Duke

Let's Talk About the ACC Championship Game

The ACC Championship Game is tomorrow night. I expected Virginia Tech to represent the Coastal right up until DeVon Edwards picked off Marquise Williams to seal Duke's division championship. Until that moment, in my mind, it was always when, not if Duke would lose. However, the Blue Devils stunned the Hokies at the end of October and never looked back finishing the season on an 8-game win streak; a perfect record in October and November. Impressive for a program that only got press in Virginia for beating Virginia.

Florida State is one win away from being back. (Some may argue two wins, but if a program plays in the national championship game, it's undeniable that it's nationally relevant.) The last time FSU was this close to being back was over a year ago, before they lost at North Carolina State.

The Seduction of the Inverted Veer: Running Game Reviewed

One of the narratives stemming from the Duke game from media outlets and fans alike is criticism of Scot Loeffler. On Tuesday, Daily Press scribe David Teel tweeted that the Hokies were, "averaging an #ACC-worst 21.5 points per game. On pace for program's most anemic season since 1989's 18.5.". Others have commented on both on Twitter and within our community that the offense has regressed under Loeffler. I think both viewpoints lose track of the bigger picture.

When Experience Fails

It's Sunday morning here in Abingdon, and after a night of grinding teeth and muttering curse words in my sleep, I awoke to find the film of the Duke game sitting in my inbox. The loss was not just critical in the current chase for the Coastal Division title, but is perhaps even more damaging to program perception. Even though Duke is a vastly improved football team, nationally they are regarded as a traditionally weak program. The Hokies giftwrapped the game on a silver platter even though Duke gave them every opportunity to, not only win the football game, but win in a comfortable, albeit not pretty fashion, similar to wins over Georgia Tech, Pitt, and UNC. It was a perfect cauldron of injuries, bye week rust, distractions, suspensions, bad decisions, bounces, fundamental breakdowns, and an opponent that fought like hell.

Watching the film, I was overwhelmed by numerous breakdowns by players who have produced critical plays all season, and at the same time I was left scratching my head at some of the game planning and decisions. Throughout the bye week, we heard that the running game would be cleaned up, and that players on both sides of the ball had an opportunity to heal for the stretch run. Instead, the offensive playcalling often seemed to play right into the strength of the Duke defense, and some defense senior leaders delivered quiet performances. Even when the Hokies dialed up the perfect call, things seemed to go Duke's way. Accordingly, this week's film review will require two parts. The next installment will feature the offensive game plan and coaching, and I want the extra time to really take a good look at the read option game and understand the diminishing returns. As for today, I want to focus on the breakdowns by some of those experienced players. I pride myself on trying not being overly critical of players, and instead trying to focus on technique and the application to the success and failure of the plays. I want every player in the Virginia Tech uniform to succeed, and nobody is happier than me when one of the players who I have been critical of comes back to make a huge play. I will gladly eat that humble pie.

We Lost to Duke

Well, the kudos by Tech's coaches for Duke's program during the week weren't bullshit after all. Duke was/is a well coached football team without quit in them. If you read anything French and Mason wrote here over the last two weeks you knew that already. A sincere congratulations to them for winning.

I only have a few thoughts because I haven't rewatched the game, and I think it's unfair to criticize without at least putting in the due diligence of rewatching the game.

I praised J.R. Collins' play over the bye week, then he missed the game for a violation of team rules. What happened hasn't been disclosed, but it changes the narrative of his comeback story. Credit to the coaches for suspending him. As well as Dadi's played, he's not as complete a player, or as seasoned as J.R. In my opinion, J.R. was the MVP of the defense heading into Duke. It's tough to head into any game without your best player, especially a senior, but the coaches aren't putting up with any crap.

Game Preview: Duke

Virginia Tech Hokies (6-1, 3-0) against Duke Blue Devils (5-2, 1-2)

Time: 3:32 PM
Date: Saturday, October 25, 2013
Place: Blacksburg, Virginia
Stadium: Lane Stadium (65,632)
TV: ESPNU
Radio: Virginia Tech IMG
Spread: Virginia Tech -13.5
Weather: 33-48 F, Partly Cloudy

The Skinny

By: Joe

Thank you Duke for beating the Hoos, again.

Players to Watch

By: French

Jamison Crowder (#3): Crowder is a 5-9 junior wide receiver and punt returner that serves as both Duke's most dependable first down generator and big play guy. Crowder leads the ACC in catches (56), receiving yards (731), punt return yardage (297) and punt return touchdowns (2) coming into Saturday's game. Most of his catches happen via screens, slants, or quick curls, but he can go deep and has an uncanny ability to get himself open with double moves. Here, the pocket breaks down after Crowder runs a skinny post.

"Foe"Rensics: Duke

Hello. Welcome back to our regular "Foe"Rensics feature. This week we'll delve inside the Duke football program. Though it is clearly not the strength of the athletic department1, Duke is not a challenge to be overlooked, especially as it is the last game before we enter the sweet embrace of November Hokie football.

Q&A with Ben Swain

I caught up with Ben Swain, better known as @thedevilwolf on Twitter, to ask him some questions about Duke. He obliged me. As well as being the most knowledgeable Duke football fan I know, he's also a college basketball nut (go figure). After football season, Listen to his work as the co-host of the critically acclaimed Walk-Ons podcast.

What are two things the Hokies must do on Saturday in order to defeat the Blue Devils? (I hope that questions lends itself to two answers other than score more points.) You may also read this question as, what are Duke's two biggest weaknesses?

This is such a favorable matchup for Virginia Tech because Logan's really good when he has time to set his feet and make a throw, and Duke has a difficult time getting quality pressure on the quarterback without blitzing. When they have been able to get penetration, Duke still struggles wrapping up in the backfield and we all know how difficult that is to do against Logan Thomas anyway. Why is this important? If he has time to be accurate, he should pick Duke apart. So if I'm picking two things that Virginia Tech needs to do well, it's getting good protection for Logan Thomas, and not turning the ball over. Duke and Virginia Tech have played some partially competitive games over the past four or five seasons, and it's been mostly because the Hokies have been careless with the football.

The Challenge of a Running Quarterback: Stopping Duke's Offense

On Saturday, the Duke Blue Devils come to Lane Stadium in search of their first win over Virginia Tech since the Hokies joined the ACC in 2004. Over the last couple of seasons, the series has featured some close games featuring the innovative passing attack of the Blue Devils matched up against the superior talent of the Hokie defense.

Traditionally, Duke has featured a pro-style passing attack, operated by quarterbacks like Thaddeus Lewis and Sean Renfree. This season, head coach David Cutcliffe has changed his system from a passing oriented spread offense to a balanced spread no huddle heavily focused on the running ability of his two quarterbacks. While each quarterback has strengths that lend themselves to specific types of plays, they operate interchangeably and both can run the full assortment of read option, triple option (dive, keep, or throw to the flat) and inverted veer that come with the spread.

Redshirt junior Anthony Boone (#7) is the starting quarterback for the Blue Devils and takes most of the snaps. He may look short (6-0), spindly (skinny arms and legs), and a little chunky (230 pounds), but Boone is a dangerous prototypical spread quarterback who excels running the read option.

Duke 88, Virginia Tech 56, Summary

And by summary I mean a minimal amount of words surrounded by pictures, tweets, and stats.

Game Summary:

Duke was able to overcome Virginia Tech's early 4-point lead (1st half, 18:42), and win by 32 points.

Statistical summary:

  • Erick Green 22 points (39.28% of Tech's total points)
  • Seth Curry 22 points
  • Virginia Tech 1-16 (6.3%) 3-Point FGs
  • Duke 12-17 (70.6%) 3-Point FGs

Cassell Guard Chant Effectiveness Summary:

Who's your daddy? *clap, clap, clap-clap-clap*

Coach K's underwear summary:

Bunched.

Dell Curry's Shoe Selection Summary:

Duke Preview

Both Virginia Tech and Duke lost over the weekend, and that's about where their similarities end. Duke is really good, and Virginia Tech...eh...not so much. The Hokies are trying to end their 8-game losing streak, while the Blue Devils are trying to weather the storm while Ryan Kelly is out, and catch Miami atop the ACC standings.

The top two guys in the race for ACC Player of the Year, Erick Green and Mason Plumlee, (you could easily argue Shane Larkin of Miami too) will face off tonight. Each is having an impressive year, with Erick leading the nation in scoring, and Mason averaging a double-double. If the Hokies want to win, stopping Plumlee will be the top priority.

The senior forward [Plumlee] ranks second in the ACC in both scoring (17.6 ppg) and rebounding (10.4 rpg). He is averaging 6.5 points more than he did last season, and his rebounding average has also increased.

Others might be surprised by how much he has blossomed, but he is not among them.

"I did see it coming," Plumlee said Tuesday in a phone interview. "To have the kind of year that I want to have, and I want to be even better going forward, you have to see it before you do it. So when I would think about it over the summer and in the preseason, I saw myself doing certain things on the court and putting up particular numbers."

Adventures on Whiskey Lane: Episode Eight

This week Kevin talks to French and Joe about the Duke comeback and the upcoming battle with Clemson. Brian, who was previously suspended for threatening company policy via Twitter (known around the office as "The Benny's Threat") makes a cameo to talk about Duke and make his weekend prediction (as well as his annual Tajh Boyd is fat joke).

All that and more, on this week's episode of The Adventures On Whiskey Lane.

MP3 Download link: http://thekeyplay.podomatic.com/enclosure/2012-10-18T16_10_10-07_00.mp3

Duke, and the Road to Death Valley

I apologize this is late this week. Stay in school, because day jobs are not as fun as history lectures. -- French

The homecoming game against Duke came at a critical time during Frank Beamer's tenure. While the talent deficiencies in key areas make it most likely that the Hokies are not a great bet to run the table, a loss to Duke would have shaken the aura of invincibility that Virginia Tech has over the weaker programs in the ACC. That aura often has weaker teams beaten before they step off the bus, and it has given the Hokies several wins over the last 8 years that have kept them relevant as a regional power. Now we come to the three measuring stick games for 2012, starting perhaps with the toughest matchup, the Clemson Tigers.

Gut Reactions: Duke

This team is not dead. In fact, after spotting Duke 20 points, they were reborn. This is what we expected to see on the field heading into the 2012 campaign. The defensive line was dominate. They played angry and answered the challenge put forth by the coaches during an intense week of practice. They created chaos and it led to turnovers, sacks, and busted plays. J.C. Coleman had over 180 yards on the ground and reinvigorated a stagnant running game. Marcus Davis showed off his athleticism and made big-plays.

People might say, "It's Duke," and to that I say, "Bullshit." That was a 5-1 team we just throttled. Duke threw haymakers to start the game and we answered the bell. That was the first time all season we played team football, and if we give that effort down the stretch, we'll have a chance in every game.

The coaches sounded like they were going to get away from the Nickel, but they used it a bunch (if I had to guess 75% of the game). Both Michael Cole and Detrick Bonner struggled, albeit less this week, in man-coverage. However, both had an interception and Bonner made a great play on the ball in the end zone in the fourth quarter. Although, I'd still prefer to see a base look. Towards the end of the game Tech was in base and Ronny Vandyke had nice coverage with Jarrett helping over the top and they forced an incompletion like clockwork.

Adventures on Whiskey Lane: Episode Seven

This week on Adventures on Whiskey Lane, Brian and Kevin try to figure out what's been going wrong for the Hokies recently. It includes a lot of head scratching and thoughts of better years.

However, much like the team, Brian and Kevin turn their attention to a 5-1 Duke team (really) that's off to its best start in nearly 20 years.

What do the Hokies have to do to snap the skid? Find out that and more on this week's Adventure on Whiskey Lane!

MP3 Download link: http://thekeyplay.podomatic.com/enclosure/2012-10-11T19_55_47-07_00.mp3

Q&A with Ben Swain

As we approach the most dreaded Duke game in the history of Duke games, I sat down with Ben Swain of ACC Sports Journal. We trade witty remarks over 1,000 magical words about two teams trending in opposite directions, the faulty two quarterback system, the Blue Devil kicking game and what it's like to be even less than a little brother at your school.

I hope y'all enjoy our banter as much as the game on Saturday.

TKP: So...here we are. It's October, Duke is 5-1 while Virginia Tech sits at a paltry 3-3. The Hokies are favored, but I have also seen the line as low as a pick. This seems crazier than Nick Saban's daughter. I don't really have a question, just wanted to make a statement of how depressed I am..but for kicks, let's turn it into one. What's different about this Duke team?

Spring Football: Boston College, Duke, Cincinnati and Miami

The Hokies don't begin spring practice until March 28, but other teams on their schedule have been pitching around the oblong. Here's a look at their opponents that are already popping pads.

Boston College

Start: Feb. 18
Game: March 31

Montel Harris re-aggravated his left knee injury after BC's first spring practice. He's being held out for the rest of spring, a move that seems more precautionary than anything.

The Eagles have a brand new offensive coaching staff, so getting the new system installed is the highest priority.

No. 7 Duke "Preview"

Who: Virginia Tech Hokies (12-9, 1-5 ACC) vs Duke Blue Devilss (18-3, 5-1 ACC)

When: Thursday, February 2 @ 7:00 p.m.

TV: ESPN (Mike Patrick, Len Elmore, Jeannine Edwards)

Where: Cassell Coliseum (9.847), Blacksburg, VA

Thanks to some technical difficulties on my end, my previously-written Duke preview disappeared last night. So, in lieu of a typical preview for this game, I'm using this space as a place for us fans to gather and talk about this team. After this weekend, we'll be halfway through the ACC slate, and Tech could be 3-5 and on the upswing or sadly, as bad as 1-7 and talking about whether the NIT is even a possibility at this point.

This is a defining weekend for our basketball team. And it all starts with the team that we earned our defining moment against last year. Our guys came out and showed just how well they could be if everything went right. Duke provided us with what is possibly the best day in the history of Virginia Tech basketball. Sure, it's a bit different this year with College Gameday not being in town, but this still could be a shining moment against an otherwise bleak backdrop.

Duke Roll Call

I'm going to play the optimist card here and say that the guys are just beat up, and that's why Saturday's game was so ugly and flat.

I will give credit to the defense, though. Duke isn't exactly Georgia Tech or Clemson, but they mostly did a fine job.

Overall, I thought the guys played well here and there. Some of the third down calls blew my mind. Are we not trying to keep drives alive?

The few extra days of rest couldn't be coming at a better time. Everyone better buckle up for next Thursday...

I'll be honest, I had to watch this game in parts, and I had a better time trying to figure out why Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries filed for divorce.

Note: My game feed dropped out between Martin's touchdown and Whitley's personal foul.

1. Antone Exum - Quiet most of the afternoon, except when he absolutely leveled one of the Duke receivers on the sideline. It should be noted that I saw him blanketing his assignment multiple times.

2. Josh Oglesby - Who would have thought his touchdown would be the game winner? He knows how to run tough.

3. Logan Thomas - Well, he certainly threw a lot of interceptions. I thought he was actually OK otherwise, but the first pick was just brutal. These last few games are a good time to start giving him more carries, right? By the way, very nice tackle on his first pick.

8-1

Let's start by getting all the pleasantries out of the way. We won. A tick on the left side of the column is all that matters. Boykin and Coale had another stellar game. We're going to reminisce about this duo at tailgates for a long time to come. Anytime we recruit another little known two-star receiver you better believe people are going to say, "kid could be another Coale."

After every game I realize how important Cris Hill is to this team. I give a lot of well deserved credit to Kyle Fuller for being able to step in and play Whip/Nickel, but without Hill filling in for him strongly at corner that'd never be possible. He had another 6 tackles and held his ground all afternoon in coverage.

If that game itself was the trick, then David Wilson was the treat. YEAH BAD HALLOWEEN PUNS FOR EVERYONE. Believe me there are runs when I'm screaming for him just to take the couple of yards that are there, instead of shooting for the moon. But afterwords when I take a look at his entire body of work I appreciate his aggressive and ambitious running style and the numbers and points he puts up. Also, credit to Josh O for doing work and putting up six in relief of Wilson. That was a tremendous cutback on his 31-yard run.

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