Keys to the Game, Matchups, and Game Projection: Duke

After a huge win last week at Clemson, Virginia Tech hopes to maintain their
momentum in a road contest against the Duke Blue Devils. Beamerball was on full
display last week, and the Hokies hope to continue their exceptional defensive
and special teams play against Duke. The Blue Devils are improving, even
registering a win against Northwestern, but will Duke have enough manpower to
compete with Virginia Tech?

While statistically Duke still looks like a cellar dweller, the Blue Devils
have been competitive in their last two ACC contests against Wake Forest and
Miami. Duke plays hard, but they lack the athletes to compete against the upper
echelon teams. Tech’s game plan against the Blue Devils should be relatively
simple: put your superior athletes in a position to make plays.

Defensively, Bud Foster will be aggressive and look to force mistakes.
Offensively, the Hokies will look to get their playmakers outside in space. And
on special teams, Beamerball will try to create some big plays and create
momentum on the road.

So, how will the Hokies accomplish these goals?

Keys to the Game

When Duke has the Ball:

1. Bring the Heat

Thaddeus
Lewis (#9, 6-1.5 190, So.) is one of the better young quarterbacks in college
football. While being pressed into action last year as a true freshman, Lewis
showed considerable poise and presence despite continually being harassed. In
fact, the Hokies knocked him out of last year’s game. No quarterback is
effective when constantly under pressure, but Lewis has shown that he can be
dangerous when given time, so the Hokies must keep the pressure on him.

Duke’s offensive line plays hard and shows toughness, but the Blue Devils
lack size and athletic ability up front. When facing athletic defensive fronts,
Duke struggles with protecting the quarterback. Last year the Hokies recorded a
season high of eight sacks against the Blue Devils. Tech’s pass rush, led by
Chris Ellis, should be ready for a big game against Duke.

If the Blue Devils choose to maximum protect Lewis to give him more time,
then watch for Bud Foster to bring the linebackers. Brett Warren is not as good
as Vince Hall in coverage, but Warren is an effective blitzer, so he may be
attacking for much of the afternoon. Cam Martin could also have the opportunity
to make some big plays from his Whip position.

2. Limit Big Plays from the Wide Receivers

With little chance of moving the ball on the ground, Duke’s primary offensive
threat will be creating big plays in the passing game. Duke has two very good
wide receivers in Eron Riley (#15, 6-3 200, Jr.) and Jomar Wright (#81, 6-1 200,
Sr.) as well as a dangerous slot receiver in Ronnie Drummer (#40, 5-9 185, Sr.).

Riley is the primary deep threat, and he has the athletic ability to go up
over smaller cornerbacks and catch deep balls. He is a long strider with
excellent ball skills, so checking him will be a key for the Hokies. Wright is
more of a possession receiver who is very good running after the catch. Drummer
is a former running back who has very good quickness and elusiveness in space.

Tech will need to mix their coverages up more this week, and I would expect
quite a bit of man-to-man press coverage outside. The Hokie corners are physical
and should present problems for Riley and Wright. The overall key to the game
may be the ability of Brandon Flowers and Macho Harris to limit the production
of Eron Riley and Jomar Wright.

3. Watch for Trick Plays

Duke has “nothing to lose” in this game, so the Hokies need to be ready
for new offensive coordinator Peter Vaas to pull out some tricks. I would expect
the Blue Devils to run some reverses, flea flickers, hook-and-laterals, statue
of liberties, and every other trick play imaginable. We may even see a fake punt
to counter the Hokie punt blocking efforts.

Tech needs to stay disciplined while still being aggressive on defense. The
Hokies need to maintain their assignments, particularly the younger players, Kam
Chancellor and Cam Martin. Duke will try to exploit their lack of experience at
some point, probably early in the game to create momentum.

When Virginia Tech has the Ball:

1. Attack the Corners

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