Duke continues strong run against Virginia Tech

Durham, NC (SportsNetwork.com) – The 19th-ranked Duke Blue Devils will attempt
to hold firm to first place in the ACC Coastal Division on Saturday afternoon
when they play host to the Virginia Tech Hokies at Wallace Wade Stadium.

Since getting off to a promising 4-2 start in the first half of the season,
Virginia Tech has hit a slide with three straight losses to dip to 4-5 overall
and 1-4 in ACC play. The Hokies most recently fell on the wrong end of a 33-31
decision at home to Boston College on Nov. 1.

“I think we’ve got to keep moving in a positive direction,” Virginia Tech
coach Frank Beamer said. “This football team is going to keep on getting

After setting a school record with 10 wins a season ago, Duke is on pace to
top that number this season, as it sits at 8-1 with three regular season games
left, a potential ACC Championship Game and a bowl. The Blue Devils downed
Syracuse on the road last Saturday, 27-10, to improve to 4-1 in the league, a
game up on Georgia Tech (5-2) in the loss column in the Coastal Division.

“The immediate goal is to find a way to win this weekend,” Duke coach David
Cutcliffe said. “It will all shake out in the end. We just have to keep doing
our job. People who are in the business know that everyone remembers what you
do in November, so our sights are clearly on the Virginia Tech game.”

Virginia Tech had won 12 straight in the series with Duke before the Blue
Devils claimed last season’s matchup, 13-10. The Hokies still have a 13-8
advantage all-time.

The Hokies have struggled offensively this season, putting up just 26.2 ppg
and 381.7 ypg, although the last time out they topped both averages with 31
points and 414 yards.

Michael Brewer has been up-and-down under center. On the positive side of
things, he’s completing nearly 62 percent of his passes for 233.2 ypg.
However, he’s accounted for a modest 15 touchdowns and has tossed 11

Isaiah Ford is Brewer’s top target in the passing game, having tallied 41
receptions, 522 yards and five touchdowns. Bucky Hodges (29 receptions, 360
yards) also has five scores, and Willie Byrn (40 receptions, 324 yards) and
Cam Phillips (31 receptions, 373 yards, two TDs) have also been solid out

The rushing attack averages a mere 3.8 yards per carry. Marshawn Williams (469
yards, four TDs) is the only effective tailback ever since Shai McKenzie (269
yards, three TDs) was lost for the season with a knee injury a few weeks ago.

Virginia Tech has remained competitive this season thanks mostly to an
impressive defense, which allows only 22.6 ppg and 345.1 ypg.

Kyshoen Jarrett has a team-best 58 tackles to go with two interceptions. Dadi
Nicolas (9.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks), Ken Ekanem (9.0 TFL, 5.0 sacks) and Deon Clarke
(9.0 TFL, 4.0 sacks) all get pressure in the backfield. Chase Williams (54
tackles, 8.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks) is questionable with a knee injury.

Duke’s offensive numbers (34.8 ppg, 403.9 ypg) are impressive but have been
skewed by inconsistent play. It has scored 40 points or more four times on the
year but 31 or less in four of its last five.

Anthony Boone leads the attack from under center. He’s not the most accurate
passer, completing less than 59 percent of his throws, but he’s efficient in
passing for 198.8 ypg, 14 touchdowns and just four picks. He’s also added 247
yards and four scores rushing.

Jamison Crowder is one of the ACC’s best playmakers, as he’s hauled in 58
passes for 694 yards and four touchdowns. His big-play ability was displayed
on special teams last week with a 52-yard punt return touchdown to go ahead in
the fourth quarter.

The ground game, which rushes for just shy of 200 yards per game, is
spearheaded by the efforts of Shaun Wilson, who has 535 yards (on 9.2 yards
per carry) and four touchdowns. Shaquille Powell (74 carries, 376 yards, two
TDs) earns the most backfield work.

Although the Blue Devils allow 400.4 ypg on defense, they only yield 18.2 ppg,
which ranks 11th in the nation. They allow touchdowns on just 56 percent of
red-zone possessions and have forced 15 turnovers.

David Helton is a tackling machine with 94 stops. Jeremy Cash is right on his
heels (82 tackles) and has added 5.0 TFL, 1.5 sacks, two interceptions and
three forced fumbles to a great campaign. Breon Borders and Zavier Carmichael
have two picks apiece.