Gameday and Homecoming have arrived for the Virginia Tech Hokies with the centerpiece of the weekend approaching in the showdown in Lane Stadium between the Hokies and the #23 Duke Blue Devils. The Hokies could use a win today to help their chances of making a bowl game while Duke will look to stay undefeated in the ACC Coastal.
Now, let’s take a look at our keys to the game for the Hokies against #23 Duke.
Contain the Mobile Quarterback
The Hokies have struggled to contain mobile quarterbacks this season with Ohio State’s Cardale Jones and East Carolina’s James Summers doing plenty of damage against the Hokies. This week, the Hokies face a Duke team whose leading rusher so far is mobile quarterback Thomas Sirk.
Sirk has ran for over 50 yards five of six games so far this season, and the Blue Devils will look to attack the Virginia Tech defense early with their mobile quarterback to see if the Hokies can step up. The question is can the Hokie step up and please Hokie fans that have been frustrated with Virginia Tech’s struggles against mobile quarterbacks.
Sirk may not be as good of a runner as Summers or as tough and big as Jones, but Sirk has proven that he can make some plays with his legs. Virginia Tech will need linebackers Andrew Motuapuaka and Deon Clarke, and safeties Chuck Clark and Adonis Alexander to make plays in situations in which they may be one-on-one against Sirk.
If Virginia Tech can contain Sirk today, that could lead to a long day for Duke on the offensive side of the ball, but if they are unable today, there will be a lot of frustrated fans on Homecoming in Blacksburg.
Give it to Travon McMillian
Last week, Travon McMillian proved to be quite productive with 16 carries for a career-high 99 rushing yards along with 3 receptions for 16 receiving yards and a touchdown. McMillian showed that he is the future for the Hokies at running back and is the best runner Virginia Tech has had since David Wilson.
This week, McMillian will face a much tougher run defense in Duke that has a big-time playmaker in All-American frontrunner safety Jeremy Cash. Cash and the Duke rush defense will be looking to make some big plays around the line of scrimmage to try to contain the speedy McMillian.
Other than his fumble that ended up being a 16-yard loss and prevented him from having over 100 rushing yards, McMillian showed plenty of speed on the outside to get first downs while also having some tough runs up the middle. Every week, McMillian is improving as he becomes more of a running back and not just a great athlete.
This week, McMillian will be tested, but don’t be surprised if the redshirt freshman running back has some big runs. McMillian has the speed to outrun almost any defensive player, and is a hole on the outside away from a big run and possibly a touchdown.
One week after the Hokies lost the turnover battle by four, Virginia Tech needs to have a bounce-back week in protecting the football. However, the Hokies are facing a tougher defense this week in one of the ACC’s best defenses, the Duke Blue Devils.
Michael Brewer had one interception last week, but also showed what he brings to the table once again. Brewer knocked some rust off last week after having not played since the third quarter in the season opener against Ohio State.
Ball security will be important after two fumbles last week, one each from Travon McMillian and Brenden Motley. Duke will be looking to force turnovers in this game, and the Hokies need to avoid making the same mistakes that proved to be costly against Miami last week.
If the Hokies can win the turnover battle today, Virginia Tech will have a great chance to pull off what would not be seen as an upset by Vegas odds. However, another bad week in the turnover department will be costly for the Hokies.