Perhaps the best news of the day was that freshman quarterback Thaddeus Lewis was not expected to miss any significant time after being knocked out of the game on a series of nasty late hits. The real question is will the ACC hand down any disciplinary action on either Aaron Rouse or Frank Beamer? Probably not.
For the third straight week the effort and performance of the defensive line against the run was up to ACC standards. Tech's Branden Ore had one good run of 15 yards, but after that he has held to just 49 yards on 14 carries. As a group the Hokies were held to an average of just 3.1 yards per carry.
After Lewis went out, displaced quarterback Marcus Jones came in and had some positive moments. Despite the tremendous pass rush he continually faced, Jones completed 75% of his passes and gave Duke its best scoring chance of the afternoon with a 40 yard strike to Eron Riley.
Sticking with the silver lining theme, the running backs didn't cough up the ball on Saturday and both Justin Boyle and Tielor Robinson had their moments. The Blue Devils continued to look for the tight ends in the passing game with Nick Stefanow catching three balls (30% of the completed passes) for 21 yards.
Sophomore Alex Feinberg was the team's only bright spot on special teams, averaging more than 42 yards per kick (though his net average was just 24.1 yards thanks to poor coverage).
What Went Wrong:
No one really gave the Blue Devils a chance to win in Blacksburg, but that doesn't excuse some of the poor execution exhibited by Duke on Saturday.
The special teams were once again the bane of Duke's existence with the Hokies averaging 20.1 yards per punt return including the 58 yard punt return for a touchdown with under a minute remaining in the first quarter, which seemed to take any remaining wind out of the Blue Devils' sails. In his only cameo of the game, sophomore kicker Joe Surgan promptly sent his only kickoff attempt out of bounds.
Given that the Duke offense was struggling to advance the ball against the blitz happy Hokies, any time Virginia Tech had a chance to improve their field position only magnified the mismatch. Be it poorly covered punts, or errant kickoffs out of bounds, Duke isn't to the point in the rebuilding process that they can give away yardage -- a point that will likely be addressed in the next two weeks.
For all the run stopping ability exhibited by the defense, the Virginia Tech quarterback was rarely troubled with any kind of pass rushing pressure. Given the time he needed, Sean Glennon picked apart the Duke secondary - routinely picking on Deonto McCormick and his runningmates. The Hokie signal caller also went after preseason All-ACC selection John Talley, and had it not been for a poor throw, Talley would have been burned on a 60 yarder down the sideline.
In an effort to minimize the number of big plays, the Blue Devils softened the coverage by the corners at the line of scrimmage. And yet the Hokie receivers were still able to get behind and past their opponents to the tune of 19.8 yards per completion. Simply stated, this must improve.
Ted Roof acknowledged that a lot of things didn't go in favor of the Blue Devils on Saturday. Frankly, there wasn't anyone who thought Duke could go in and shock the world against the Hokies. And no one expected a top 15 nationally ranked opponent to make a point to remove a freshman quarterback from the field as part of the gameplan. All that aside, the Duke coaching staff realizes that their team simply cannot afford the kind of mental lapses that lead to huge chunks of yards and points for the opposition.
"The thing I've like so far is that we've never quit," said Roof on Saturday. "We've done a good job against the run and now we have to find a way to be a consistent football team."
Unfortunately for Blue Devil faithful, that kind of consistentcy won't come until this young team makes some more costly mistakes and learns from them. Once that happens, all those little steps that Roof has spoken of over the past months and weeks will begin to look suspicously like bigger and bigger strides in the right direction.
Duke returns to action on September 30th against Virginia at home.