Tag Archives: Duke-Virginia Tech

Duke-Virginia Tech Friday Night Lights

Duke will take on Virginia Tech tonight at 7:00 on ESPN in a rare Friday night appearance.  The stakes are more than a little high for both teams find themselves at a season crossroads.  Both teams are 2-1 and while this is the ACC opener for Duke, Virginia Tech lost to Boston College in their opening game.  Since that time, the Hokies have won two straight games as have the Blue Devils.  To say this game is huge in a quest for competing in the Coastal Division is an understatement.  What does it all mean?  It will be a tense game where both teams lay it on the line.

About the Hokies

Expectations are always high in Blacksburg and this season is an important one for their head coach, Justin Fuente.  Hokies fans are currently mildly depressed that the team struggled to defeat Furman and Old Dominion, but that is because they are spoiled by lineage and expect a lot.

In hindsight, the 14 point win over Old Dominion looks much better now after they almost took down Virginia.  What I am saying is there is some overreaction by some in Blacksburg.  It is also clear, the Hokies have plenty of size and talent where they can throw two running backs at teams and a large offensive front.

While the Hokies have moved some people around on the offensive front, they are huge.  They also are likely to try to establish their running game more and like Duke, have had an off week to adjust their system.

Virginia Tech also hired respected former Minnesota coach Jerry Kill to their staff.  This means, they have had a lot of people studying Duke on film.  The Hokies main strength is the their quarterback, Ryan Willis.  He chewed up the Duke defense a season ago in a 31-14 win over a then-ranked and undefeated Duke team.  That loss sent Duke reeling for a bit before they found their way to a sixth win.

The bottom line is the Hokies in Blacksburg will lay it all on the line.  They have tall wideouts, a defense coached by a legendary Bud Foster.

About the Blue Devils

Duke coach David Cutcliffe has a solid relationship with Fuente and Foster.  But he and his staff must put that aside and have an almost perfect effort to win their ACC opener.  Duke has looked good since their season-opening loss to #2 Alabama.

A big reason for Duke winning their last two games has been the play of senior quarterback Quentin Harris.  The dual-threat Harris has been able to blend in well with pretty much an all new and very young group of receivers.

Last year, one of the more disappointing losses came at home to the Hokies.  In that game, Duke was undefeated and ranked but fell behind quickly and let down a capacity crowd in Wallace Wade Stadium.

The measuring stick for this season comes against the Hokies.  This is a huge game for the Blue Devils, who own one of the nations most difficult schedules.  In short, they need this win for bowl aspirations.

Duke is more than capable of coming out with a win.  But an untimely turnover or lack of early aggression could derail their hopes.  But it will also take four quarters of football and the thought here is Duke wants to be in the game in the fourth quarter.

What needs to happen for a win

Duke did not get pressure on Ryan Willis a season ago and if they allow him time he will pick them apart.  It has been a very long time since the Duke secondary has come away with an interception, so one of those to break the ice would surely help.  Duke will need to be resilient for they can expect some haymakers thrown their way.

What will happen

Firstly, I see a close game.  Virginia Tech opened as a 7 point favorite and that has dropped to 3.  I have seen that kind of movement go both ways, so while I am 3-0 straight up and 3-0 against the spread with predictions, I am swaying back and forth on what will happen tonight.

Conventional wisdom says pick the Hokies for the win.  It has been a few years since Duke won this game in overtime when Thomas Sirk showed the blueprint on how to win.  That blueprint was to play hard and when punched, punch harder.

I think Duke held Quentin Harris back a little when they went to an option a week ago.  But can Duke show enough new wrinkles to overcome the like of Jerry Kill helping the Hokies out or Bud Foster adjusting his defense after a bye week?

When teams get a week off, some improve greatly.  I think this will happen with the Hokies who feel they have to play better football.  On the other hand, Cutcliffe teams play well with time to prepare,

To date, the Hokies have turned the ball over a lot this season.  But a week off may cure that.  On the other side of the ball, the Duke defense has forced just 3 turnovers and had to steal a possession against Middle Tennessee State with an onside kick.

My common gut says to pick the Hokies 34-28.  My heart says it is time for Duke to win 31-28.

In short, this one can go either way.  For more on the intangibles and things I will not mention here, join Blue Devil Nation during our yearly special.

The pick is Duke 28-27



Today’s Q & A With David Cutcliffe

DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Obviously this is our biggest test to date and the best team we've played, a team we're very familiar with, a program we're very familiar with. I don't think there's anybody that you can respect more than the way they do things, have done things. I think Justin Fuente has just been tremendous there. Bud Foster is an icon in the business.

This is the thing -- the benchmark. This is where you find out what kind of program you've got. Our guys have practiced hard. We'd better, because we're going to be in for a big challenge, obviously, this Saturday night.

I'll take questions.

Q. Bud Foster and obviously the stability that he's brought to the defensive coordinator's role, you had some stability there with Coach Knowles. How would you evaluate how you guys have transitioned with Ben and Matt in those roles this season?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, it's a unique circumstance, and I realized that as I did an evaluation -- Jim Knowles and I talked a lot about this when Jim -- when he was offered the job at Oklahoma State, he and I were on the road together recruiting. You know, I did a lot of thinking.

But the reason that we went co-defensive coordinators is the quality of the people that we have in Ben and Matt and the quality of the rest of the staff, Derek Jones and Lanier Goethie. So we're at a point where we're still growing in that regard, but we clearly defined their roles. It is a transition, but our players were very familiar with both coaches. We have had a lot of stability in this program, so that helps a great deal.

We certainly wouldn't be the same without Jim Knowles. There's no question about that. But we have continued to try every year to grow and build on what we're doing, and I think Ben Albert and Matt Guerrieri have done a great job of doing that.

Q. Is one of the biggest challenges they and you have faced is the injury situation in the secondary, just having to plug different guys in and switch roles and such?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Yeah, it was the most unique thing. It started, obviously, at Northwestern, and then it escalated at Baylor. It's been unique. It's a great tribute to our assistant coaches. They've recruited well. We do have some really good young players in the secondary, and they're performing at a high level. They hopefully have -- when you come in here, you develop great practice habits, and so if it does happen, that makes it a little easier to adjust.

But very proud of our -- not only our staff in that regard but proud of our players, you know, just managing adversity. And there will be more to come, not only here playing football but in life. I am proud of them. We've just got to continue along that path.

Q. I'm writing a story about the nomadic lifestyle of assistant coaches, and wondering if there isn't a little bit of a trend toward giving a little more security to assistants by longer contracts, and a second part of the question, do you think there's -- have you ever seen anything really unusual happen within the style of jumping from one program to another?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Yeah, I think it's been a long-standing trend for certain people. When I was a younger assistant, a young assistant at the University of Tennessee, we were working without contracts, period, not one year. Just no contract. We had a pretty revolving door. I was there for 17 years, and the number of different assistant coaches that I worked with was in the upper 30s.

I never -- I think that's sometimes personal preference. I think there are a lot of people -- I think it's problematic to people because I do think, and I tell young coaches this all the time, be where your feet are. I've known a lot of people in the industry that were always trying to get the next job, spending more time trying to get the next job than doing a great job with the one they've got.

I do believe that if you have assistant coaches that are committed to your program, they're doing what they should be doing, I think they should earn longer term contracts. Two- and three-year contracts are becoming more commonplace. Buyouts are now more commonplace for assistant coaches because with that security goes a price with it, and if the university is going to commit to that, most universities now are going to require some form of buyout where people don't just jump.

So it's an interesting era in football. It's changed quite a bit since I got into it.

Q. Anything really unusual that stands out to you that happened along the way, like owning three houses at one time or --
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, I mean, I can tell you this: It was interesting, guys I worked with that came from California that sold houses were shocked what they could buy out east. They were in mansions in my mind. That certainly happened. But I know Derek Jones on our staff, between being a graduate assistant for us at Ole Miss and then kind of jumping around, he had a couple of homes and was -- you're trying to lease homes and you're not there, and it certainly can end up being a nightmare.

I've always -- I guess maybe I'm just old-fashioned, but I've always liked being in a place, particularly when our children were young, trying to raise our children in some form of normalcy. So it's an interesting study. I think that's a great idea to write an article about.

Q. If you look at the way they struggled defensively in the secondary against Old Dominion, when you're looking at that, are you seeing schematic breakdowns, guys just getting beat, or what did you make of that?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, I would say for the biggest part, it's an outlier, and that's taking nothing away from ODU. Good gracious, they made great plays and they were ready and well-coached. But everything just kind of fell right. I mean, literally just fell right. You hate to call anything luck, but it was like, okay, you play zone, they scrambled and then just found a way to make a gain to keep a drive alive. You play man, the ball just dropped down right in the exact right spot. I mean, it literally was like that.

I've watched Virginia Tech defense for a long time now. It is storied, as we all know, its excellence in athletes, its excellence in coaching strategy and scheme. So it's just one game. Really, honestly, that's the honest answer I can give you.

Q. As you watch them, No. 94, their defensive end, who they dismissed from the team, are there moments that you're prepping for a game and you see him and think, man, I'm glad he's not going to be somebody I have to deal with?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Well, I've got too many -- there's 10 others, 11 others that you're worried about. I think he was a really fine player. I don't know the young man at all. But there's no question he was an outstanding football player.

Q. I'm just wondering if there's maybe a right word or description to kind of nail down the energy or vibe amongst your guys just going into a national TV game? I'm sure they obviously know what's at stake, but if there's one thing you've taken away from their energy this week.
DAVID CUTCLIFFE: Yeah, I think that's a really good point because I have watched it. I think our program has grown from different points where we had big games that you worried about getting too hyper, too into the moment as opposed to preparing for a ballgame. I think right now what I would say is focused. These kind of games should create focus, but that's what I've seen, and hopefully that carries over into Saturday night.

BDN’s Virginia Tech Q&A Preview with Gobbler Country

Sean Renfree hopes to get back on track against the Hokies - Lance Images/BDN

In preparation for this weekend’s matchup in Blacksburg, BDN exchanged a Q&A with the folks at Gobbler Country. Our responses can be viewed over at their website. Riding a 5-game winning streak, the Hokies’ are confident heading into Saturday. The Blue Devils will have a great challenge and opportunity in Lane Stadium.

BDN: Heading into the week 1 matchup with Boise State, expectations were obviously high for the Hokies, but they ended up starting the season 0-2. With the recent losses at the top of the BCS, how disappointed are Virginia Tech fans? With Taylor graduating, was this a missed opportunity?

GC: I'm not sure if disappointed is the right word. For a lot of fans, there was a meltdown of epic proportions after the loss to JMU. Me, I just drank (and drank, and drank, and drank ...) but at the end of the day, there was still the chance to win the ACC if they got their act together.

And that was the expectation all along for me. I figured our best case scenario was winning the ACC and anything else would just be icing. I don't know if I'd go as far as to say it was a missed opportunity because I didn't think the defense would be good enough at the start of the season for us to actually go unbeaten and have a shot at the title.

I'm definitely not among the fans who feel like every year is National Title or Bust. But eventually, I'd like to see us at least be in the discussion in November. But with the way we tend to play in September that will never happen.

BDN: What, in your opinion, went wrong in weeks 1 and 2, and what has been the difference in the current 5-game winning streak?

GC: The defense was young and missed tackles and assignments and the offensive line was terrible. Both sides of the ball have gotten their act together, especially the offensive line. You look at how it played in those first four games compared to the last three and it's completely night and day. On defense, we've had some younger guys start to make plays like Bruce Taylor at mike linebacker and Antone Exum in the secondary. They're still young and giving up big plays, but more often than not they make the play they're supposed to make.

BDN: It sounds like Ryan Williams will be back this week. How do you expect that to affect the offense, which seems to be hitting its stride?

GC: It looks like he'll only be in for a couple of series, and I imagine he'll get around five carries. I really don't know what to expect. When he was in there, the offensive line wasn't opening holes and he was getting bottled up in the backfield. I like to think that he'll be able to fit right in and eventually get back to his 2009 form, but I fear that we'll try to rely on him too much when he gets back to 100 percent.

BDN: Duke has played Virginia Tech tough the past two years. Why do you think that is, and do you expect that to continue this year with what you've seen of both teams in 2010?

GC: If Thad Lewis had played in 2008, there's a good chance you guys would have beaten us. We were awful on offense that game and couldn't stop turning the ball over. The last two years Duke has tried to take away Virginia Tech's run game and was especially effective last season. However, Tyrod Taylor was able to burn them last year. What killed Duke a season ago was the inability to finish drives in the red zone. The Devils settled for field goals while the Hokies scored touchdowns.

This year, I really expect the Hokies to come out and dominate. Duke had some talent on defense last year, but it just isn't there this season. Hopefully they'll be able to put up big points like they did last week against Wake Forest and at the same time not give up the big plays that plagued them last week against Wake and last year against the Devils.

BDN: I don't know that Virginia Tech needs anyone off the Duke roster to significantly improve their chance of winning this one game, so I'll ask you a slightly different question. If you could draft a player or two from Duke's roster to have for future games and seasons, who would you choose and why?

GC: I'm going to cheat and take David Cutcliffe to be our quarterbacks coach. No offense to Mike O'Cain, but he hasn't exactly produced any Peyton Mannings in his time in Blacksburg. Tyrod Taylor has steadily improved his passing abilities, but I can only imagine what having a guy like Cutcliffe around could do for him. Heck, Cut could have probably made Sean Glennon All-ACC.

Devils play with a lot of heart but fall short to Hokies 34-26

thadDurham, N.C. - The Duke Blue Devils showed a lot of heart on a beautiful Saturday afternoon but came up short against the defending ACC Champions Virginia Tech.  The Hokie 34-26 win boosts their record to 3-1 while Duke falls to 2-3 on the season.  The Hokies made some big plays on the day which proved to be the difference.  Most of those plays were made in their passing game where Tyrod Taylor was deadly accurate going 17 of 22 for 327 yards and two touchdowns.  His main target was Jarrett Boykin who pulled in 6 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown.

But it was a controversial call that had many turning their heads when the ACC officials awarded Boykin a touchdown calling it a simultaneous catch.  But the real catch is that his feet were clearly out of bounds in post game pictures, yet the replay crew did not overturn the call.  Regardless, that one play wouldn't have changed the outcome but it would have made the score closer.

Duke was impressive standing toe to toe with a team most feel will win the ACC.  Thaddeus Lewis has a huge game throwing for 359 yards and completing 22 of 40 passes, two for scores.  Like Tech, Duke had some big plays of their own.  True freshman Conner Vernon, Donovan Varner and Brandon King had catches of 74, 55 and 48 yards respectively.

The Devils struggled in their running game, but another true freshman Desmond Scott continued to give fans a glance of the future averaging 4.9 yards per carry on his way to 39 yards.  It was also the rushing game that came alive for the Hokies late which helped them put the icing on the cake.

After the game, Coach Cutcliffe was pleased with his teams effort and there were few people going into this game that could have envisioned the Devils playing a spirited and tough game.  In fact, Duke had a chance at recovering an onside kick with second left and a score and a two point conversion would have tied the game.

"We don't believe in moral victories," said Cutcliffe after the game, but Duke fans that showed up for the contest were entertained and there is reason to think that if Duke can be consistent then they can turn the corner in upcoming ACC contests.

Team Stat Comparison
1st Downs 21 17
Total Yards 477 397
Passing 327 359
Rushing 150 38
Penalties 12-105 7-44
3rd Down Conversions 8-12 7-19
4th Down Conversions 0-0 3-3
Turnovers 1 0
Possession 29:25 30:35

Check back in for Cutcliffe audio and a photo gallery from the game.

Duke – Virginia Tech game thoughts, future thoughts and pictures

2It was just over a week ago that many were writing the Blue Devils off after a road loss to Boston College.  Duke defeated a game Virginia Tech team 72-65 on Saturday to win their fourth consecutive game and in the process pushed their record to 24-5 overall and 10-4 in the tough Atlantic Coast Conference.  Here are some thoughts from the game and the future -

Coach K and his staff were emotional throughout the contest - Yes, Krzyzewski raised his chair before setting it down during one timeout.  While that may have seemed unusual, his intent was to get his teams attention.  Krzyzewski was at his best and his intensity has picked up of late, but he at no time lost his composure.  In fact the staff was intense, each one pushing the right buttons at the right time and each one knowing their role.  This years team is one that needs that extra push for intensity and they have adjusted to that need.  I can see tremendous growth in first year coach Nate James work as well.  James tutoring of freshman Elliot Williams is worth noting.

Duke was cool under pressure-Once again Duke committed just nine

BDN Photo
BDN Photo

turnovers and the team effectively took the Hokie Nation out of the game after they made a comeback to tie the contest late in the second half.  At no time did Duke look shaken.  In fact, they looked like a team that was all business even when the game took a turn.

BDN Photo
BDN Photo

Coach K's move to get Singler involved -Coach Krzyzewski knew that it would be tough to win the game without getting his star Kyle Singler involved.  Singler had just two points at the half and Duke ran a clear out for him at the start of the second half.  Singler was fouled on the play and from that point on he was a go to guy in the game and finished with 21 points.  With Henderson held somewhat in check after the half, Singler was the glue as the game entered crunch time.

Gerald Henderson is on fire - Henderson has flat out been hard to stop down the stretch.  He's throwing down authoritative dunks with ease and knocking down his outside shots making him an opposing coaches nightmare in how to stop him.  Henderson put the Devils on his back in the first half and no player in the ACC is playing better down the stretch towards the ACC Tournament.  Henderson's most impressive stat, IMO, was his 6 assists.

Elliot Williams has become a mainstay -Williams scored just 7 points but hit a key three pointer to put Duke ahead ten.  The freshman logged 33 minutes and played solid defense.

Steady as she goes- Jon Scheyer has been a hit at the point guard spot.  He had just one assist and threw two turnovers, but that's not bad for a game high 39 minutes of play for the Blue Devils.  What I mean is that he is protecting the ball.  Scheyer was 4 of 8 from the three point stripe and his free throws helped seal the win.

Dave McClure -This seniors contributions are heard to measure in the box score.  McClure is adding some toughness and it's obvious he knows his role in the system.  He had 4 rebounds, many coming at very key moments in the contest.

Hokie Nation- Virginia Tech students filled Cassell Coliseum like a wall of fans which was impressive.  The crowd was loud and a bit more tame than I expected them to be.  With the exception of the usual flings towards Paulus, they behaved.  Still, hearing the reaction of some fans and watching Seth Greenberg melt down is proof they don't foul in their minds.  It should be noted that Set seemed to apologize for fan reactions to Greg Paulus at games end.

Speaking of fouls - The Blue Devils played the driving lanes beautifully taking multiple charges.

Hats off to Vassalio - A.D. tried to put his team on his back and found many driving lanes for dunks in the Duke defense.  But it was his three point shooting which made the game close after Duke had gained a double digit lead.

It didn't help that - The Blue Devils contained Malcolm Delaney holding him to 2 of 12 from the field.  Despite his cold shooting, Delaney had a game high 8 assists.  Many of those came in that he could not get a clean shot off.

Don't look now but -I told some folks that Duke could win the ACC outright if they won their last three games.  Well, now that they won a tough game in Blacksburg, everyone is talking about that.  Still, do not look for Duke to look ahead to Carolina game with Florida State coming in on Tuesday.

At least it's ... -Senior Day on Tuesday and that should help with added emotion.  Duke fans should salute Greg Paulus and Dave McClure for their accomplishments.  A Florida State win would jumble the standings and this is pretty much a must win for Duke with concerns to momentum and ACC Tournament seeding.  I think we all know that winning in Chapel Hill on Senior Day will take and extra ordinary effort.  Still, you think Krzyzewski will have his team ready with a championship on the line?  Okay, first things first for Duke and that means taking out a Florida State team - a program which ruined JJ Redick and Shelden Williams Senior Day.

It's hard to believe -that the season is winding down and there is but a single home game left.  It's an exciting time and the lineup changes has made for an interesting finish.  At the moment, Duke is not stumbling down the stretch like last season.  Anyhow, the ACC Tournament is around the corner and it has the makings for the best one in years.  Then there is the NCAA seeding and the "real" season begins.  It'll be fun!

I will have more photos up later -