For once however, no wait, actually twice in a row, the offense has shown dramatic improvement.
Who are you and what have you done with Bryan Stinesping?First, the offense has shown a renewed commitment to the run game. For example, on the first drive, there was one pass in six plays. One of the runs was by a dramatically improved Tyrod Taylor as he checked down field, found nothing, and used his feet to pick up the first down. Using Ryan Williams and Josh Oglesby, who initially was held to limited production, consistently eventually produced yards as well as opened up opportunities for big, and at times huge, plays.
Speaking of big plays. Taylor, who's confidence has increase tenfold since the beginning of the season, was extremely poised in the backfield whether it be maneuvering in the pocket, or, when flushed, buying time with his feet. Converting on huge plays [see MadJay's 3 Key Plays], including a 62-yard pass to Jarrett Boykin and 37-yard pass to Danny Coale, Taylor went 17/22 for 327 yards and two touchdowns.
On defense, the Hokies were extremely aggressive. The Hokies allowed only 38-yards on the ground. However, aggressive defense without discipline coverage leads to big plays. The Blue Devils did indeed produces some big plays which kept them in this game to the very end.
Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis would complete 22/40 passes for 359 yards and two touchdowns. On their second possession of the game, Lewis opened up the scoring on a drive from the Blue Devils' own 21. Outside of some short gains, the drive was aided by costly Hokie penalties that kept Duke moving. Lewis capitalize by hitting a wide open Brandon King for a 48-yard touchdown strike.
Fast forward to the third quarter with the score 17-10 Hokies and we come to the 74-yard pass from Lewis to Conner Vernon. Credit Jason Worilds and Rock Carmichael from preventing the touchdown on the play, but Duke was able to pull to withing four points with a field goal on the drive. Again Vernon, was left wide open on blown coverage.
Lewis would go on to hit a 55-yard pass to Donovan Varner and a 34-yarder to Vernon. In total, Lewis had ten passes for ten or more yards, five of which were greater than 26 yards. The Hokie secondary, who out-sized and out-skilled the Duke receiver corp, was simply out-played by them at times.
Coach Bud Foster will have to take a good long look at what's wrong with the coverage before this weekend's game against Beat Cancer (Boston College). If he's able to correct some of these mistakes, if Coach Frank Beamer can correct some of the special teams mistakes, and if the offense continues to click, then the Hokies will surely succeed this week.