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VT defensive coordinator Bud Foster calls the Blue Devils the Hokies’ best coached opponent.
Duke quarterback Sean Renfree stands back to pass during a 2011 game against Miami.
Duke running back Jela Duncan rushes for a gain as he is dragged down by Virginia cornerback Maurice Canady and safety Anthony Harris during the second half of Duke's Oct. 19 game against the Cavaliers.
Duke coach David Cutcliffe solidified his reputation as a quarterback guru with the Manning brothers at Tennessee and Ole Miss before taking over the Blue Devils.
Saturday, October 26, 2013
BLACKSBURG — There was a time, not too long ago, when seeing Duke on the football schedule meant an easy weekend ahead, a time to rest up and take a peek ahead at whoever was next.
That time has long since passed.
The Blue Devils (5-2, 1-2 ACC) come into Lane Stadium this afternoon to face No. 16 Virginia Tech (6-1, 3-0) looking to become bowl eligible for a second straight season — wh ich would be a first in school history.
Fresh off a 35-22 comeback victory at Virginia — a game in which the Blue Devils scored 35 unanswered points to erase a 22-0 deficit — Duke has won three straight.
“They’re not the Duke of old,” Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. “They’re the new, improved version.”
A similar first-half surge last year got the Blue Devils to the necessary six wins for postseason eligibility for the first time in 20 years. A backloaded schedule quickly brought Duke back to reality, but despite losing quarterback Sean Renfree and receiver Conner Vernon, coach David Cutcliffe’s group has reloaded.
Cutcliffe, who solidified his reputation as a quarterback guru with the Manning brothers at Tennessee and Ole Miss before he got to Duke, has an offense that’s averaging 35.7 points and 452.1 yard per game.
With Anthony Boone and Brandon Connette both playing quarterback, the Blue Devils’ passing attack is ranked second in the ACC in completions and completion percentage, third in passing touchdowns, fourth in yards and fifth in efficiency.
“To me this is the best coached offensive football team we’ll see to date,” Foster said, in what has been a week of escalating mutual praise between the coaching staffs. “I have the utmost respect for David Cutcliffe and his staff. …
“Alabama’s got great talent. These guys have good talent but great coaching. They’re good at what they do. They’ve always got an answer for whatever you’re doing, to come back.”
Foster, whose defense has thrived this year and is ranked No. 3 nationally, will have his own adjustments to make, especially in the secondary.
Senior cornerback Antone Exum will make his debut following offseason ACL surgery, although Kyle Fuller (groin) is questionable and Brandon Facyson (concussion) is doubtful, leaving a few question marks on the Hokies’ back end.
Despite winning 12 straight games in the series, Tech has no reason to take Duke lightly, not after last year’s wake-up call in Lane. The Blue Devils stormed to a 20-0 lead in the first quarter before Virginia Tech scored 41 unanswered points to pull away for the win.
“We beat ourselves,” Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas said. “Just a few things here and there that really destroyed us, but then we came out and started doing what we had to do. …
“We came together as a team and that’s what we’re going to have this time. Make it a team effort. Obviously that’s what we’ve been doing thus far in the season.”
For all of Duke’s recent accomplishments, it still hasn’t gotten over the hump with a signature win against the ACC’s top teams.
Cutcliffe has 10 ACC wins in six years, but five of them have come against Virginia and only one (last year’s UNC game) came against a team that finished the season with a winning record. Cutcliffe is 0-20 against Virginia Tech, Miami, Georgia Tech, Florida State and Clemson.
Duke has lost 47 straight games to ranked teams, dating to a 1994 win against No. 13 Virginia. The Blue Devils’ last win on the road against a ranked team happened way back in 1971 against Stanford.
Still, Virginia Tech’s coaches have hammered home this week that the Hokies aren’t playing Duke’s past teams. They’re playing the current one, a group that is 5-2 and isn’t the pushover it once was.
“This is a big-time game for them,” Foster said. “And it’s a big-time game in the league for us.”
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