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2011 Virginia Tech Football: What to Watch vs. Duke

Virginia Tech Hokies (7-1, 3-1) at Duke Blue Devils (3-4, 1-2)

There's a light at the end of the tunnel for the beaten and battered Hokies. Get by the Duke Blue Devils and a bye week awaits them prior to a difficult November slate. Standing between Tech and some much needed rest is a Duke team that has just enough talent on offense to scare me.

Duke quarterback, Sean Renfree, is outstanding. And when a team has a good quarterback like that, you can't give them any delusions of grandeur. My concern is that Tech will again start slow and get caught looking ahead to its bye week and to Georgia Tech. If that happens, we're in trouble.

But if the coaching staff can get this team, dying for a break, up for this game, there are match-ups the Hokies can take advantage of early on and coast into that bye week.

As usual, a lot of the stats you see (or the raw numbers) comes from

Virginia Tech Offense vs. Duke Defense

  • Duke's base defense is the nickel and even though they only utilize two linebackers, they have a good one in Kelby Brown as well as a safety in Matt Daniels who will play near the line of scrimmage and rack up tackles.
  • The Blue Devils will likely sell out against the run as they have been known to do in recent years against the Hokies. Their run defense hasn't been horrible, but they are still giving up almost 4.5 yards per carry against FBS opponents.
  • Where the Hokies can definitely make their hay is in the passing game. Tech has thrown for almost 650 yards in their last two games against Duke, but the weather may conspire against them Saturday. The forecast has taken a turn for the worst as the week as gone on and right now we're looking at a high in the 50s and a 70 percent chance of rain. How the rain affects Tech's ability to throw the ball will a big storyline in this game.
  • If Tech can throw the ball (and Duke is gawdawful against the pass), it'll walk away with this game. If they can't and Duke can continue to devote personnel to stopping the run without getting burned (like in 2008), this will be a much harder-fought game than we planned on.
  • The Hokies continue to struggle in the red zone, getting into the end zone on 54.8 percent of their RZ trips (10th in ACC). Fortunately Duke's D is also one of the worst in the red zone, giving up TDs on 63 percent of their opponents RZ trips (10th in ACC). Tech should be able to throw the ball against Duke, but they need to finish drives and put the game away early.

Virginia Tech Defense vs. Duke Offense

  • As I said, Renfree's an outstanding quarterback, but his yards per attempt is somewhat low because Duke lacks a real deep threat. They've got three guys who know how to get open and get first downs in Conner Vernon, Donovan Varner and tight end Cooper Helfet, but I don't think any of them can really stretch the field.
  • Really glad we have Jayron Hosley back against this Duke team that will challenge a secondary. That's also why the injury to Alonzo Tweedy doesn't hurt as much since the Hokies are likely to be in nickel most of the game. Still, watch to see how comfortable Nick Dew is when he's in the game.
  • As I said in the game guide, most of Duke's running will come out of the shotgun, but with a lot of the same downhill, I-form principles that we saw out of Clemson. Tech should still be able to have some success stopping the run. If the Hokies give up no more than about 3.8 ypc, they'll be fine. 
  • Duke will run a lot of guys at the Hokies. Desmond Scott's got the most big-play ability, Juwan Thompson's the most consistent and quarterback Anthony Boone's the toughest to stop in short-yardage. Expect to see a lot of Boone.
  • The guy I really worry about is Helfet. If we play mostly nickel then he's a match-up problem, just like Clemson's tight end, Dwayne Allen was. If someone's going to have a big game on offense for Duke, I think it'll be him.

Watch the Box Score

  • Turnovers
  • Virginia Tech YPA
  • Duke 3rd Down %
  • Virginia Tech RZ %

Virginia Tech Players to Watch

  • 3 - Logan Thomas, So., QB
  • 7 - Marcus Davis, Jr., WR
  • 9 - Cris Hill, Sr., CB
  • 52 - Barquell Rivers, Sr., LB

Duke Players to Watch

  • 77 - Laken Thompson, Fr., LG
  • 81 - Cooper Helfet, Sr., TE
  • 59 - Kelby Brown, So., LB
  • 40 - Matt Daniels, Sr., S

Final Score

Virginia Tech 35, Duke 10