Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech athletics
The 2020 football season is finally starting to settle in for the Virginia Tech Hokies.
After a big 45-24 home win over the NC State Wolfpack last Saturday, the Hokies now prepare to continue their season down in Durham, NC against the Duke Blue Devils.
Game Day Information
When: Saturday, Oct. 3, 4 p.m. ET
Where: Wallace Wade Stadium, Durham, NC
TV: ACC Network
PXP: Chris Cotter
Analyst: Mark Herzlich
Sideline Reporter: Eric Wood
Forecast: 68 F, Sunny, 0% Chance of Rain
Series History: Virginia Tech leads 17-10
Last Meeting: Duke won 45-10 on Sept. 27, 2019
Line: Virginia Tech -10.5
A Devilish Saturday
It’s game day! The Hokies and Blue Devils will square off on the gridiron from Wallace Wade Stadium.
The Blue Devils come into Saturday’s game with a record of 0-3, and have struggled mightily this season under 13th-year head coach David Cutcliffe. Cutcliffe, however, has done an outstanding job since his arrival in Durham prior to the 2008 campaign.
Cutcliffe snapped Duke’s 18-year bowl-less streak back in 2012 and has built the Blue Devils’ program into a constant dark horse in the ACC Coastal division.
This year, however, could be different. How? We’ll take a look in your official game day preview between Virginia Tech and Duke.
As mentioned earlier, the Hokies got a big win at home against NC State last Saturday at Lane Stadium, and will look to continue that momentum this afternoon. Quarterback Hendon Hooker missed last Saturday’s game after recently being released from quarantine.
Head coach Justin Fuente noted that he is hopeful Hooker is able to play this afternoon. But if not, Braxton Burmeister and Quincy Patterson will be ready to go.
Burmeister started last week’s game against the Wolfpack before leaving the game in the second quarter with a hand cramp. What did third-stringer Quincy Patterson do? He simply accounted for three total touchdowns with two coming through the air.
Running back Khalil Herbert was a force for the Hokies, and should be this week against a below average Duke defense. Herbert totaled six carries for 104 yards while also grabbing two receptions for 46 yards in the opener.
Virginia Tech’s defense should have no problems with Duke’s offense, although it may be thin due to more COVID-19 troubles. Word on the street is the secondary may be almost nonexistent, and the status of defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton and cornerbacks coach Ryan Smith remain in question.
That would be a big loss for Virginia Tech. The Hokies intercepted Wolfpack quarterback Bailey Hockman twice in the season opener.
The Hokies will be looking for major redemption in this one. In last year’s contest, the Blue Devils came into Lane Stadium for a prime time Friday night showdown and ended up roasting the Hokies, 45-10 — a defeat unlike Hokie fans had seen in Lane Stadium in decades.
The Blue Devils also faked a punt up 35-10 last year, which may leave a sour taste in Virginia Tech’s mouth.
Offensive guard Lecitus Smith may have said it best in his Tuesday news conference.
“They came in and beat the crap out of us,” he said. “They came in more ready, more prepared. We definitely learned our lesson from Duke last year.”
Devil Stuck in Hell
The Blue Devils have not had the start to the season they envisioned. After hanging with Notre Dame the first week of the year, Duke was embarrassed at home by Boston College, and lost a horrendous game against Virginia last Saturday.
Quarterback Chase Brice has not lived up to his hype so far this season. Trevor Lawrence’s former backup at Clemson has only thrown two touchdown passes compared to six interceptions.
Duke’s leading receiver is tight end Noah Gray, who had a big game against the Hokies last season. He’s hauled in 13 receptions for 152 yards and a touchdown so far this year. That’s just over 50 yards per game.
The biggest weakness for the Blue Devils, is their defensive line. Although they enjoy the likes of Victor Dimukeje and Chris Rumph Jr., Virginia Tech’s offensive line should have a significant advantage.
Duke turned the ball over seven times in its loss to Virginia last week. If it wants to have any chance to upset Virginia Tech, Brice will have to have a heck of the game and the Blue Devils will need to hold onto the football.
Hokies’ Keys To The Game
Step On Them Early
This is a trap game for Virginia Tech. After an overwhelming win against NC State last weekend, and a date with North Carolina next week, Virginia Tech can’t overlook Duke.
Coming out and putting up some quick points could really shut the door early on the Blue Devils. Let them hang around, and the Hokies are playing a dangerous game. Racing to a big lead could also give quarterbacks Braxton Burmeister and Quincy Patterson a chance to get more reps.
Run Hendon Hooker
As mentioned before, the Duke defensive line is horrendous. With the way the Hokies’ offensive front matches up against the Blue Devils, running Hooker early and often could turn into some big things for Virginia Tech.
Pressure the Quarterback
After Duke turned the ball over seven times last week against Virginia, there is no better way to force more by getting to the quarterback to force a mistake. The Hokies need to keep Brice on his toes all day long.
If Virginia Tech can make the Duke quarterback as uncomfortable as possible, it will roll to an easy win in Durham on Saturday.
After looking through the overall match-up between Virginia Tech and Duke — thin secondary or not — Virginia Tech should have no problem with the Blue Devils this Saturday. With North Carolina looming however, the Hokies will need to be focused.
Virginia Tech’s defense will dominate, and Hooker will run all over the Blue Devils’ defense.
Carter Hill’s Prediction: Virginia Tech 38, Duke 21
Shayler’s Prediction: Virginia Tech 34, Duke 20