What went right:
Despite the final score, the Duke defense did not do a terrible job. There were a few bad plays, but overall they were able to slow down the Virginia Tech offense. The Devils recorded two interceptions, one each by Justin Kitchen and John Talley. Talley is quickly developing into a ballhawk, as he now has four interceptions in his last five games dating back to the 2003 season. The special teams also acquitted themselves well. They were able to prevent Virginia Tech’s vaunted unit from blocking a kick or breaking a long return. The Devils were even able to give the Hokies a taste of their own medicine, converting a fake punt into a first down.
A few new faces made an impact on offense. Running back Tim Ball made his Duke debut with 26 yards on 4 carries. Wide receiver Jomar Wright had his first career catch and later his first career touchdown while leading the Devils with 65 yards receiving. Quarterback Curt Dukes saw his first extended action under center, rushing for 23 yards and passing for 73 more and a touchdown. Wide receiver Deon Adams, who caught only one pass in 2003, scored a touchdown on his first play of the season on a 28-yard end-around.
What went wrong:
After the early Adams TD run, Duke was completely impotent on offense until the fourth quarter, when the outcome was already decided. Much of the credit goes to the Virginia Tech defense, which got excellent play out of the defensive line and secondary. As good as Tech was, however, much of Duke’s ineffectiveness was self-inflicted. The Hokies stacked the line against the run and dared the Devils to throw the ball down the field. The play-calling was vanilla, and the Duke quarterbacks once again were not able to complete passes to make the defense back off. When they were able to throw the ball on target, the receivers had trouble catching it.
Defensively, Duke starting missing tackles for stretches in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, probably due to fatigue from being on the field too much. Field position was also a crucial factor in the game. The Tech place kicker was kicking the ball through the end zone on almost every kick, forcing the Devils to start every offensive possession on the 20. The Tech punter also had an outstanding day, pinning the Devils deep in their own territory on a few occasions.
TDD player of the game:
The Duke 2004 freshman class is receiving much more playing time than many predicted. While they are having some growing pains adjusting to big-time college football a few are catching on quickly. Jomar Wright has seen plenty of time at wide receiver, partly due to injury and partly to merit earned in practice.
On Saturday, Wright caught the first two passes of his career. They covered 68 yards and also included a touchdown. His receiving total is a single-game high for Duke this season. For his efforts, Jomar Wright is this weeks’ TDD player of the game.
Once again, the Duke offense let the team down. Sure there were injuries abound on both sides of the ball, but there are no excuses for Saturday’s lackluster performance. After the Deon Adams TD run early in the game, The Devils recorded six straight three-and-out possessions. By the time they were able to make another first down, the score was 24-7 and the defense had already been worn out.
Starting QB Mike Schneider was knocked out of the game in the first quarter on an ill-advised scramble attempt. His replacement, Chris Dapolito was unable to get the offense moving. Only when third string quarterback Curt Dukes came in were the Devils able to move the ball. In the fourth quarter, he was able to produce almost half of the entire offensive output for the game.
If Duke is to have a chance against any ACC team, the offense must perform better. Defensively, Duke was forced to play almost the entire game with a short field. The Tech kicker would boot the kickoff through the end zone so Duke would start on the 20. The Devils would then go three-and-out, and after the punt Tech would start at midfield. Duke was able to hold a few times, but if they made one mistake and Virginia Tech was in the red-zone. Eventually, the defense wilted under the constant pressure.
Duke will need to recover quickly from this loss, as they will host Maryland at Wallace Wade Stadium in the first home game of the season. The Terps lost an overtime heartbreaker at West Virginia on Saturday, and will most likely be out for blood against the Devils. For the second straight week, Duke will be facing a very strong defense, so the offense had better figure out a way to score points during practice this week. Another performance like last Saturday will make for a long day against Maryland.