Saturday Lookback: Duke v VT

Reviewing the Blue Devils' trip to Blacksburg against the ACC's top team and looking forward to the rest of the year.

Duke isn't showing a lot of progress, at least on the scoreboard. The 44-7 loss at Virginia Tech can be classified as a rout and much of the optimism that surfaced during coach David Cutcliffe's first two seasons has faded in his third year.

That's because nothing appears to have changed with the results on the field. The Blue Devils have become blowout victims on a regular basis.

Duke trailed 27-0 at halftime at Virginia Tech. Further complicating matters an offense that was supposed to be ready to take the team to a higher place in the standings has regressed in recent weeks.

Coupled with the defense's inconsistency, it has meant some long days for the Blue Devils. The defense showed progress the previous two weeks, but it was picked apart by Virginia Tech, with quarterback Tyrod Taylor completing 13 of 17 passes. So some of the positive elements from the previous week against Miami were wiped to the side.

The Blue Devils had given Virginia Tech tussles the previous two seasons, so this was a step back.

Cutcliffe has stayed steadfast in his approach and he has insisted there's progress and that his team must stay the course. But that's going to be a tougher selling job if the Blue Devils don't appear more competitive in the next few weeks, beginning with a trip to Navy.

--The Blue Devils have recovered onside kicks in two consecutive games. K Will Snyderwine executed both of them. He added an element against Virginia Tech, when he recovered his onside kick to start the second half.

--Duke had only one visit inside the Virginia Tech 20-yard line, and the Blue Devils came away with a touchdown in the third quarter. The Blue Devils have scored on 21 of 23 times reaching the red zone this season, with 12 touchdowns and nine field goals.

GAME BALL GOES TO: P Alex King -- King had a 62-yard punt, marking his second boot of 60 yards or more this year. Three of his punts went for 50 yards or more and five were downed inside the 20-yard line.

KEEP AN EYE ON: QB Brandon Connette -- Normally a designated runner when he's put into games, Connette was the Blue Devils' top rusher against Virginia Tech with 43 yards. The freshman is averaging more than 4 yards per carry this season with 170 yards on 40 attempts.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "You prepare for crowd noise. You focus on your discipline. That's part of playing on the road and those environments." -- Coach David Cutcliffe, whose team played in front of a crowd of more than 40,000 for the first time this season in the loss to Virginia Tech. With the next game at Navy, it marks the only time this season the Blue Devils will play back-to-back road games.


LOOKING GOOD: LB Abraham Kromah was involved in 12 tackles at Virginia Tech, and he continues to be the team's most reliable tackler. On top of that, he was been credited with providing the defense with a leadership presence.

STILL NEEDS WORK: The Blue Devils are encountering as much trouble as success in their passing offense and apparently some retooling needs to take place. They completed only 12 of 36 pass attempts with two interceptions at Virginia Tech. While QB Sean Renfree has struggled, there's no obvious solution to jump-start the passing game.

--RB Josh Snead has shown some positive signs carrying the ball, but his number was called only twice (for a total of 2 yards) in the loss at Virginia Tech. He showed some dazzling potential with a 32-yard kickoff return.

--WR Donovan Varner moved into the top 10 in career receptions at Duke. The junior has 123 catches in his career, passing former players Mark Militello and Jomar Wright during the game at Virginia Tech.

--WR Conner Vernon caught six passes for 44 yards at Virginia Tech, accounting for half of the Blue Devils' catches. He showed a willingness to make tough catches and that's what the offense needs more than ever right now. With 43 catches in the first seven games, he's the first player in school history to make 40 or more receptions in each his freshman and sophomore seasons.

The Devils Den Top Stories