It was a beautiful day to take in a football game at Wallace Wade Stadium.
What went wrong:
Duke was completely overmatched in every phase of the game on Saturday. The defense probably played the best of all the units. They constantly had their backs against the wall since the offense couldn't gain any field position. The Duke defense only gave up 14 points in the first half, despite being on the field most of the time. They eventually tired in the second half, however, and the scoring flood gates opened. The defensive line was unable to generate a consistent pass rush against the Hokie offensive line, which left the defensive backs in coverage too long. The result was a few long touchdown passes for VT. Despite poor tackling throughout the game, Duke didn't play badly against the run, surrendering a respectable 4.1 yard per carry average to the Hokies.
On the other side of the ball, however, absolutely no positives can be taken from a ghastly performance. The offensive line was completely inept at opening holes in the running game. The Tech defensive line was able to penetrate the backfield constantly. The Duke running backs were often times getting hit before reaching the line of scrimmage. The result was a grand total of 13 yards rushing on 35 carries. When Duke tried to pass, things only got worse. The Devils were only able to complete a staggering 5 of 18 passes for 22 yards. The Tech defensive line got good, not great pressure on the Devils' quarterbacks. When Duke had time, the signal callers were not finding open receivers; a credit to the outstanding Tech coverage. When open receivers were found, they had trouble holding on to the ball. Overall, the offense was misfiring with all cylinders on Saturday.
TDD player of the game:
Very few Blue Devils played well on Saturday. One that did was outside linebacker Brendan Dewan. He was credited with 6 total tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and one sack. He also did an admiral job cutting off Tech's outside running game, forcing the action back in to the defensive pursuit. For his efforts, Dewan is this week's TDD player of the game.
This game is pretty simple to analyze. Duke was simply overmatched in every phase of the game, and needed a great performance to stay in the contest. They failed to turn in even a decent performance and were blown out. The offense was, to put it mildly, subpar for the second week in a row. Duke ran 53 total plays on offense and gained 35 yards of offense. Virginia Tech is a very good defensive team, but they aren't that good. The only positive you can take from this game is that the offense committed one turnover. Then again, that turnover was an interception returned for a touchdown.
Defensively, Duke was unable to stop Tech from making the big play. QB Marcus Vick was able to throw two long touchdown passes which took the wind out of the Devils' sails. Vick was able to get very comfortable in the pocket due to the lack of a consistent pass rush. Duke did a decent job against the run taking on blockers at the point of attack. Poor tackling, however, allowed VT to gain significant yardage after first contact.
One area of great concern for Duke this season has been covering kicks, especially punt coverage. On several occasions, Tech was able to set up their blocking walls and get big gains on their returns. Only punter Chris Sprague saved the Devils from giving up a return TD. Duke must find a way to improve in this area of the game, or it will come to haunt them in a close game.
Duke will play the second of a two-game home stand this weekend as they will host the division 1-AA VMI Cadets. VMI has split their first two games. In their opener, they shut out hapless Davidson 33-0. Last week, they were on the receiving end of a 41-7 thrashing at the hands of William and Mary. After facing a top-5 division one team, this will be a big step down in terms of athleticism and ability of their opponent. Still, after such a miserable performance this past week, Duke cannot afford to take anyone lightly. This will give the Duke coaches a chance to jump start the offense and fix some problems on the defensive side as well.