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Five observations and more from Duke football's first half against the Hokies

<p>Daniel Jones made his first start in three weeks for the Blue Devils Saturday.</p>

Daniel Jones made his first start in three weeks for the Blue Devils Saturday.

The Blue Devils enter the locker room against Virginia Tech trailing 17-7, here are five observations from Duke's first half of play at Wallace Wade Stadium. 

Five observations

  1. Daniel Jones returned to action tonight just three weeks after sustaining a fractured clavicle against Northwestern. The redshirt junior looked to be in top form, with full mobility and passing range. He narrowly missed two deep connections with Chris Taylor, who dropped nearly identical diving catches within the Virginia Tech 10-yard line.
  2. A Blue Devil signal caller threw an interception for the first time in 21 quarters. Jones turned the ball over on Duke’s second drive, resulting in three points for the Hokies. The Blue Devils are looking at their second straight game in which they lose the turnover battle, as Quentin Harris’ muffed snap was the only giveaway in last week’s contest against N.C. Central. 
  3. Duke’s offensive line sported a new look tonight, with Jack Wohlabaugh in at center and Jaylen Miller in at left tackle, despite previous starters Zach Harmon and Christian Harris being active. The line struggled at times against a formidable Virginia Tech pass rush, and an untouched Khalil Ladler deflected Jones’ sixth pass of the night, setting up an easy pick for Reggie Floyd.
  4. Ryan Willis, making his first start in a Hokie uniform, carved up Duke’s secondary, finishing the half with more than 200 yards and two touchdowns. The defensive line failed to provide any pressure on Willis, and he capitalized upon his ample time in the pocket. The Kansas transfer favored the left side of the field, and Blue Devil cornerback Josh Blackwell had a lot of difficulty in coverage, yielding an easy 27-yard touchdown to Damon Hazelton on the first play of the second quarter. 
  5. Virginia Tech, historically known for strong special teams play, won the battle at that unit in the first half. Duke’s special teams failed to capitalize on various game-changing opportunities, most notably failing to come up with a fumble caused by Javon Jackson that would have landed the Blue Devil offense a red zone opportunity.

By the numbers

Collin Wareham missed 43-yard field goal: Wareham shanked his only field goal attempt of the night, pushing the second quarter kick wide left. 

221 Yards for Ryan Willis: Willis absolutely shredded the Duke defense in the first half, impressing in his first start in two seasons.

37 Yards and a touchdown for Noah Gray: Duke’s third-string tight end served as the primary target for Jones, and hauled in the team’s sole score of the night.

A moment that mattered

Fresh off of two consecutive Virginia Tech drives resulting in touchdowns and a 17-7 Hokies’ lead, Brittain Brown was ruled to have coughed up the football in Duke territory. The play went to the replay booth, and the Blue Devils’ retained possession and kept Virginia Tech from securing solid field position.

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