Not only that, but the Blue Devils might have a difficult time flushing their last outing because the one-point setback to Wake Forest was filled with what-ifs.
"It just makes you sick," coach David Cutcliffe said. "One first down in the second half and it beats you."
So Duke's defense was finally a bright spot given its performance in the final two quarters. Of course, that one first down was a 66-yard touchdown pass play that put Wake Forest in position to kick the game-winning extra point.
Cutcliffe's emphasis is turning from that loss and looking at what confronts his team. He said this might be the most complete Virginia Tech team the Blue Devils have had to deal with since he arrived at Duke.
The Blue Devils have lost two games in a row.
"We just have to learn how to come out at the start of the game," receiver Conner Vernon said. "Hopefully, we can figure it out."
NOTES, QUOTES --Duke ran 91 plays in the loss to Wake Forest. That's the most plays run by the Blue Devils in a game since they took 92 snaps in a 2003 loss at Maryland.
--The Blue Devils have been miffed by their lack of discipline and coach David Cutcliffe said he takes responsibility for that. One piece of evidence that mistakes are chipping away at the impact of their good plays comes from the fact that the Blue Devils completed 16 of 19 first-half passes against Wake Forest yet produced only three points in the half.
SERIES HISTORY: Virginia Tech leads Duke 11-7, including a 7-0 record in ACC play.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The rushing attack shows flashes of moving in the right direction, but there's not enough there on a consistent basis to take pressure off the passing attack. The passing game might look to become more vertical after stretches of wide passes created plenty of completions for QB Sean Renfree but not a lot of yards against Wake Forest. The line could be a strength with C Brian Moore back in the mix and it will need all the extra depth against Virginia Tech's defensive front.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The defensive coverage was sound against Wake Forest, so that was an area that looked improved despite one second-half breakdown that proved costly. Even with the better coverage, pressuring the quarterback produces only so much positive results if a sack isn't made. So limiting quarterbacks from escaping the pocket will be an area the Blue Devils will look to refine.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "That's our problem. That's why we're not a good team. We're always 'if-ing' about things. 'If' this. 'If' that." -- Coach David Cutcliffe on the team's inability to sustain success, leaving the possibility of a season with a losing record for the 16th consecutive year.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Virginia Tech at Duke, Oct. 29 -- Virginia Tech is in control of its destiny in the league as it visits the state of North Carolina for the second time in three weeks. Duke holds a two-game losing streak after a three-game win streak.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Duke needs to be more productive on offense and limit mistakes that have short-circuited recent scoring opportunities. The Blue Devils aren't overly big on defense and so they'll be tested against some of the bulk that Virginia Tech will send at them.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
LB Kelby Brown -- He brings a physical element to the defense and the Blue Devils figure to need that against Virginia Tech. He was involved in 2 1/2 tackles for losses against Wake Forest, accounting for minus-18 yards.
QB Anthony Boone -- He's the backup used mostly in short-yardage situations. But he has been effective by scoring on four of his 22 carries this year. So if he's in the game, the Blue Devils are expecting some production.
K Will Snyderwine -- After missing his first four attempts on field goals this year, he's 6-for-6 since then. That pushes his career mark to 44 of 54.
--CB Johnny Williams has been in and out of the lineup because of a leg injury. He has been listed as questionable and it will be determined if it might be best to sit him out a week in order to get him back to full strength.
--QB Sean Renfree has been dealing with some back and hip ailments, some of which are compounded problems from earlier in the season. But he needed to be on the field late in the Wake Forest game with backup QB Anthony Boone not as in tune with the two-minute offense.
--LB David Helton's solid outing with a couple of big plays vs. Wake Forest might not translate into lots of extra playing time as the freshman tries to work his way into a rotation. Coach David Cutcliffe said Helton's playing time might still be largely situational, though the coaching staff is gaining more confidence in him.