoring defense, allowing just under 24 points per game. Duke has allowed just two 30-point games to opposing offenses this season, and held Louisville’s potent offense to just 24 points in mid-October.
“My evaluation of them is that they’re very well-coached, they play really hard and with great technique,” Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente said. “I guess you could say they’ve had a couple big plays given up, I don’t know that they’re more susceptible to that than anyone else, I just think they’ve done a really good job over there, putting kids in position to have success.”
If Virginia Tech is to continue to put up points like they have all season, they’ll need to step it up in the redzone. The Hokies have settled for 14 field goals inside the redzone, which is tied for first in the country. Tech settled for six field goals alone vs. Pittsburgh.
“I’d say that we didn’t execute a couple of things we tried to do down there as well,” Fuente said. “I’d say part of it is, they gave us a couple things, coming off of a couple weeks off, they played a little different down there. The couple times we did try and take shots down there, we didn’t complete them, we didn’t make the plays.”
“Talking with the staff in retrospect, knowing what we know now, we probably should’ve taken some more shots down there,” Fuente said.
Duke still “dynamic” at running back
The Duke offense has been stung by the injury bug far too many times for their liking. Redshirt senior quarterback Thomas Sirk partially tore his Achilles in preseason camp, leading rusher Jela Duncan tore his ACL last weekend vs. Georgia Tech and receiver Anthony Nash is also out with an injury.
Despite the loss of these players, Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster is still concerned with Duke’s offense, especially in the backfield.
“They’re still dynamic at that position,” Foster said. “They’ve led the country the last couple years in not giving up minus-yardage plays. They’re a very efficient offense and I don’t see them changing any with this injury.”
“They’ve always run by committee anyway,” Foster said. “They have three backs, it’s kind of a three-headed monster, and you throw the quarterback in there too. He’s like their, as far as number of carries goes, the quarterback is their second-leading rusher, as far as carries go.”
That quarterback is redshirt freshman Daniel Jones. He’s taken his lumps, but Jones has continued to improve each week, according to Foster. Jones has thrown for 1,889 yards, 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions while completing 62.5 percent of his passes.
Foster said on Tuesday that Jones reminded him a little of another David Cutcliffe-coached quarterback who’s pretty well-known and successful — Peyton Manning.
“Just all of his body mannerisms, maybe that’s the mechanics that Dave (Cutcliffe) teaches there, but he’s big like Peyton, he’s got the same kind of footwork and movement, he probably runs maybe a little bit better, but I see a guy that can spin it really well,” Foster said. “I see a guy that each week, you see, feels a little more comfortable within the offense and where he wants to dish the football.”
Foster reiterated that Cutcliffe’s offense is well-coached and that Virginia Tech will have to be on top of their game on Saturday, especially if they want to avoid another 36-point outing similar to Pittsburgh.
“We’ve really got to be good in our disguises, we’ve really got to be good and sound fundamentally, and it goes back to how good these guys are and what they do,” Foster said.