The independent news organization of Duke University

X-Factor: Duke football must bring pressure on Virginia Tech quarterback Ryan Willis

<p>Chris Rumph II will look to replicate his breakout game against Middle Tennessee this Friday at Virginia Tech</p>

Chris Rumph II will look to replicate his breakout game against Middle Tennessee this Friday at Virginia Tech

Coming off a bye week, the well-rested Blue Devils travel to Blacksburg, Va. to face a Virginia Tech team that has stumbled out of the gates. Duke has won two out of the last three games in the series at Lane Stadium, but haven't beaten the Hokies overall since 2015. The Blue Zone gives you a player to watch from each team as head coach David Cutcliffe's squad looks for its third win of 2019:

Duke: Defensive end Chris Rumph II

After a breakout performance in Duke's last game against Middle Tennessee with two sacks and four tackles for loss, Rumph will again have to lead a defensive line unit that has impressed thus far, ranking No. 20 in the country in sacks per game. Last season's September showdown between the two teams saw the Blue Devils only take down Hokie signal caller Ryan Willis once, and the Kansas native made them pay, picking apart the Duke secondary with ample time to the tune of 332 yards passing and three scores. 

Perhaps Willis' weakest performance of this season was Virginia Tech's nail-biting win against Furman last week, where the redshirt senior quarterback finished with less than six yards per attempt. If Rumph and company can force Willis to make snap decisions, then the Blue Devils can keep the action in front of them and force some game-changing turnovers. 

Virginia Tech: Running back Deshawn McClease

The 2019 campaign has not been kind to McClease as he reassumes his role as Virginia Tech's lead back, averaging a paltry 2.9 yards per carry through three games this season. The redshirt junior is fighting to keep his starting spot after backup Keshawn King put up an impressive 119 yards against the Paladins. That's not to say that McClease can't have success against Duke, as two years ago he had his way in a 24-3 Virginia Tech win, rushing for 75 yards and a score on 15 attempts. The Blue Devils let Middle Tennessee quarterback Asher O'Hara scamper for 67 yards last time out, and with Willis' ability to run as well, McClease and King could keep the Duke defense guessing if they hit the gaps strong.

Comments