“We’ve won some one-on-one battles,” he said. “And we’ve improvised and made things happen when things haven’t been blocked exactly right. It’s all of us — it’s the running backs; it’s the offensive line; it’s receivers blocking down field; it’s tight ends — it all goes together. When presented with it, I’ve got all the confidence that our guys can make someone miss and make something out of nothing.”
The defense, too, will have its hands full as Duke brings in two threats at quarterback; starter Sean Renfree has thrown for 1,282 yards and nine touchdowns for a 72 percent completion rate, while back up Anthony Boone stepped in for an injured Renfree last week and ambushed UVa with 212 yards and four touchdowns.
This week, the defense is preparing for both quarterbacks as it will likely see action from both. More importantly though, the defense is focusing on fundamentals such as wrapping up the ball carrier during tackles.
“We’ve got to get back to the basics,” said defensive coordinator Bud Foster. “We’ve got to make plays in space. That’s what we’re not doing. Our defense is designed, and most defenses are designed, to have a free hitter. And when you have a free hitter there, you’d like him to make the play. Right now, we’re not making the play.”
In addition to the quarterback threat, Duke has multiple weapons in the receiving game as nine different Blue Devils have caught at least one touchdown pass this season. Leading the group is wide receiver Conner Vernon, who has 41 receptions for 555 yards and five touchdowns this season. Vernon now holds the all-time ACC receptions record with 239, and with 3,230 career receiving yards, is on pace to break Florida State wide receiver Peter Warrick’s all-time ACC receiving yards record.
Cornerback Antone Exum isn’t surprised by Duke’s success, but he and the rest of the defense will certainly be looking to slow Vernon’s roll.
“Since I’ve been here, we’ve had close games with them,” Exum said. “So we’ve known they’re a talented group. It was just, when were they going to put it all together? And it seems like maybe this is that year for them. They had a pretty successful start. Hopefully, we can tame that a bit.”
No matter how you slice this matchup, the Hokies face a tough challenge in taming Duke and will have to dig in deep to defend Lane Stadium against a streaking Blue Devils team.