Duke is coming off of a 38-31 victory against Boston College, and is looking to win three straight ACC games for the first time since 2015. Here are five things to know as Duke takes on Virginia Tech this Saturday.
Don’t overlook the Hokies
A year ago, it would seem ridiculous to suggest that Duke could sleepwalk through an ACC opponent. With the skill level of this Blue Devil squad, not now. On paper, Duke is a much better football team than Virginia Tech, and the Blue Devils should win the game. However, it is important to note that the Hokies are coming off of back-to-back one point losses, including to a ranked NC State team.
“They've lost their last three games by a combined eight points,” said head coach Mike Elko in his press conference Monday. “They're certainly hungry to get back in the win column. They're a very proud program.”
Therefore, if Duke lets the Hokies stay in the game, it could come out on the wrong side of the contest. Nevertheless, outside of the Georgia Tech game, the Blue Devils have played fairly consistent football throughout the season. For it to not repeat its loss in Atlanta, Duke will need to focus on the task at hand and not look ahead.
30 or more
It will be paramount for Duke to get off to a fast offensive start. In every one of its victories this season, it has scored at least 30 points. The only game where the Blue Devils were defeated after putting up more than 30 points was against North Carolina, whose offense is much more explosive than Virginia Tech's. The strength of this Hokie team is their defense, especially when the opposing offenses get behind the chains. The front seven likes to pin their ears back and attack the quarterback, led by senior defensive lineman Tyjuan Garbutt, who has recorded 4.5 sacks and five quarterback hurries on the season.
“They're very twitchy, they're very athletic, they're very disruptive,” said Elko. “They blitz probably more than any defense that we've seen so far this year.”
Therefore, to reach the magical offensive number of 30, the Blue Devils will need to be efficient on first and second downs to prevent third-and-long situations.
Control the line of scrimmage
One of the keys for the game will be the line of scrimmage. Senior offensive lineman Jacob Monk is out for the rest of the regular season after suffering a lower body injury against Boston College. For Duke to keep up its success in the rushing game, it will be essential for the reserve offensive linemen to control the line of scrimmage as the Blue Devils have been able to do.
“Now we're going to need to get depth again, but that's college football,” Elko said. “It'll be the next guy up."
Elko has confidence in his reserves, saying, “These kids have all been playing a lot of football behind the scenes. Now we've just got to get them ready to go out on the field and get ready to do it.”
On the defensive side, this is a great matchup for the Blue Devils. Virginia Tech has the second worst rush offense in the ACC, averaging 104.3 rushing yards per game. On top of this, Duke is fourth in the league in rush defense, only allowing opponents to rush for 123.8 yards per game.
A chance to break streaks
A victory against the Hokies would represent history for Duke. In a year where the Blue Devils have successfully turned around a program that had no wins in the ACC a season ago, they have the opportunity to clinch their fourth. With a win Saturday, Duke will have won its most ACC games since 2015.
In addition, Duke has not beaten Virginia Tech at Wallace Wade Stadium since 1981, another possible milestone for the Blue Devils to achieve on Saturday.
Part of Elko’s goal this year was to get students excited for football again. He gave out free jerseys to all of the incoming freshmen to begin the season, which has helped get fans interested in the team. The increased success certainly has not hurt, but the Duke home crowd has been a supporting force in the Blue Devils’ season; they are 3-1 at home, the lone loss a heartbreaking, but sell-out, loss against North Carolina.
“Hopefully we get the student turnout, we get the fans back out in the stadium and get a great atmosphere Saturday afternoon,” Elko said.
It has been almost a month since Duke has played a home game and this will be the last one most students can attend, as the Nov. 26 Wake Forest game falls during Thanksgiving break.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.