Third and goal: Duke football must win turnover battle to advance past Virginia Tech

Duke has turned the ball over just six times all season.
Duke has turned the ball over just six times all season.

Duke is looking to build on its momentum after defeating Boston College last weekend, 38-31. Saturday afternoon, the Blue Devils have an opportunity to extend their winning streak to three at home against Virginia Tech. The Blue Zone has three keys for a victory:

Win the turnover battle

In Virginia Tech’s 28-27 loss to Georgia Tech last weekend, its four total turnovers killed any chance at a comeback after falling to a 10-point deficit in the first quarter. Junior quarterback Grant Wells threw an interception, his eighth of the year, and the offense combined for three total fumbles lost. On the other hand, Duke’s offense has been fantastic holding onto the ball as sophomore quarterback Riley Leonard has thrown just four interceptions and the Blue Devils have two lost fumbles. As head coach Mike Elko has surely noticed, many of Duke’s six wins come from winning the turnover battle. Without forcing eight turnovers at Miami, who knows if the Blue Devils make the trip back with a win. In a tightly contested Saturday afternoon game at Wallace Wade Stadium, turnovers may once again prove to be the deciding factor. 

Limit Kaleb Smith’s impact

All year, senior receiver Kaleb Smith has been a weapon for Virginia Tech’s offense. In his last four games, the Bumpass, Va., native has two games with more than 140 receiving yards, including an 85-yard touchdown grab against N.C. State. While Smith doesn’t have the high-end NFL draft potential of Zay Flowers, Boston College’s premier wideout, he will still pose a challenge to the Blue Devil secondary. In last weekend’s win, Duke struggled to keep up with the Eagles’ passing game. If the defensive backs can limit Smith, the path to victory will be more clear for the Blue Devils. 

Come through in the clutch

Four of Virginia Tech’s seven losses have come by less than a touchdown. Like the Hokies, Duke has had its fair share of difficulty closing out games. In key losses to Georgia Tech and North Carolina, the Blue Devils had a tie or a lead in the fourth quarter, but could not finish off the game. However, holding off Boston College’s late comeback attempt surely bolstered Duke’s confidence in end-of-game situations. Although Virginia Tech sits at 2-7, it has talent all over the field and Duke will not take it lightly. Expect this one to be another close, grind-it-out fourth-quarter that gets hearts pulsing. However, if Elko’s team can keep its head in it for 60 minutes, Duke has the ability to get to 7-3. 


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