The Duke Blue Devils showed up to play, downfield and underneath. The first half started with two stalled drives, and some interesting variations from Bud Foster on the line of scrimmage. The Hokie D featured a 3 down linemen formation with Emmanuel Belmar playing an edge rushing outside linebacker instead of a classic Defensive End.
The appearance of Daniel Jones as QB seems to have had the same effect that LaRussa’s appearance had for the ODU game, though. After a throwing a tipped ball that was intercepted by Reggie Floyd, Tech stalled a drive inside the 10 aided by some frustratingly odd non-holding calls on the defensive secondary. Brian Johnson kicked a short field goal to break the game ice with 3 points.
Duke more than returned the favor, with Jones dominating a drive with both his feet and his arm. He managed 2 critical first downs with his feet, unspied and untouched until he made the line to gain. On one occasion Jones managed a downfield strike with Ricky Walker wrapped around a leg. The seam pass touchdown was a no doubt effort.
The first quarter ended with Duke ahead 7-3 and Tech looking like they might put together a complete drive. Duke’s interior line is good, and their secondary is unafraid to make early contact, and force receivers to battle for the ball. Willis led a respectable drive, and when the field turned over hit Damon Hazelton with a picture perfect over the outside shoulder touchdown strike. So, Tech opened the third quarter with a 10-7 lead.
The Tech Defense got a really quality stop after a convincing sack, then proceeded to march down the field for a touchdown with a seriously amazing toss for a 1st down, that Keene turned into a rumble for a touchdown. The downfield block by Eric Kumah sealed the 6.
Consistent pressure and a bend but don’t break defensive stand resulted in a missed Duke 43 yard field goal attempt. The rush pressure was good and seriously had an effect on the kicker. The Blue Devils got the ball one more time but stalled out to have to punt the ball with 1:15 left in the Half.
Tech takes over at their 15 yard line and largely just burned the final 1:15 on the clock away with running plays, satisfied to work to get into the locker room with a 10 point lead, the momentum, and the ball first in the 2nd half.
Tech’s Defense is playing hard. There are some very good opportunities for turn overs and two were taken advantage of.
Tech’s offense is better with Willis. That’s just the observation that we’ll hear, time and time again. Willis has a much better release. He can throw laser dart passes with excellent accuracy in the intermediate routes.
Foster inserts a 3-4 defense, the rush is still getting pressure, and Emmanuel Belmar is doing more OLB than DE. It’s working!
The running game, off the edge and cutback, is really good. The interior read option isn’t working all that well. The Duke Defense has it pretty well doped out.
It’s 17-7 Virginia Tech at the half. That’s the biggest most relevant observation, here.