Despite navigating the season pretty much unscathed to this point (minus the season-opening loss to prohibitive favorite Alabama), the Virginia Tech Hokies fell to an on-the-rise Duke Blue Devil team Saturday evening in Lane Stadium 13-10.
Tech started the game in characteristic fashion, coaxing Duke into a 3-and-out on the game's opening-drive before returning the favor on offense. On Duke's very next play, Kendall Fuller, starting for his injured brother Kyle, intercepted Anthony Boone's pass to the sideline. Tech took over and drove to the Duke 31-yard line, but turned it over on downs trying to convert on 4th-and-11. Duke stalled several plays later and punted back to the Hokies, who promptly turned the ball over on a Logan Thomas interception, his first of four on the day, a career-high.
Haven't seen Logan throw a pick like that since ACC play started. I believe it snapped 116-pass interception-less streak. #Hokies— Andy Bitter (@AndyBitterVT) October 26, 2013
Thankfully, Duke was in an equally charitable mood, and three plays later, Kyle Fuller picked off his second pass of the day. But after the next three possessions ended in ended in punts, Duke finally moved the ball into field goal range and Ross Martin nailed a 51-yard field goal to put the Blue Devils up 3-0, a lead they would never relinquish.
On the next Hokies possession, Tech drove 68-yards on 16-plays, scoring an ill-gotten touchdown on a D.J. Coles false start. But on the very next play, Logan Thomas threw an interception to the middle of the end zone on a ball that he probably should've thrown away. Not to be outdone, Boone threw his third interception on the next possession on a ball that was tipped to Dadi Nicolas, who made an athletic catch. Despite driving all the way to the Duke 28, Cody Journell missed a 45-yard field goal wide left. On the last drive before the half, Duke hit another field goal to extend their lead to 6-0.
Journell did the same thing on that kick as he did on the missed PAT where he pulled it wide left earlier this year.— GobblerCountry.com (@gobblercountry) October 26, 2013
The Hokies started out the second half moving the ball, but again stalled. After failing to convert on a 4th-and-1, Duke took the ball 63 yards on six plays, scoring a touchdown on a 9-yard Anthony Boone run to raise the stakes, putting the Blue Devils in front 13-0.
Tech picked up a first down on their next possession, but soon thereafter, Thomas threw a third interception, this one tipped up in the air after hitting an intended receiver. Duke, however, was unable to make hay with the gift and punted, and after a review, pinned the Tech offense on the 1-yard line. On the ensuing play, Tech would have the offensive highlight of the day, a 56-yard pass to Demitri Knowles, that sparked the Hokies' first scoring-drive of the day, which was capped on a 5-yard rushing touchdown by Thomas, breaking the all-time Tech record for a quarterback with 24.
After the defense forced another 3-and-out, Tech drove to the Duke 25 before stalling and being forced to kick a field goal, a 42-yarder which would be Journell's only make on the day, to cut it to a 3-point margin at 13-10. Kendall Fuller only furthered the Hokies' momentum by intercepting another Boone pass, his third of the day. That was the last of the pleasant things for the Hokies, however, as Tech was flagged for not one but two blocks in the back on the return, both of which seemed legal. After a questionable no-call on a pass to the end zone, the second of the day, Tech settled for a 40-yard field goal attempt, which Journell, let's just say, missed left.
While the Hokies once again forced Duke into a 3-and-out, Logan Thomas' pass on the Hokies' last possession was intercepted after once again being tipped into the air by a receiver. Duke then drained the last 4:22 off the clock, sealing the 13-10 victory.
Obviously, this is a much improved Duke team, and you won't hear me say anything bad about them. But when analyzing the raw facts, it's tough to see how the Hokies didn't win this game. The Hokies out-gained the Blue Devils 387-198, intercepted Boone four times, won the time of possession battle 2-to-1 and held Duke to 0-of-11 on third down, but made a number of mental and physical mistakes. And as David Teel pointed out:
Duke had lost 59 straight to ranked opponents away from home. Beat Stanford in 1971.— David Teel (@DavidTeelatDP) October 26, 2013
In fact, it was the Blue Devils last win over a ranked opponent period since a win over UVA in 1994. The win makes Duke bowl eligible for the second-straight season, a first in program history. It also drops the Hokies to 6-2 and likely out of the national rankings.