After last week’s shocking loss to Old Dominion, many wondered what Virginia Tech team would come out this week against an undefeated Duke team looking to show that they are a legitimate ACC Coastal contender.
Tonight, it was the Hokies who responded and showed that last week’s upset loss was a one-off fluke.
Virginia Tech took care of business with a 31-14 win over 22nd-ranked Duke. With the win, the Hokies improved to 3-1 on the season including 2-0 in the ACC while Duke fell to 4-1 overall and 0-1 in the ACC. The win also maintains Virginia Tech’s perfect record in Wallace Wade Stadium since joining the ACC.
One of the biggest storylines of this game was the fact that time and time again, Virginia Tech was able to go to the passing game and convert several third and longs. Virginia Tech was also able to turn to their receivers to win multiple 50-50 balls with Ryan Willis showing some great ball placement on those 50-50 jump balls and on some other down-field opportunities.
Both rushing defenses were effective with the Hokies and Duke being held to around 2 yards per carry. However, both pass defenses did not fare the same with VT allowing over 250 passing yards while Ryan Willis had well over 300 passing yards in his first start for VT. However, the Hokies’ defense was the better unit holding Duke to 327 yards while gaining 413 yards on the evening.
Virginia Tech had the first big play of the game as Reggie Floyd got an early interception after Khalil Ladler made a smart play getting his hands up and deflecting a Daniel Jones pass that fell right to Floyd. From there, the Hokies put together a solid drive, but were unable to punch it in with Brian Johnson making a 28-yard field goal to give the Hokies a 3-0 lead.
However, it didn’t take Daniel Jones and Duke long to respond as the junior QB led the Blue Devils on a 75-yard drive capped off by a 23-yard drive where TE Noah Gray slipped behind Reggie Floyd to give Duke a 7-3 lead.
After that, the Hokies responded as Ryan Willis led VT on a 76-yard drive finished off with a beautiful pass and over the shoulder catch by Damon Hazelton, his fourth touchdown catch of the season. On that drive, Ryan Willis and the Hokies’ passing game looked more than comfortable with VT having multiple significant gains in the passing game.
After getting a stop, Virginia Tech came out and made two big plays. First, the Hokies converted a 3rd and 15 with a 24-yard gain to a wide open Hezekiah Grimsley. Then, Dalton Keene had the catch and run of the season taking a short pass 67 yards for a touchdown that included Keene making one Duke defender miss, stiff arming a second defender, and Eric Kumah lading a major block to give Keene all the room he needed to score, giving VT a 17-7 lead.
Duke responded with a solid drive with a couple big first down conversions. However, a false start stalled Duke out before the Blue Devils missed a 43-yard field goal, a big missed opportunity for Duke. After that, both defenses started to find some rhythm with the teams trading punts to end the first half, giving Virginia Tech a 17-7 lead at the break.
During the first half, the Hokies’ offense led the charge especially through the air with VT having 257 yards of offense (including 224 passing yards) compared to 184 for Duke. Despite the yardage difference, the Hokies only had 10 first downs compared to 12 for Duke with the Daniel Jones interception and big plays being a big reason for the Hokies’ success despite the first downs being in favor of Duke.
Ryan Willis played well in the first half going 11-for-16 for 224 yards and 2 touchdowns while Damon Hazelton led the Hokies’ passing attack with 3 receptions in addition to 57 yards and a touchdown. Defensively, Rayshard Ashby led the Hokies with 8 tackles while Reggie Floyd led the with 1.5 tackles for loss to go with his 5 total tackles.
After a three and out on offense to start the second half, Virginia Tech’s defense came out and stepped out stuffing Duke at midfield on a 4th and 1. From there, the Hokies took advantage in large part due to a big 36-yard completion to Eric Kumah on third down that set up Steven Peoples for a 6-yard touchdown run.
From there, both defenses started to find their rhythm as neither offense seemed to find much momentum with VT taking a 24-7 lead into the fourth quarter. However, Duke got a great opportunity starting just inside Virginia Tech territory late in the third quarter after Oscar Bradburn got a punt away on a bad snap. From there, Duke found some offensive momentum with a 29-yard gain on a fourth and 3 to Deon Jackson setting the Blue Devils for 2 single-yard carries to punch it in, cutting the Virginia Tech lead to 24-14.
However, the Hokies had a response starting with a big 33-yard pass from Ryan Willis to Tre Turner to get Virginia Tech rolling. From there, the Hokies had another big moment with Ryan Willis taking a fourth and 1 and powering up the middle just enough to get a first down. After that, Phil Patterson made a great catch in the corner of the endzone on a 10-yard pass to give the Hokies a 31-14 lead.
That touchdown proved to be the knockout punch as the Hokies’ defense was able to stop Duke’s offense on their next possession with Duke pulling Daniel Jones to protect him after that. Though Quentin Harris had a solid drive at the helm, Duke was unable to turn that into any points either with Virginia Tech cranking the clock for most of the fourth quarter on their way to sealing a 31-14 victory.
In his first career start, Ryan Willis played quite well breaking the 300 passing yard mark for the third time in his career on his way to going 17-27 for 332 yards and 3 touchdowns. Willis was more than comfortable operating the Hokies’ offense with a passing game that showed plenty of ability to effectively stretch the field.
Damon Hazelton led the aerial attack for the Hokies’ receivers with 4 receptions for 65 yards and a touchdown, his fourth-straight game with a touchdown. In addition, Dalton Keene had 2 catches for 82 yards including a 67-yard touchdown while Eric Kumah had 3 catches for 67 yards. On the ground, Steven Peoples led the way with 16 carries for 47 yards and a touchdown, setting a new personal single-season rushing high in the process.
Rayshard Ashby led the Hokies with 15 tackles while Reggie Floyd played well outside of one Duke receiver getting behind him for a touchdown, finishing the game with 8 tackles including 2.5 for loss. Ricky Walker and Houshun Gaines were also both effective as Walker had 5 tackles, 1 TFL, and 0.5 sacks while Gaines had 4 tackles including 2.5 sacks.
Virginia Tech made a statement that last week was a fluke and now will get their big stage against a Notre Dame team that has found another level under their new QB Ian Book. Tonight, the Hokies showed why the ACC Coastal once again is setting up to be a battle between Virginia Tech and Miami with a dominant performance in Durham.