joegilesharris_jackwhite

Linebacker Joe Giles-Harris and company will need to be mindful of 6-foot-7 tight end Bucky Hodges ...

Third and goal: Duke football vs. Virginia Tech



Duke is still winless in ACC play heading into the final third of its season and a home matchup against Virginia Tech Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The Hokies lead the ACC Coastal Division, but fell to the Blue Devils at home last season 45-43 in four overtimes. Here are three keys to Saturday's matchup for Duke:

Beat Bucky

Virginia Tech's Bucky Hodges is a matchup nightmare for any opponent. Considered the top tight end prospect in the nation, the 6-foot-7, 245-pound redshirt junior already has 468 receiving yards with 15.1 yards per reception in 2016. Hodges has also terrorized Duke during his career. The last time the Hokies came to Durham in 2014, he scored the game-winning touchdown in a 17-16 Virginia Tech victory. Last year, the Virginia Beach, Va., native hauled in three touchdowns against Duke in the four-overtime thriller. The Blue Devils have been inconsistent on defense this season, and If they want to put up a fight Saturday, they need to shut down Virginia Tech quarterback Jerod Evans’ high-powered receiving squad.

Fill the gaps

Duke's offense has been injury-prone all season, with the most recent casualty being leading rusher Jela Duncan, who tore his Achilles last Saturday against Georgia Tech while celebrating a touchdown on the sidelines. If the Blue Devils want a chance to play in a bowl game, the rest of their running back corps will have fill the void left by Duncan, a co-captain who led the team with 450 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. 

Most of that burden will fall on junior Shaun Wilson. The Charlotte, N.C., native has rushed for 373 yards this season with 4.1 yards per carry, but has yet to prove he can be as consistent as Duncan. The last time Duke went without Duncan, the Blue Devils only rushed for 106 rushing yards in a home loss against Virginia. If Wilson can’t step up, redshirt freshman quarterback Daniel Jones will have a long day trying to figure out Virginia Tech’s formidable pass rush, the cornerstone of a defense that surrenders just 20.1 points per game.

Finish in the fourth quarter

A 3-5 record for Duke hurts. A 3-5 record without a loss by more than a 14-point margin hurts even more. The Blue Devils have only trailed at halftime on three occasions this season—against Virginia, Louisville and Georgia Tech. But the second half is where Duke struggles the most. The Blue Devils have been outscored by 20 points in third quarters of games this season and outscored by four in the fourth quarter. In fact, the only time Duke has outscored an opponent in the fourth quarter was against Notre Dame. The Blue Devils have consistently been within striking distance in the closing minutes, but have failed to push through to victory. To win on Saturday, the young Duke squad will have to overcome the pressure of the last quarter to close out a game that is winnable at home.


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