DURHAM, N.C. – It was as good a hard-hitting game on the gridiron you’d find as any on a busy afternoon of Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) football in the Triangle when the Duke Blue Devils kicked off against the No. 23 Virginia Tech Hokies at Wallace Wade Stadium on Saturday.
Blue Devils quarterback Daniel Jones (18-31, 148 yards) scored two rushing touchdowns on 18 carries for 99 yards to keep it close late in the fourth quarter, but Virginia Tech earned three first downs to keep the ball out of Jones’ hands during the final four minutes of play, and secured a 24-21 win.
While the Hokies defense sacked the Duke quarterback three times, Jerod Evans (15-27, 192 yards), who also rushed for 83 yards and a touchdown, was downed equally as much by the Blue Devils defense led by linebackers Ben Humphreys (16 tackles, 1.5 TFL) and Joe Giles-Harris (13 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL).
“I think simply they made some plays that we didn’t,” Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said.
“We made a lot of plays on both sides of the ball. There were some real positive things across the board, but they made some critical plays that we didn’t make. We left points on the field in the first half again.”
Highlights: #23 Virginia Tech 24, Duke 21 (ACC Digital Network – TheACC.com)
After both teams traded possessions, Virginia Tech scored first on a 14-yard run by Travon McMillian (15 carries, 72 yards).
Duke tied it up 7-7 when running back Shaun Wilson (21 carries, 76 yards) punched it into the end zone with 3:55 to play in the opening quarter.
A missed field goal attempt by Joey Slye gave the ball back to the Blue Devils on their own 20-yard line, and eventually worked the ball to the Virginia Tech 12-yard line early in the second.
The Hokies redeemed themselves for Slye’s miss when Greg Stroman blocked Duke kicker A.J. Reed’s 30-yard field goal attempt that was recovered by Adonis Alexander who ran it in for a touchdown.
“I know we had an alignment problem,” Cutcliffe said.
“That was a 1-2-1 kick. That falls on me. We don’t get aligned properly and that’s all such a fine line. It’s as simple as that and that falls on the head football coach. It’s a bad feeling from my perspective and that’s not happened to us. It’s not a feeling you ever want to have again.”
Leading 14-7, Virginia Tech added to its lead on its next possession when Evans capped off a 12-play, 66-yard drive with 6:57 to play in the half.
The Hokies carried their 14-point advantage into the third quarter.
Jones scored on the rush and pulled the Blue Devils within seven, trailing 21-14, with four minutes remaining in the period.
Slye added a 38-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter that looked to provide the cushion that the Hokies needed to win the game.
Jones led a seven-play, 48-yard drive that he capped off with a two-yard rush that pulled the Blue Devils to within three with seven minutes to play.
After a strong defensive stand that forced the Hokies to punt the ball back, it looked to turn into a potentially disastrous scenario for Duke after Wilson was hit hard.
In taking a head-contacted blow from Virginia Tech’s Terrell Edmonds, Wilson dropped the ball as a result of appearing to fall motionless onto the field.
He eventually walked off the field on his own as the play was reviewed to determine if a foul had occurred prior to the fumble.
It was determined that Edmonds committed a targeting foul and was ejected from the game while the resulting penalty gave the Blue Devils 15 more yards and the ball back.
Duke struggled on the possession and was forced to punt the ball.
The Hokies never gave the ball back up, gaining yardage and first downs to eat up the remaining time on the clock.
The win allowed Virginia Tech to stay tied atop the Coastal Division standings with the North Carolina Tar Heels, 48-20 winners over Georgia Tech earlier in the day.
With a short week, the Blue Devils look forward to preparing to host the Tar Heels on Thursday.
You can’t look back,” Giles-Harris said.
“The past is the past. I’ve learned that at a young age and I know everybody on the defense knows that – offense too. We love each other, but we’re not going to look in the past.”