Virginia Tech will face off against the 2–1 Duke Blue Devils on Friday night. Both teams will come in with the same record and are looking to get their first ACC win. With an extra week to prepare, the Hokies must be ready to go if they want to get back on track to contend for the Coastal Division.
What Duke brings to the table
The Blue Devils’ offensive success begins and ends with quarterback Quentin Harris. The dual-threat redshirt senior played relatively well in relief of now-NFL quarterback Daniel Jones last season, but was benched when Jones came back from injury before the Virginia Tech game. Now the starter, Harris is beginning to prove himself this season both through the air and on the ground, throwing for 679 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions on a masterful 72% completion rate to go along with 203 yards and a touchdown running the ball.
Head coach David Cutcliffe is known as a quarterback guru, and his work has really shown through with Harris. Though most of his success has come against poor competition, the new starter shows patience in the pocket, working through his progressions and not forcing anything. His footwork is beautiful and you won’t catch him staring down his receiver.
Obviously, the other factor he brings is mobility. The Hokies will not be able to run man coverage at all against him or they will get burnt. As of right now, Harris is on pace to throw for over 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns (given a bowl game) which would be even better than Jones, who was the sixth pick in last years draft.
He’ll have to prove it against the Virginia Tech defense though.
Fortunately for him, he will have help from his dynamic one-two punch at receiver, as they try to attack Virginia Tech’s corners. Aaron Young, a big-bodied redshirt senior caught six passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns two weeks ago against Middle Tennessee State. His counterpart, Jalon Calhoun, is a speedy freshman who caught eight passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns the week before.
The Hokies will also have to watch out for the Blue Devils edge duo of Chris Rumph II and Victor Dimukeje as they’ve racked up constant pressure early this season. Other than that, Duke has been rather pedestrian thus far on defense as its linebackers have consistently missed their gaps and allowed big runs.
What the Hokies need to do to beat Duke
Virginia Tech will have to gameplan well to beat a solid Duke team this Friday. A short passing game combined with a healthy dose of Keshawn King should do the trick on offense. Defense will be a tougher task.
The Hokies’ best chance to stop the Blue Devils may be to play nickel sets and allow slot corner Chamarri Conner to play as a spy or contain man to minimize Harris’ effectiveness in the running game. Divine Deablo and Reggie Floyd will have to take away the deep middle of the field. As for the front seven, it will be a challenge to create a pass rush against the Blue Devils, but the Hokies cannot blitz or Harris will burn them.
This game looks as if it will come down to everybody doing their job on defense. If Bud Foster’s guys can hold Duke to under 20 points, the Hokies should come out with a win and get back into fighting for the ACC Coastal Division.