On a night where the greatest football team in Virginia Tech history was honored, the worst Virginia Tech football team this century hit rock bottom in one of the worst performances in program history.
Duke defeated Virginia Tech 45-10 with the Blue Devils improving to 3-1 and the Hokies falling to 2-2. With the loss, Virginia Tech is off to an 0-2 ACC start for a first time since Virginia Tech joined the conference.
To say that this isn't rock bottom for the Virginia Tech football program would be a lie.
Starting 0-2 in ACC play for the first time while having a pair of close calls against Furman (where you were down 14-3 at halftime) and an Old Dominion team that's among the worst in FBS is extremely bad. Add in how that close game against Boston College came against a BC team that also lost to Kansas and you can see how bad things have gotten.
Virginia Tech's playcalling was once again less than inspiring and quickly became predictable with Duke snuffing out underneath crossing patterns and jet sweeps with easy, and Virginia Tech failing to adapt or adjust like most good coaches. Additionally, Ryan Willis continued to show his regression with plenty of poor decisions and inaccurate passes, a disappointing development that raises questions about whether Justin Fuente is still the QB savant that he was with Andy Dalton and questionably with Paxton Lynch against lower competition.
Meanwhile, David Cutcliffe adapted going to a 5-wide formation early in the second quarter that ignited the Duke offense and launched the Blue Devils to a rout of the Hokies. While the Hokies' defense had limited amounts of success as the game went on, the defense still struggled while the offense continued to be non-existent outside of a 72-yard touchdown pass to Damon Hazelton that was underthrown but had Hazelton shake off a defensive back.
We could do a stat breakdown but right now, Justin Fuente looks a lot like Bobby Petrino near the end of his Louisville tenure with no answers to fix this. That's really all that needs to be said.
Virginia Tech got their opening drive going with a 12-yard completion to Tayvion Robinson on a 3rd and 11 at their own 14. Two plays later, Ryan Willis gained 11 on an excellent read option to get another first down. A pass interference two plays later against Duke got the Hokies near midfield at their own 47. However, a four-yard loss on a first down jet sweep put Virginia Tech behind the chains leading to a punt from midfield that pinned Duke at their own 10.
VT's defense stepped up though forcing Duke to a three-and-out to start, and getting the ball at the 50. However, the Hokies were unable to take advantage going three-and-out on their second possession. Oscar Bradburn was able to keep the Hokies in control of the field position battle with VT downing his punt at the Duke 9. Virginia Tech was able to take advantage with the Hokies forcing their second three-and-out before a 25-yard return from Hezekiah Grimsley gave VT possession at the Duke 40.
Virginia Tech got off to a solid start on their next drive with a 7-yard carry from Deshawn McClease with a Duke offsides giving Virginia Tech a first down two plays later. Virginia Tech got into the redzone at the Duke 17 two plays later via a 9-yard reception by Hezekiah Grimsley. Ryan Willis had an interception on 3rd and 5 that was overruled by a roughing the passer against Duke, giving VT a first and goal at the 6. However, three-straight run plays came up short leading to a Brian Johnson field goal to give VT a 3-0 lead late in the third quarter.
Duke once again struggled but a Reggie Floyd pass interference on a 3rd and 11 gave Duke their first 1st down of the game. However, Duke was only able to gain 3 yards on their next 3 plays leading to a punt with Hezekiah Grimsley fair catching it at the VT 23.
Hendon Hooker came out to start the possession at QB with Keshawn King gaining a first down after 10 yards on 3 carries. Hooker had a 7-yard carry but a poor handoff by Hooker to King led to a fumble recovered by Duke, giving them the ball at the Virginia Tech 16. Duke took advantage with Quentin Harris finding a wide open Noah Gray after what appeared to have been a defensive miscommunication or busted coverage, leading to a 7-3 lead for Duke.
After starting at the 25, Virginia Tech nearly had a big downfield gain, but Tre Turner was unable to bring in the pass from Ryan Willis, who returned this possession. After a 9-yard reception by Phil Patterson on second down, the Hokies failed to convert on a short 3rd and 1. Oscar Bradburn had a very good 53-yard punt, but Duke was able to return it to their own 33 after a couple missed tackles.
Duke came out five-wide to start the drive and it worked with a 4-yard run by Harris followed by back-to-back 13-yard gains through the air. Duke had their biggest gain of the night to date on the next play gaining 17 yards via a completion to Mateao Durant who broke a tackle to get the big gain to the Duke 20. After an incompletion and false start, Quentin Harris scrambled for 13 yards to set up a 3rd and 2 that was converted via a short gain from Harris to set up a first and goal at the 7. A pass interference in the endzone set up a first and goal at the 2 and led to the first non five-wide formation for Duke on this drive. On 2nd and 1, Harris found Gray once again who ran it in for a one-yard touchdown, giving Duke a 14-3 lead.
A second down blindside block penalty against Damon Hazelton put the Hokies behind the chains with a 2nd and 23. However, Deshawn McClease flipped the field busting through a hole for a 45-yard gain to the Duke 43 to finally give VT some momentum. However, the Hokies were unable to advance much from there with Ryan Willis overthrowing an open Kaleb Smith on third down, leading to Oscar Bradburn's third punt pinned at the 10 or deeper on the evening.
Duke had a pair of solid runs to get out from deep in their territory with a 15-yard facemask penalty against TyJuan Garbutt getting the Blue Devils to their own 37. VT set up a 3rd and 5 but Duke gained 8 yards through the air to get to the 50 and pick up the first down. Two plays later, Mataeo Durant gained 18 on a screen play to get the Blue Devils to the VT 30. To finish off the drive, Duke through a backwards pass that set up a 25-yard TD pass from WR Jalon Calhoun to RB Deon Jackson, giving Duke a 21-3 lead with 39 seconds to go in the first half.
Virginia Tech was unable to do much with their biggest gains coming via an offsides and facemask that gave Virginia Tech the ball at their own 37 (in addition to a 7-yard carry via Deshawn McClease where the facemask happened). However, the Hokies weren't able to do anything in the final few seconds.
Duke had a pair of moderate gains to open the second half and gain a first down followed by a 9-yard gain through the air to get to their own 45 before a third down QB sneak picked up the first down. However, the Hokies' defense stepped up and got a much-needed stop just as Duke barely crossed into VT territory. Duke was able to pin the Hokies inside the 20 at their own 10. The Hokies weren't able to get out of being pinned deep with a 3 and out giving Duke the ball back.
The Blue Devils used a pair of moderated second and third down gains to get a first down at their own 49. Mataeo Durant then turned a completion in the flat to an 18-yard gain to get Duke to the Virginia Tech 33. After a 1-yard gain from Harris, Deon Jackson gained 10 to pick up another first down for Duke. Then, Quentin Harris gained 8 to get into the Virginia Tech redzone at the VT 14. However, VT was able to force a pair of incompletions but Duke made a 32-yard field goal to give themselves a 24-3 lead.
Virginia Tech brought in Hendon Hooker to start their second drive of the second half. The Hokies started with a pair of moderated rushing gains from Keshawn King and Hooker to get a first down. Hooker completed an 8-yard pass to Tayvion Robinson on third down but a fourth down QB sneak was stopped giving Duke the ball at the VT 42. The Blue Devils took advantage as Quentin Harris ran it 42 yards for a touchdown, giving Duke a 31-3 lead.
Ryan Willis came back in to start the next possession with a 5-yard completion via a screen to Tayvion Robinson to start. After a one-yard run on second down, Virginia Tech found a wide open Damon Hazelton and though Ryan Willis slightly underthrew it, Hazelton was able to shed the defender and take it 72 yards for a touchdown, cutting the Duke lead to 31-10.
After a touchback, Duke had a pair of short gains before converting a 3rd and 5 via a 10-yard completion from Harris to Noah Gray. Quentin Harris had a 7-yard carry to open the fourth quarter to convert a 3rd and 2. Duke continued to steadily move the ball down the field into VT territory with a 12-yard rushing gain by Harris getting the Blue Devils to the VT 29. Two plays later, Deon Jackson ran 32 yards for a touchdown to give the Blue Devils a 38-10 lead.
After a four-yard gain by Tayvion Robinson, Deshawn McClease got VT's drive going with an 11-yard gain on the ground. Three plays later, Ryan Willis threw his first official interception of the night to Duke's Leonard Johnson on a well underthrown ball, giving Duke the ball at their own 43.
Duke ran the ball up the middle on three-straight plays with the Hokies forcing a punt that Duke faked and converted via a 28-yard gain to the 22. The Hokies were able to contain the Duke interior rushing game forcing a 4th and 7 at the VT 19, but Duke converted their second 4th down with a 12-yard completion to Noah Gray. Three plays later, backup QB Chris Katrenick ran it in from 10 yards out to give Duke a 45-10 lead over Virginia Tech.
The Hokies started this drive with a pair of runs for Caleb Steward who gained 12 yards and a first down followed by 10 more yards over 3 plays and a first down. From there, the Hokies ran out the clock on what was one of the worst single-game performances in program history.