The optimism Duke had after last week's close loss at Wake Forest quickly disappeared Saturday in front of a packed house at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va.
On the game's first play from scrimmage, Virginia Tech quarterback Sean Glennon found wideout David Clowney wide open downfield for a completion to Duke's five-yard line, and four plays later Hokie halfback Branden Ore punched the ball in for Virginia Tech's first touchdown of the day. The 14th-ranked Hokies (3-0, 2-0 in the ACC) never looked back, physically outmatching Duke (0-3, 0-2) on their way to a 36-0 victory.
"You never want to start a game like that," Duke head coach Ted Roof said. "It wasn't like we hung our heads or anything like that. But their guys made some great plays."
The loss, however, may have been worse for Duke than just the score. Down 13-0 in the second quarter, quarterback Thaddeus Lewis--making his second collegiate start--rolled out to his right and hit tight end Nick Stefanow for a six-yard gain.
After Lewis had let the ball go, Virginia Tech safety Aaron Rouse nailed him with a helmet-to-helmet hit. The referees immediately whistled Rouse for the Hokies' third roughing the passer penalty of the first half, and Lewis remained down on the field for several minutes before leaving for Duke's locker room.
Lewis was diagnosed with a concussion, and he returned to Duke's sideline late in the second half wearing street clothes. After the game, Rouse apologized to Roof for the brutal hit.
"I felt like he was going to run the ball--he started running toward me and I ran toward him at the last minute, and I was already committed," Rouse said. "You have to play by the rules of the game, but at the same time you can't be confined by them."
With Lewis out, Marcus Jones, Duke's week-one starter, entered the game. Neither quarterback succeeded much in moving the Blue Devils' offense, which had rebounded under Lewis' guidance against the Demon Deacons from an anemic effort against Richmond.
Lewis'six-yard completion to Stefanow--the same play during which Rouse knocked him out--was Duke's longest passing play of the first half. In the opening period, Duke gained 28 yards while Virginia Tech put up 23 points. Duke finished the game with 139 offensive yards to Virginia Tech's 418.
Glennon threw for 301 yards and two touchdowns, and Ore and tailback Kenny Lewis ran for scores. The Hokies also scored on special teams when Eddie Royal zig-zagged through Duke's coverage unit after picking up a bouncing Alex Feinberg punt. That score put the Hokies up, 13-0.
Duke struggled with its tackling on special teams and at times on defense, though the run defense held strong for the third straight week. Still, Virginia Tech was able to take advantage.
"We're almost there and we have them wrapped up and we have them within our reach, but we don't make a play," linebacker Michael Tauiliili said. "Those are the things that determine the game.
Duke moved the ball more in the second half with Jones under center. The sophomore-who began the game wearing wideout pads and quickly changed when Lewis went down-connected for 38 yards down the left side to wideout Eron Riley down to the Hokie 19.
But the Blue Devils could not convert on the red-zone opportunity, electing to go for it on fourth down and 6 from the 15 instead of kicking the field goal. Jones' scamper on that play came up short, and a Jones fumbled on Duke's final fourth-quarter drive sent the Blue Devils home scoreless for the second straight year against the Hokies.
"I wanted to make sure to send the message to our team that we're not playing to kick field goals, we're playing to win, Roof said.
After Duke's third loss in Virginia Tech's first year in the conference--including last year's 45-0 home loss--the Blue Devils move into their bye week before facing Virginia at home Sept. 30.
"They're very physical and very fast," Jones said. "I'm lucky to come out in one piece. I'm looking to get ready for the next game."
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