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Duke Blue Devils vs Virginia Tech Hokies: Bowling for Duke, Survival for Tech

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Duke comes to Lane on Saturday. If they win they are bowl eligible, if we lose, we can only lose one more game the remainder of the season to reach something in December/January. This is a must win game for the Hokies, and every game from now on is as well. Tomorrow our entire season is one game. Brewer's back. We have a good chance to keep the ball rolling.

Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

In 2014 it was 17-16 Hokies over Duke:  A Score Not Worth Repeating but a Result We Need

Look again at that score. It is last year's pre Wake Forest disaster score.  We beat a surprisingly good Duke Blue Devil team at Duke, last year.  That was the good news, I suppose.  W's in the books are always good news, right?  Last year, Virginia Tech was facing every demon that a team can confront during a season.   We had injuries, our offense was sputtering, our defense was not good (especially in the clutch) and the fans were filing out of Lane Stadium soon after the halftime break.  We arrived with the fear of complete season loss at that point.  A loss at Duke would mean that it would be difficult to gain any sort of redemptive bowl invitation.  We still had Wake Forest and UVA left on the schedule but we needed to win two out of three for a .500 season and a truly winning regular season needed an end of season sweep.

Is Duke going to be a symbol game this season?  Is it going to be a blow out for either team, or one of those typical Tech vs Duke efforts; where Duke plays harder than we had prepared for, and the outcome is far from clear most of the way through the game?

Last year, Duke should have creamed us.  For many reasons, some of which I touched on just a second ago, Tech came out primed for battle.  The Defense stepped up and there was just enough effort to pull off a one point squeaker.  That was then and that season...

This is now.  Virginia Tech enters the football game with a losing record (3-4) and am ACC total of 1-2.  Unless Pitt completely falls apart, we have no chance at the Coastal Division.  We do have, however, a chance at a measure of redemption for the brutally inconsistent and unlucky start of the 2015 effort.  We are at the 2/3rds mark of the season.

The pressure is on.  Tech must win at home against the Blue Devils.  The odds makers are giving us a roughly 2.5 point (Home field goose) advantage but the reality is that these teams are at a push status.  That is, perhaps, a misallocation of the spread.  The Duke Blue Devils are for real again this season; and unlikely to be intimidated by playing on Worsham Field.

The Duke University Blue Devils

Duke enters Lane Stadium after a bye week, with something that it has rarely seen in the last few decades; an AP Poll ranking (23) and a 5 - 1 record.  The Blue Devils are a balanced and experienced team.  Thomas Sirk is a running quarterback who has a modest rating with modest total passing statistics.  His completion rate is a respectable number, and he actually leads the team in rushing at 325 yards on 75 carries.  There is no single Duke Feature running back.  The Blue Devils pass but not for scores.  They move the ball and spread the targets around to a pretty large list of receivers.

Duke's defense has been effective this season.  No team has scored more than 20 points on them, and even with their loss against Northwestern, they held the game to a 19-10 score.  At the time Northwestern was polling at 23.

The Blue Devils are playing for this season's chance at bowl eligibility.  If they can walk away from Saturday's game with a W, they also get to stand in line to go bowling.  David Cutcliffe has completely turned the Duke Football program around.  It might not be dominant like their basketball teams, but there is no doubt that they are finished being the doormat for the ACC Coastal Division on the gridiron.

Let's take a look at the stats for the Duke offense as provided by Yahoo Sports:

Passing Statistics

NAME

CMP

ATT

YDS

CMP%

YDS/A

TD

INT

RAT

Thomas Sirk

118

189

1260

62.4

6.67

7

3

127.5

Parker Boehme

9

11

133

81.8

12.09

0

0

183.4

Totals

127

200

1393

63.5

6.97

7

3

130.6

Rushing Statistics

NAME

CAR

YDS

AVG

LONG

TD

Thomas Sirk

75

325

4.3

28

2

Shaquille Powell

67

298

4.4

30 (TD)

3

Shaun Wilson

57

210

3.7

21

1

Jela Duncan

16

114

7.1

43 (TD)

2

Parker Boehme

17

63

3.7

9

3

Nicodem Pierre

11

53

4.8

12

0

Zach Boden

9

34

3.8

10

2

Joseph Ajeigbe

2

7

3.5

5

0

Totals

262

1084

4.1

43

13

Receiving Statistics

NAME

REC

YDS

AVG

LONG

TD

Max McCaffrey

19

266

14.0

43 (TD)

1

Johnell Barnes

20

266

13.3

44

1

T.J. Rahming

19

242

12.7

59

1

Shaun Wilson

13

167

12.8

89 (TD)

1

Shaquille Powell

19

108

5.7

24 (TD)

2

Ryan Smith

6

85

14.2

32

0

Anthony Nash

8

81

10.1

19

0

David Reeves

8

68

8.5

11

0

Braxton Deaver

4

37

9.3

14

0

Chris Taylor

5

36

7.2

27

0

Jela Duncan

3

25

8.3

18

0

Erich Schneider

2

14

7.0

9 (TD)

1

Totals

127

1393

11.0

89

7

The Virginia Tech Hokies:

The Hokies chances are directly tied to one name; Michael Brewer.  Brewer is getting his first start since breaking his collar bone in the season opener against OSU.  He played for about a quarter in last week's loss to... sigh... we lost last week... to Miami.  He had one very nice touchdown drive to keep us in the game, but the defense failed to stop Miami on the next drive, and put Brewer under pressure to make throws, so he ended up with an interception that was due more to a lack of practice, timing, and too much rust.  He really shouldn't have been in that sort of pressure situation without more playing time.  Starting this week is going to benefit him greatly in both practice time and momentum building in the game.

The story of this season could have been that critical injury, but in truth the real "story" is the uneven and often disappointing performance of the Defense.  The same problems cropped up last year, and don't seem to have been addressed in this year's squad.  We have good talent at Defensive line, but our Tackles are not big enough, and neither are our Defensive Ends.  Without some sort of blitz package to help out, our front four aren't getting enough pressure on the opposing quarterbacks, and they certainly aren't containing them either.  Our linebackers are completely non-existent -ok we have one or two true outside/Backer sized linebackers.  Motuapuaka is learning, but should be playing a Rover/Whip hybrid position, not Mike.

Our defense is just not getting critical stops in games where we have a chance to make a point turn around but need the ball back.  Our offense unfortunately sees more "three and outs" than our defense.  This Hokie team is inconsistent, and unfocused.  It needs to come to Lane ready to play; but there is no guarantee which team will show up on Saturday afternoon.

This is a must win for Tech.  If we lose again, it is going to be increasingly difficult to gain bowl eligibility.  We will be on a two game elimination bubble.  That's some serious pressure for a team that has the sorts of consistency problems that we have, right now.

So... Michael Brewer might not want the entire team put on his shoulders, and it might not be quite fair to mention it, but it's there.  He has to be the difference maker, and the team needs to rally around him to help him out.

Here are Tech's numbers courtesy of Yahoo Sports:

Passing Statistics

NAME

CMP

ATT

YDS

CMP%

YDS/A

TD

INT

RAT

Brenden Motley

92

163

1155

56.4

7.09

11

7

129.6

Michael Brewer

14

20

221

70.0

11.05

3

1

202.3

Dwayne Lawson

3

9

51

33.3

5.67

0

0

80.9

Sam Rogers

1

1

13

100.0

13.00

0

0

209.2

Totals

110

193

1440

57.0

7.46

14

8

135.3

Rushing Statistics

NAME

CAR

YDS

AVG

LONG

TD

Travon McMillian

59

418

7.1

63

1

Brenden Motley

82

220

2.7

22

3

Trey Edmunds

39

162

4.2

35

2

Sam Rogers

23

127

5.5

29

1

J.C. Coleman

37

120

3.2

10

1

Dwayne Lawson

14

55

3.9

10

1

Shai McKenzie

13

50

3.8

11

0

Chris Durkin

4

25

6.3

9

0

Isaiah Ford

2

17

8.5

10

0

Greg Stroman

5

5

1.0

6

0

Michael Brewer

4

0

0.0

6

0

Totals

287

1192

4.2

63

9

Receiving Statistics

NAME

REC

YDS

AVG

LONG

TD

Isaiah Ford

32

497

15.5

61

7

Cam Phillips

25

300

12.0

60

1

Bucky Hodges

16

248

15.5

46

2

Ryan Malleck

11

155

14.1

40

2

Sam Rogers

7

89

12.7

51 (TD)

1

Travon McMillian

11

62

5.6

19

1

Kalvin Cline

3

38

12.7

31

0

Brenden Motley

1

13

13.0

13

0

Kevin Asante

1

13

13.0

13

0

J.C. Coleman

1

10

10.0

10

0

Trey Edmunds

1

8

8.0

8

0

Demitri Knowles

1

7

7.0

7

0

Totals

110

1440

13.1

61

14

The End Game IFs:

The Duke Blue Devils win IF: They can stop Brewer from igniting the Hokies.  They need to put pressure on him, knowing that he's not going to run at the same rate and power as Brenden Motley.  They have to stop the influence running game, and keep Travon McMillian from running like he did last week against Miami. (McMillian's biggest opponent in last week's game was the Virginia Tech Coaching staff, who would not let him have the ball in a sufficient variety of plays to make a difference in the game.)

Duke's offense needs to be competent.  Tech is still vulnerable to Duke's strength which is the running quarterback.  It needs to keep the ball on the ground, and burn up as much clock as it can to keep Brewer and the Hokie offense off the field.

The Virginia Tech Hokies win IF: They can leverage Brewer's better command and control of the offense to get the ball to the tight ends, wide receivers, and Rogers.  They need to loosen up the Blue Devil Defense so that Travon McMillian can use his one cut and go skills off the edges to run the ball.

The Tech Defense needs to get stops.  They need to play containment on Thomas Sirk and force him to throw into tight coverage over the zone or dump the ball off to avoid sacks.

It's pretty simple really.  Tech needs to play a complete football game, with minimal mistakes, and a serious disciplined penalty free effort.  This is another winnable game.  Lane is unlikely to be full, the weather is supposed to be partly cloudy and in the mid 60's.

The game is at 3:30 on ESPNU.

Hokies need to show up with a serious winning attitude.  The fans do to.  The Hokies need their 12th man back.  It's been missing for a while now.  We've got to fix that.

Sources:

http://espn.go.com/college-football/team/stats/_/id/150/duke-blue-devils

http://espn.go.com/college-football/team/stats/_/id/259/virginia-tech-hokies