The end of the first quarter came to a close in Blacksburg last evening and Duke trailed Virginia Tech 3-0. The Blue Devils could not even manage ten yards of offense and there was not a single first down on the ledger.
What happened next has people talking about Duke Football and David Cutcliffe for the Blue Devils went on to outscore the favored Hokies by a score of 45-7.
When the dust cleared, Duke had dominated Virginia Tech in Blacksburg 45-10 in a game that served notice to the nation. The Blue Devils won their ACC opener in grand style before a nationally televised audience on ESPN.
The Blue Devils were so dominant that they sent Virginia Tech fans to the exits with their first score in the third quarter. Duke also spoiled the Hokies white-out party where former head coach Frank Beamer and player Michael Vick were on the sidelines.
This was one of David Cutcliffe's finest moments, but it was also one for the program on the whole. Duke not only won by their largest margin on the road ever under their long-time coach, but they handed a traditionally strong program their worst defeat since 1950.
It is hard to know where to start when talking about the positives from the win. Quintin Harris was once again solid accounting for three touchdowns as the new leader of the team. He gained a team-leading 100 yards in rushing including an explosive back-breaking 42-yard jaunt to go with two passing touchdowns.
Tight end, Noah Gray caught two touchdown passes. The first came on a one-play drive after a turnover. Turnover was a sweet word on the evening. Duke recovered a fumble which led to a score and a momentum swing and the secondary got their first interception on the season from Leon Johnson.
True freshman wideout, Jalon Calhoun connected on a double-pass trick play to Deon Jackson for a score. And this is where I mention Duke offensive coordinator Zac Roper called a near-perfect game for three-quarters.
And on defense, the Blue Devils held the Hokies offensive attack to 259 yards. But a closer look shows that if you take away two plays, a 45-yard run and a 72-yard touchdown pass the Hokies gained a mere 142 yards.
Duke limited explosive plays while making some of their own. And when their strategy failed them in the first quarter, they made adjustments that drove their opponent mad. The change of pace on offense and the personnel packages was quite simply masterful coaching.
And then there was the special teams play. Josh Blackwell almost broke a return save a slip. AJ Reed stayed perfect on the season with a 31-yard field goal. And punter Austin Parker rolled for 28 yards on a fake punt, which interestingly gives him bragging rights for the highest yards per carry of any player on the team this season.
Back to the defensive side of the ball, Duke senior linebacker Koby Quansah was stellar. He recovered that key fumble and was a part of 13 tackles and a half of a sack. On a night when Duke managed a single sack, their secondary played well shutting down Hokies quarterback Ryan Willis for all but a handful of plays.
Another highlight for Duke was getting backup quarterback Chris Katrenick some snaps. And he wanted in on the fun as well as witnessed by his 9-yard run for a score to mark the final margin of victory.
While Duke got off to a miserable start, they showed off some maturity that has not always been there in the past. The players were clearly tougher, more physical and quicker than their opponent and they let it show.
I cannot help but wonder if David Cutcliffe wanted to show the nation more about Duke football on a Friday night to remember. Duke dressed in their black uniforms played the tough guy role on this occasion and did so with authority.
It is no secret Daniel Jones has had a great NFL debut, but some in the media felt the need to take shots at Duke Football when speaking of him. Nevermind the team has been to 6 bowls in the last 7 seasons. So, perhaps last nights performance will make some of them come around as they did with the aforementioned Jones.
Wins like the one over Virginia Tech cannot help but gain some attention and Duke likely helped itself with any possible recruits watching or seeing the result.
So, this was a program win. Duke Gang should be proud as should the fans who ought to turn out in appreciation next Saturday when the team takes on Pitt.
While this is an ultimate feel-good moment for Duke alumni, family, friends and fans, the Blue Devils will soon need to go back to work to continue to build on their most recent accomplishment. That is, of course, after some well deserved weekend celebration.
Duke has a two-game homestand coming up in Wallace Wade Stadium on Brooks Field and fans will hopefully turn out to support the team. The next step in the journey is to solve one of the most physical teams in football -- the Pitt Panthers.
As David Cutcliffe likes to say, "Are you ready for some football?"
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