Duke 'hurting' after another close call

Another chance to establish some big time momentum was lost on Saturday when Duke couldn't convert a number of chances against Virginia Tech.

The Blue Devils probably surprised most observers by flirting with an upset of Virginia Tech before losing 14-10. That was far from satisfying.

"We just couldn't finish it at the end," receiver Conner Vernon said.

So the Blue Devils ended a three-game homestand with three losses. Now they'll have to win three of their final four games to become bowl eligible, which is something that hasn't happed for the Duke program since 1994.

The latest close calls (a one-point loss to Wake Forest the week prior to Virginia Tech's visit) are no consolation.

"All of us are hurting," coach David Cutcliffe said. "For maybe 90 to 95 percent of the game, we played as best we could. We left a lot of points on the field and offensively we didn't convert on third down or in the red zone."

The Blue Devils threatened late in the game, but they needed a touchdown because of earlier missed field goals. Those missed kicks changed the complexion of the game.

--The Blue Devils were looking for deep passes against Virginia Tech, a significant change of pace from their previous game. "It was definitely part of the plan," WR Conner Vernon said. "... We felt we could get behind them."

Coach David Cutcliffe said there's enough talent among the team's receivers that the Blue Devils need to force opponents to cover all parts of the field.

--The Blue Devils have put together three stellar halves of defense going back to the second half against Wake Forest, which managed only one first down across the final 30 minutes, and in the game against Virginia Tech. In holding the Hokies to 14 points, the Blue Devils intercepted two passes. It was the first multi-interception game of the season for Duke's defense.

KEEP AN EYE ON: TE Cooper Helfet -- He has been receiving more touches in recent games. He has more than one catch in the past three games.

LOOKING GOOD: The Blue Devils shut out an opponent in the second half of a game for the second time this season, perhaps an indication that the depth on defense is improving. S Matt Daniels has been at the center of it, doing his part with 13 tackles and two interceptions against Virginia Tech.

STILL NEEDS WORK: The Blue Devils came away without points with three missed field goals by senior K Will Snyderwine, who received national honors a year ago. He missed from 38, 57 and 29 yards. The 57-yard attempt came on the final play of the first half.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Simply put, I lost the game for my teammates. I let the team down." -- K Will Snyderwine, who missed three field goals in the 14-10 loss to Virginia Tech.

--WR Conner Vernon was held without a touchdown but that didn't keep him from making big plays against Virginia Tech. He's still the team's best downfield threat and he showed that by making four catches for an average of 22 yards per reception. That's the second-highest single-game mark of the junior's career.

--P Alex King is turning into a weapon for the Blue Devils. He punted three times against Virginia Tech, and each time those punts went inside the 20-yard line.

--RB Desmond Scott is rounding into form after he was slowed during the first half of the season by injuries. He racked up 101 all-purpose yards against Virginia Tech, marking the highest total of the season for him in that category.

--S Matt Daniels has been a standout for much of the past couple of seasons. The senior intercepted more than one pass in a game for the first time in his career Saturday against Virginia Tech. Three of his four career inceptions have come against the Hokies.

--LB Kelby Brown's 13 tackles against Virginia marked a career-high total for the sophomore. He has reached a double-digit total for tackles in three games this season and five times in his career.

--S Jordon Byas, a redshirt junior whose role has been increasing, made a career-high seven tackles against Virginia Tech. That included a tackle for a loss for the first time this year.

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