2009 Keys to the Game and Matchups to Watch: Virginia Tech at Duke

After one of the most impressive overall performances in recent memory against the resurgent Miami Hurricanes, Virginia Tech goes on the road to face an improving Duke football program. The Hokies excelled in all phases of the game last week, and the expectations of the Hokie Nation have been renewed as Tech vaulted to #6 in the nation in all polls. So, what should we expect from the Duke Blue Devils as the Hokies face their first ACC road contest of the season?

Last year the Blue Devils battled the Hokies on a cold, blustery day in November with Macho Harris returning an interception for a touchdown late in the game to seal the victory, 14-3. Tyrod Taylor suffered his worst performance as a Hokie with five first-half turnovers, but Bud Foster’s stingy defense kept Duke out of the end zone. The Blue Devils played last year without starting quarterback Thaddeus Lewis (#9, 6-1.5, 215, 4.90, Sr.), instead going with a spread-option attack lead by Zack Asack. Duke had some success on the ground, but the Devils had no passing game and became one-dimensional on offense. In the end, Tech’s offense was able to control the ball via the power running game and some timely passing, and the overall key to this game will likely be ball control once again.

The offensive system that David Cutcliffe has installed at Duke is designed to control the ball via a west coast-based passing system and varied running attack. While Cutcliffe surely would like a more balanced attack, youth on the offensive line has forced the Blue Devils to become a passing team, already having thrown at least 50 passes in two games this year. The Tech secondary, which played superbly last week, will be tested again by a potentially dangerous Duke passing game.

On the other side of the ball, Duke’s defense is led by two NFL prospects, defensive tackle Vince Oghobaase (#3, 6-5.5, 305, 5.07, r-Sr.) and middle linebacker Vincent Rey (#31, 6-0.5, 245, 4.72, Sr.). However, Oghobaase has been injured and missed the last two games, and he is listed as questionable for the Tech game. With Oghobaase in the lineup, Duke has a strong, aggressive front four backed by a conservative two-deep (Cover-2) zone to limit big plays. The Blue Devils have a “bend but not break” philosophy, trying to force teams to march down the field. For the most part, the defensive front has played well this season, but the secondary has struggled at times and allowed big plays.