Duke: ACC's No. 5 offense meets Va. Tech's No. 1 defense
Duke’s offense has moved the ball against every opponent it has faced this season.
That’s why the Blue Devils, averaging 35.7 points per game, are No. 5 in the ACC and No. 31 in the country in scoring offense.
Up next, though, is a challenge unlike any other Duke has faced this season.
No. 16 Virginia Tech carries one of the nation’s top defenses into an ACC game with Duke Saturday, Oct. 26 (3:30 p.m., ESPNU) at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va.
The Hokies (6-1, 3-0 in the ACC) have won six consecutive games behind a defense that’s allowed only 15 points per game this season. That’s No.1 in the ACC and No. 5 in the country.
When you consider that top-ranked Alabama scored 35 points on Virginia Tech in the season-opening game at the Atlanta’s Georgia Dome, the Hokies’ accomplishments become even more impressive.
In the six games since then, all Virginia Tech wins, the Hokies have allowed only 70 points — a little more than 11 points per game.
“It will be a huge challenge for us,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “We have to focus on playing the best football we’ve played all year long. That’s what it’s going to take.”
Duke (5-2, 1-2) needs just one more win to become bowl eligible for the second consecutive year. The Blue Devils have never played in bowls in consecutive seasons.
Another bit of history working against the Blue Devils involves these facts: They haven’t defeated a ranked team since 1994 and haven’t beaten a ranked team on the road since 1971.
To end those streaks, Duke’s players on offense know they have to be at their best against the stingy, hard-hitting Hokies.
“It’s going to be 1-on-1 coverage,” said Duke tight end Braxton Deaver, who caught two touchdown passes in Duke’s 35-22 win at Virginia last week. “They pretty much walk up to the line and stand in front of you and say, `These are our athletes. We’re better than you. Let’s see how you respond to that.’”
So the Blue Devils aim is to bring the fight to the Hokies by standing up to them and not getting knocked off the ball.
“We already know that Virginia Tech is going to give us their best shot,” Duke wide receiver Jamison Crowder said, “That’s who they are. They are a top-five defense. We are going to get their best shot. Hopefully we can overcome that and keep executing and put ourselves in a good position.”
It’s easier said than done, obviously.
“It’s a big challenge,” Crowder said. “They are physical. We have to be able to come out and match that physicality and make explosive plays. Once our offense makes explosive plays, the whole offense buys into that and gives the whole offense confidence.”
Duke did that last season, scoring the first 20 points on the Hokies at Lane Stadium. But Virginia Tech scored the next 41 and beat the Blue Devils 41-20.
It’s similar to what happened last weekend at Charlottesville, Va., when Duke fell behind Virginia 22-0 only to win 35-22.
Against a defense like Virginia Tech’s, the Blue Devils know they can’t have performances like that two weeks in a row.
“When we get chances to get explosives, execute explosives,” Duke quarterback Anthony Boone said. “You don’t get many chances with a defense like this. You have to grind it out. Our front (line) is very experienced and very talented. We are looking forward to seeing what they are going to do.”