The Hokies managed a victory against the Blue Devils but it wasn't pretty. Turnovers, penalties, and a whole mess of issues should have resulted in a massive defeat, but the Hokies were able to hold on and leave Durham with a 14-10 victory.
This was a game as ugly as it was good as it was bad.
The Hokies moved the ball well through the first half. On the Hokies first drive, Logan Thomas threw his first of two interceptions (see The Ugly), but moved the ball very well otherwise in the first half. No one can accuse the Hokies of getting off to a slow start. The Hokies scored first on an ugly but effective Tom Brady style shovel pass to TE Eric Martin. After allowing the Devils to move (or rather giving them free yards, see The Ugly) the ball on their longest drive of the game at 80 yards for a touchdown, the Hokies marched once again for another touchdown capped by a Josh Oglesby run.
Conversely, the Blue Devils had the Hokies pinned on their half of the field for almost the entire second half. With an average starting position of the Virginia Tech 13.5-yard line through all but the last two possession of the half, the Hokies struggled to move much past midfield. Despite the ineffectiveness of the offense through most of the second half, the Swiss cheese defense was able to hold Duke to just a field goal the entire half. That and the inability of Duke placekicker to hit three of four attempts gave the Hokies a squeaker. The defense really stepped up big in the second half to cover for the lack-luster offense.
The lack-luster offense did step up towards the end of the game with Duke needing a score, the run game came alive for a bit allowing Wilson to make some big gains and run a big chunk of clock. Once again though, the Hokies had to give Duke one last shot. To which, the defense once again answered, intercepting a 4th and 1 last ditch effort by Sean Renfree.
David Wilson still struggles to hold on to the ball. He bobbled the post-Duke touchdown kickoff return giving the Hokies terrible field position. Wilson later would fumble out of bounds despite not even being touched on the play.
The run game did fairly well in the first half. Wilson did have 74 yards at half time. But Duke was able to key on him through most of the second half. He put up 148 yards, but the majority of the second half was a rush defense clinic led by safety Matt Daniels.
The injury bug is killing the Hokies. It's been discussed here ad nauseum, but Tech is severely banged up. Tyler Weiss took the place of injured place kicker Cody Journell who is expected to return for the Georgia Tech game. Journell has made steady improvement, but did not make the trip to Durham. Weiss, a senior, made one attempt, his career first, and missed. Also, Danny Coale came up with an injured hand early in the game but did return to play. These, on top of the existing injuries, the Hokies will gladly take the win and the extra long break to recover for the Georgia Tech game next Thursday.
The ugly starts with the turnovers. And it continues with the penalties.
First, Thomas had two interceptions in the first half. While neither resulted in points for Duke, the results could have been worse. The same could be said for the fumble he turned over late in the first half. The Duke defender decided to fall on the fourth down fumble rather than attempt to scoop it up and run for it. The mental mistake cost the Blue Devils points. Add that to the Wilson fumble that went out of bounds, you have four potential scoring opportunities that could have changed the game completely. Add that still to the 12 points that the Blue Devils left on the field with their missed field goals and the Hokies are just flat out lucky to get out with a win.
Forty-five of the 80 yards gained by the Blue Devils on their one touchdown drive were given to them on pass interference and personal foul calls. One could argue against one or two of these calls, but regardless, this isn't the first time we've seen this lack of discipline by the Hokies.
Overall, the Hokies were penalized for nearly 100 yards. Comparability, Duke was penalized for 15.
This Duke team is not the same team that everybody beats on. This is a good football team that made perhaps as many mistakes and miscues as the Hokies did and could have easily walked off the field with the upset. The Hokies can keep its state of North Carolina unbeaten streak alive but need to do better next week in Atlanta.