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(6) Virginia Tech (3-1) at Duke (2-2)
Saturday, October 3rd, 12:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Scott Haynes, College Football Senior Editor
GAME NOTES: The sixth-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies continue their quest for a third consecutive ACC title, as the travel to Durham this weekend, for a conference showdown with the Duke Blue Devils.
Since losing in the season-opener to now third-ranked Alabama, the Hokies have reeled off three straight wins, including two in a row against top-25 opponents. This past weekend, Frank Beamer's squad hosted the surprising Miami Hurricanes, and easily handled the visiting team, 31-7.
Despite going 16-4 in ACC road games since joining the league in 2004, Tech has struggled in conference road games of late, dropping three straight. Still, the Hokies are 18-0 in conference road openers under Beamer.
The Blue Devils have played well for the most part this season and come into this game with a 2-2 mark. David Cutcliffe's team has lost to defending FCS champion Richmond (24-16) and top-25 foe Kansas (44-16), but has posted solid wins over Army (35-19) and most recently, NC Central (49-14).
Virginia Tech has dominated this series of late, winning eight straight meetings to take a 9-7 edge all-time. The Hokies have outscored the Blue Devils in the last four meetings by a combined 138-17.
The Hokies lost star tailback Darren Evans to injury before the season began, but the loss has been minimized greatly by the emergence of redshirt freshman Ryan Williams, who currently leads the ACC in rushing per game (123.0) and has scored eight TDs in the first four games, while averaging nearly six yards per carry. True freshman David Wilson (8.9 ypc) adds to the youth movement in the backfield and also helps a ground game that is averaging 216.5 ypg.
The rushing attack has certainly helped quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who doesn't throw very often (72 pass attempts thus far), although he does have four TD passes.
In the big win over Miami, it was Williams who once again stole the show, pacing the team with 150 yards rushing and two TDs. The constant ground assault resulted in 55 carries, including 34 by Williams and chewed up 272 yards.
Despite his youth, Williams has no problem with being a workhorse.
"I feel like the team has been relying on the backfield for the last couple of weeks, and I'm glad that the pressure is on my back because I'm ready to help the team succeed. If I have to carry the ball 50 times a game, that's what I'm going to do."
Defensively, the Hokies were masterful against what was supposed to be a real juggernaut of a Miami offense. The Hurricanes struggled all game long and managed a mere 209 yards of total offense, including just 150 through the air. In addition, the Tech defense forced two fumbles, had one interception and three sacks.
The team also yielded just 59 yards on the ground, an area that Tech had shown vulnerability in throughout the first three games. Still, the numbers aren't that good in terms of rush defense, as the team is giving up 165.0 ypg.
Linebackers Jake Johnson (32 tackles), Barquell Rivers (32 tackles) and COdy Grimm (31 tackles, two forced fumbles) have been the driving force on this side of the football.
Players like Kam Chancellor (22 tackles, one INT), Rashad Carmichael (19 tackles, two INTs) and Stephan Virgil (15 tackles, 4.0 TFLs) have made their presence felt in the secondary. Up front, offensive coordinators have to concern themselves with All-American candidate Jason Worilds (18 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, 2.5 sacks, 15 QB hurries).
The Blue Devils routed NC Central thanks in large part to freshman tailback Desmond Scott, who made the most of his collegiate debut by rumbling for 100 yards and a TD this past weekend. Fellow RB Patrick Kurunwune added 93 yards and a score of his own, as Duke rolled up 487 total yards, including 233 on the ground in the win. Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis was responsible for three scores, throwing two TD passes, both to Donovan Varner, while rushing for one.
Duke has the personnel to move the chains this year, averaging just over 100 yards per game, and 267 through the air. Kurunwune is netting 5.5 yards per carry in limited action over the first four games. Scott's performance (6.2 ypc) in last week's win will only aid the cause on the ground. Cutcliffe was impressed with his freshman tailback and is ready to get the youngster involved more.
"You don't think you are ever ready for Virginia Tech, but he (Scott) is going to play. How much in the rotation depends somewhat on our health at that position, but he will definitely get the ball and the opportunity to run the football in this game."
Lewis is a crafty veteran under center and he has performed accordingly, completing over 58 percent of his passes thus far, for 783 yards, with five TDs and just two INTs. Johnny Williams leads the team in receptions (20 receptions, for 236 yards and one TD), but it is Varner who has made the most of his receptions (16), as he is responsible for four of the team's nine TD receptions to date.
While the defensive effort was certainly impressive last week, the level of competition played a part. The team has struggled this year stopping the run (153.2 ypg) and that isn't good with Virginia Tech coming to town.
All-ACC linebacker Vincent Rey is the heart-and-soul of this stop unit. He currently leads the team in tackles (37), with two TFLs and one fumble recovery. Up front, the team relies on rush end Ayanga Okpokowuruk (18 tackles, one forced fumble) and All-ACC tackle Vince Oghobaase (16 tackles, 2.5 TFLs) to get upfield and disrupt things. However, Oghobaase has not played the last two games with a leg injury and is listed as questionable for this contest.
Leon Wright (17 tackles, two INTs) highlights the play in the secondary.
The Blue Devils have made strides under Cutcliffe's reign, but aren't quite ready to enter the conference elite. It will take some time before Duke is regarded as competitive week-in and week-out in the ACC. It's just a case of too much talent on both sides of the ball for Virginia Tech here.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Virginia Tech 38, Duke 14
09/30 10:41:48 ET