DUKE SHOCKS TECH
As much of an old-school football lifer from Alabama that David Cutcliffe is, the Duke coach couldn’t let the history of what was happening at Lane Stadium slip past him on Saturday.
The final seconds were ticking away and Cutcliffe’s Blue Devils were in victory formation, taking a knee to salt away a 13-10 upset of No. 16 Virginia Tech.
His team had played with such a sharp focus, Cutcliffe wasn’t even worried about a last-second fumble ruining it all.
“I was thinking,” Cutcliffe said, “about the history of it.”
And, oh, there was plenty of that made on Saturday.
Duke hadn’t defeated a ranked team since 1994. It hadn’t beaten the Hokies since 1981 and had never won in Lane Stadium. The Blue Devils hadn’t won on the road over a ranked team since 1971.
The program also hasn’t ever played in bowl games in back-to-back seasons. Saturday’s win makes Duke (6-2, 2-2 in ACC) squarely in line to do that, too.
“We’ve been playing these guys hard for years,” Duke linebacker Kelby Brown said. “Gosh this feels great. Here in Blacksburg. It’s an awesome win.”
It’s a win that came in bizarre fashion considering how Duke had performed over its previous seven games.
Duke’s offense, among the ACC’s most potent while averaging 35.7 points this season, struggled mightily against Virginia Tech’s defense that’s among the best in the nation.
Duke produced only 198 yards of total offense, by far its lowest output of the season. Blue Devils quarterback Anthony Boone completed only 7 of 25 passes and threw four interceptions.
That his team lost anyway was too much for Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster to stand.
“We played hard for four quarters but sometimes maybe the best team doesn’t win,” Foster said, “and I think today was one of those days.”
Under those circumstances, it was Duke’s defense that rose to the occasion again and again. The same defense that allowed 58 points in a loss to Pittsburgh one month ago stymied the Hokies (6-2, 3-1) in their home stadium.
Duke intercepted Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas four times and forced the Hokies to punt three other times.
The Blue Devils came up with big stops that forced Virginia Tech into field goal tries and caught a break when Hokies kicker Cody Journell missed two of three.
Conversely, Duke kicker Ross Martin used his strong right leg to lift Duke to the win. The sophomore booted field goals covering 51 and 53 yards, the latter his career best.
It all added up to the kind of win Cutcliffe and the Blue Devils had strived to record ever since he inherited what even Duke officials considered the nation’s worst Division I football program in 2008.
“Extremely proud is the understatement of how I felt about the effort that our players and our staff gave,” Cutcliffe said. “Team victory. Staff victory. A good opportunity for us to build something this season and a good opportunity for us to continue building the belief in the program, not just this team.”
While the Duke defense kept slowing the Hokies, or the Hokies slowed themselves, the Blue Devils pieced together enough offense to take a 6-0 halftime lead thanks to Martin.
A poor Hokies punt gave Duke the ball at its 45 early in the second quarter.
A 19-yard run from Jela Duncan moved Duke into Tech territory. Duke gained little else but Martin booted a 51-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
Duke’s other first-half scoring drive game in the final 42 seconds before halftime following a Journell miss from 45 yards.
Boone completed three passes, accounting for nearly half of his completed passes in the game, to move Duke to the Tech 35. Martin kicked his 53-yard field goal as the half expired and the Blue Devils were up 6-0.
In the second half, despite Boone not completing a pass, Duke added an all-important touchdown.
With the passing game not working, the Blue Devils turned to their improved running game to march 63 yards on six plays in the third quarter.
Boone attempted two passes on the drive with both resulting in Virginia Tech penalties that netted Duke 25 yards.
Once Duke reached the Tech 26, Boone used his legs. He ran for 6 and 11 yards before his 9-yard touchdown run put Duke up 13-0.
“We have a team full of competitors,” Boone said. “My numbers weren’t great. But each person put in their own. That’s what it’s all about. A team full of competitors.”
The Hokies made their push in a dire circumstance. Thomas, who completed 21 of 38 passes, hooked up with Demitri Knowles on a 56-yard pass play from the Virginia Tech 1.
That kick-started a 99-yard touchdown drive, which Thomas completed with a 5-yard scoring run to cut Duke’s lead to 13-7 with 11 seconds left in the third quarter.
Journell’s lone made field goal, from 42 yards, sliced Duke’s lead to 13-10 with 9:23 to play.
When Duke failed to move the ball and Hokies freshman Kendall Fuller intercepted his third pass of the day, Virginia Tech took over at the Blue Devil 43.
The Hokies reached the Duke 31 on Thomas’ 10-yard pass to D.J. Coles, but two incomplete passes followed.
Thomas gained eight yards on a third-down run but Hokies coach Frank Beamer opted for a field-goal try. Journell missed badly from 40 yards and Duke retained the lead.
With another chance to put the game away, Duke’s offense gained just four yards and used 53 seconds before punting.
The Hokies got to their 48 before Brown intercepted a pass with 4:22 left that put Duke in position to finish off the upset.
This time, the offense succeeded. Brandon Connette’s three-yard run on fourth and 1 from the Hokies 44 with 3:12 left was a big step. Boone followed with an 11-yard run at the 2:28 mark.
With Virginia Tech out of timeouts, Duke was able to kneel it out and take the win back to Durham.
“The word ‘believe’ was used a lot by our players,” Cutcliffe said. “The belief is not about even believing in yourself. I think the more powerful thing we have right now is they believe in each other. When you start believing in your teammates you start developing something special.”
|DUKE 13, No. 16 VIRGINIA TECH 10|
Duke—FG Martin 51, 12:27.
Duke—FG Martin 53, :00.
Duke—Boone 9 run (Martin kick), 6:14.
VT—Thomas 5 run (Journell kick), :11.
VT—FG Journell 42, 9:23.
|Time of Possession||20:33||39:27|
RUSHING—Duke, Boone 11-44, Duncan 7-38, Connette 2-10, Snead 4-5,
Powell 1-0, Team 3-(minus 6). Virginia Tech, Thomas 24-101,
Edmunds 12-44, Coleman 10-28.
PASSING—Duke, Boone 7-25-4-107, Team 0-1-0-0. Virginia Tech,
RECEIVING—Duke, Crowder 4-38, Deaver 2-29, Powell 1-40.
Virginia Tech, Knowles 4-69, Byrn 4-26, Coles 3-30, Coleman 3-17,
Cline 2-30, Stanford 2-27, Edmunds 2-10, Mangus 1-5.