The Virginia Tech Hokies return to action on Friday when they host a rare Friday night game as the Duke Blue Devils come to town. While I am a huge fan of night games, I always felt like Friday night is for the high-school kids and this game would probably be more appropriate on a Thursday.
Anyhow, the environment in Lane Stadium should be electric for the Friday night kickoff. You have two ACC foes, both coming off bye weeks who enter this contest with identical 2-1 records. How these two teams got to 2-1 is eerily similar, too. Duke lost its opener to Alabama 42-3, because, of course, everyone loses to Alabama. However, the Blue Devils did win their next two games against North Carolina AT&T and Middle Tennessee State. The Hokies lost their opener at Boston College, mainly due to quarterback Ryan Willis, then won their next two over Old Dominion and Furman.
The biggest difference is the Hokies have yet to face an opponent like Alabama and will not all season. However, both teams defeated one FCS school and one school from the Conference USA. Duke did blow out its lesser opponents, unlike the Hokies.
Who are these Blue Devils? Duke lost some good talent from a year ago, specifically on the defensive side of the ball and quarterback Daniel Jones. In case you may have missed it, Jones was declared as a superstar after an outstanding performance for the Giants in his debut on Sunday. One thing we always know about the Blue Devils is they will be well-coached and prepared. Head coach David Cutcliffe is one of the best coaches in the country and has done an amazing job in Durham despite limited resources.
The Devils are led by senior quarterback Quentin Harris. Harris has put up some pretty good numbers thus far this season, completing almost 73 percent of his passes for 679 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions. Harris also leads the Blue Devils in rushing with 203 yards and a score. Harris is the epitome of a true dual-threat QB that has given Bud Foster trouble over the years. Fortunately for the Hokies, facing an athletic passer is something Tech has faced in all three games thus far. And, overall, the defense has done a solid job. Harris will present another challenge.
Offensively, outside of Harris, Duke has a pair of talented backs in Deon Jackson and Mataeo Durant. The Blue Devils have three talented weapons in the passing game in receivers Jalon Calhoun and Aaron Young and tight end Noah Gray. Duke has been doing some interesting stuff through the first month, running some triple option which has to make Foster’s head spin. It gives the Hokies something else to prepare for and it’s an offense that has given the Hokies trouble over the years.
Defensively, Duke returned eight starters, including everyone up front. The most notable player is junior defensive end Victor Dimukeje. Dimukeje has gotten off to a bit of a slow start but others along the defensive front have picked up the slack and got after opposing QBs. The Blue Devils also feature a veteran secondary, which, depending on which Ryan Willis we get, could cause some problems for Tech’s offense. Safety Dylan Singleton is Duke’s top tackler and the Blue Devils like to move him around on the defense.
This is a game that is probably a toss-up. Duke will have success moving the football, so Tech’s offense must take care of the football. Is Willis up the challenge? Or is this the game we see Hendon Hooker or Quincy Patterson?