BLACKSBURG, Va.—Duke’s offense wrapped up its worst month in recent memory Saturday night, delivering a downtrodden performance in the rain.
No. 13 Virginia Tech beat the Blue Devils 24-3 at Lane Stadium, holding Duke to just 183 yards of total offense. Duke has now scored five offensive touchdowns in as many games, wrapping up its first winless October in head coach David Cutcliffe’s 10 years in Durham and losing five straight regular-season games for the first time since 2011.
“At this stage, I’m sure everybody feels somewhat like I do,” Cutcliffe said. “You’re physically tired, but right now, you’re pretty emotionally tired after what we’ve been through. But you pick yourself up, and we will.”
The Blue Devils (4-5, 1-5 in the ACC) were within striking distance until the final minute of the first half, when running back Shaun Wilson pushed a defender in the facemask for a dead-ball personal foul whistle with 42 seconds left. The penalty stopped the clock, gifting the Hokies—who had no timeouts left—another chance to extend a 10-3 lead. Virginia Tech (7-1, 3-1) took advantage, needing just two pass plays to go 42 yards for a touchdown. Sean Savoy’s 26-yard touchdown catch put the Hokies in front 17-3.
“It’s always tough whenever they get points going into the half, because you feel it going into the locker room,” redshirt senior center Austin Davis said. “It was a real gut punch, but we knew we had to do a better job on offense to help our defense out and not put them in those situations.”
Neither offense had much success in the second half, as a steady rain became a torrential downpour. Virginia Tech’s raucous home crowd thinned dramatically before the final whistle, with most fans headed for the exits to seek cover.
Duke quarterback Daniel Jones struggled with his accuracy, failing to complete a pass for the entire second half and finishing with just 82 yards through the air.
“Offensively, we have had horrific times trying to complete passes. If you want to get down to the core, our completion percentage has fallen to the point where consistency, down-and-distance suffers,” Cutcliffe said. “The rain and the combination of their pass rush made it almost impossible at times. Even when Daniel was getting the ball off, he was getting hit pretty often, so I think that combination was the biggest reason. It wasn’t just rain.”
Jones did gain 65 rushing yards and Wilson added 38, but the running back was stopped on fourth-and-1 from the 11-yard line with less than eight minutes left on the team’s last chance to score.
The Blue Devil defense bent but did not break for most of the night, as the Hokies advanced past midfield on all eight of their drives in the first half but came up empty on five of them. Virginia Tech turned the ball over on downs three times, but mustered more than enough points to coast to a win against the Duke’s nonexistent offense.
“Defensively, everybody was out there. They declared war, played really ferocious,” Cutcliffe said. “Our defense held its own. When you have an offense putting you in that bad of field position or not staying on the field, it’s very difficult.”
The Hokies’ first touchdown came on a nine-play, 71-yard drive capped by a four-yard run from Deshawn McClease, who darted into the end zone untouched, and they added a field goal after recovering a fumble by Blue Devil receiver T.J. Rahming on his own 19-yard line.
Duke showed a brief glimmer of life with a 12-play, 80-yard drive midway through the second quarter. A 41-yard pass from Daniel Jones to Johnathan Lloyd on third-and-long moved the Blue Devils to the 10-yard line, but they went backwards from there and had to settle for a field goal.
“We’ve got to finish drives, and that’s executing in the red zone, making sure we’re getting a gain on each play and putting ourselves in a position to score,” Jones said. “You can’t stall out like that.”
Any momentum Duke had from the drive was squashed with Wilson’s penalty and Virginia Tech’s touchdown at the end of the quarter, and the Hokies added another touchdown late in the third quarter with the help of a personal foul penalty on linebacker Ben Humphreys, who charged a Hokie offensive lineman and knocked him over before the ball was snapped. The Blue Devils were plagued by costly penalties all game, with seven flags for 53 yards.
Duke will now have its bye week to regroup before traveling to West Point, N.Y., to face Army No. 11.
“We have to find our identity, re-find our identity in this open date. We’ve got a three-game regular season staring at us,” Cutcliffe said. “We have never backed down from any circumstance we’ve had put in front of us. Whether it’s losing five games in a row—it is something that you have to take head on, and that’s what our intentions have to be.”
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