Duke WR Conner Vernon can't pull in a first-quarter touchdown pass. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY
Duke (5-2, 2-1 in the ACC)
Lost to Virginia Tech 41-20
What worked: Duke couldn’t have scripted a better start. Sean Renfree threw the ball where only Jamison Crowder could catch it for a 62-yard touchdown. The offensive line was able to hold back the Hokies’ pass rush. And safety Jordon Byas came up with a 20-yard interception that he returned for a touchdown off of a bobbled swing pass. The score was 20-0 Duke with 3:12 left in the first quarter.
What needs work: After the first quarter, not much went right for the Blue Devils. Duke committed four turnovers (Anthony Boone and Renfree each tossed an interception, Refnree lost a fumble as he was sacked, and Shaquille Powell fumbled late in the game). The offense was called for five false starts, and Duke had a total of eight penalties for 50 yards.
Those were self-inflicted errors the Blue Devils could not afford, as they already could not match Virginia Tech’s level of physicality.
“Their defensive front won the battle and their offensive front ended up winning the battle,” Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said. “That’s how you come back in the game. When you have a lead you still have to win the physical battle of the game and we couldn’t do that today.”
True freshman running back JC Coleman finished with 183 rushing yards, and Virginia Tech averaged nearly seven yards per carry as a team. The Hokies had eight offensive plays that went for 20 or more yards. In fact, those eight plays went for 345 yards.
What’s next: North Carolina will come to Wallace Wade for a prime-time matchup at 7 p.m. next Friday. The Tar Heels will bring one of the ACC’s most dynamic running backs in Gio Bernard, who has rushed for 439 yards in the last two games.