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Duke (4-6) at Virginia Tech (6-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 22nd, 5:30 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Lane Stadium/Worsham Field (66,233) -- Blacksburg, Virginia. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: Duke 3-3, VaTech 4-0. Away Record: Duke 1-3, VaTech 2-3. Neutral Record: Duke 0-0, VaTech 0-1. Conference Record: Duke 1-5, VaTech 3-3. Series Record: Virginia Tech leads, 8-7.
GAME NOTES: The Virginia Tech Hokies aim to continue their recent dominance over the Duke Blue Devils, as the two meet up for an ACC clash at Lane Stadium/Worsham Field. Virginia Tech has won the last seven meetings with Duke to take an 8-7 lead in the head-to-head series. Since they've joined the ACC, the Hokies have outscored Duke, 165-31 in four games. Duke enters this game having lost three straight, and five of its last six overall. Last weekend, the Blue Devils fell to Clemson in a 31-7 final, and they lost their starting quarterback in the process. This weekend's tilt wraps up a stretch of four road games in the past five weeks for the Blue Devils, who will host North Carolina next Saturday. The Hokies have had their struggles on the road this year, losing three straight, but they are unbeaten in four home games. They enter this game with losses in three of their last four, with each of those losses coming on the road. VaTech wraps up its schedule at home against Virginia next weekend.
Duke starting quarterback Thaddeus Lewis was knocked out of last weekend's game with a left ankle injury, which he suffered on the team's second offensive series. Lewis did not return and his status is questionable for this week. His potential absence would be a big blow to an offense that can ill- afford to lose any players, let alone the starting quarterback. Duke ranks 97th in the nation in total offense (316 ypg) and is averaging a modest 21.8 ppg. The Blue Devils have not been able to run the ball even a little bit this season, and they would certainly rank even lower on the yardage scale if it wasn't for Lewis. Backup Zack Asack was thrust into action in the wake of Lewis' ankle injury, and he ended the game 10-of-20 for 61 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Leading rusher Clifford Harris is also banged up with a lower leg injury. It is not clear whether he will be able to suit up, either.
Duke cornerback Jabari Marshall (two INTs) is dealing with a lower leg injury and will not be able to play at full speed, if at all. That could alter the team�s defensive approach, considering the coaching staff has a good amount of confidence in Marshall on the outside. Michael Tauiliili and Catron Gailey each had 12 tackles against Clemson, while Glenn Williams and Vincent Rey had 11 stops apiece. But as a whole, the defense had trouble with Clemson�s playmakers on offense. Running backs James Davis and CJ Spiller combined for 114 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, while quarterback Cullen Harper completed 20-of-26 passes for 292 yards and a touchdown. Over the last three games, the team has given up an average of 30 points per outing. Tauiliili has been one of the few shining stars throughout the season, as he leads the ACC with 111 tackles. He had a season-high 18 tackles two weeks ago against NC State. Rey is close behind with 88 stops on the season.
The Virginia Tech offense has made its living with the running game. However, the results have not exactly been off the charts, particularly over the last few weeks. The Hokies' ground game struggled against a speedy Miami defense, as they totaled just 77 rushing yards on 38 carries (2.0 ypc) as a team. And because they were unable to generate decent yardage on first down, the result was often a third-and-long situation. They converted just 2-of-11 third downs for the game. Quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor and Sean Glennon combined to go 12- of-20 for 173 yards, albeit with six sacks. Taylor led the team with 43 yards and two TDs on the ground. The Hokies enter this game ranked third in the ACC in rushing (163 ypg), but they've also got the nation's 111th-ranked passing offense (126 ypg). In other words, third-down passing situations are a recipe for disaster for the offense.
The defense is what has kept VaTech in every game this year. Despite a fairly ordinary offense, the Hokies' largest margin of defeat was a 10-point loss to Florida State a month ago. The defense has been able to set the tempo early in games, as they've allowed just three first-quarter touchdowns on the season. This unit is especially tough playing at Lane Stadium when the lights are on. With playmakers up and down the defense, the Blue Devils will face an uphill battle to move the ball. VT ranks 17th in the nation in total defense (291 ypg) and are allowing a shade under 20 points per game. Senior defensive end Orion Martin has logged a sack in six of the team's last seven games. Jason Worilds has 5.5 sacks to go along with a team-best 14 quarterback hurries. Linebacker Purnell Sturdivant leads the defense with 71 tackles on the year, while cornerback Victor Harris paces the secondary with four interceptions (returned for 119 yards).
Even without injuries, it's hard to envision a scenario where Duke is able to generate lots of points against the VaTech defense. The Hokies will no doubt be fired up at the thought of possibly even pitching a shutout.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Virginia Tech 37, Duke 3
11/19 10:25:17 ET