BLACKSBURG – Virginia Tech’s turnovers and missed field goals caught up with it against Duke, and the No. 16 Hokies fell 13-10 to the Blue Devils at Lane Stadium on Saturday evening.
With the loss, Tech saw its six-game winning streak snapped. The Hokies are now 6-2 overall, 3-1 in the ACC. Duke, which had lost to the Hokies 12 straight times, became bowl eligible, moving to 6-2 overall, 2-2 in league play.
The Hokies dominated the game statistically, out-gaining Duke 387 yards to 198 yards. Tech rushed for 173 yards and held the ball for 39:27. But quarterback Logan Thomas threw four interceptions and kicker Cody Journell missed two field goals, and that turned out to be Tech’s undoing.
“The ball bounced their way and didn’t bounce our way a couple of times, and that’s the way it goes sometimes,” Tech head coach Frank Beamer said. “You’ve got to take advantage of opportunities. We can learn a lot from this video and still work to become a better football team. I think it’s our responsibility to win the next one and see what happens. That’s the way we’re going to approach it.”
Trailing 13-10, Tech got the ball back with 5:09 left to play, taking over at its 44 with a chance to tie or even win the game. But Thomas threw his fourth interception of the game when Kelby Brown caught a pass intended for Demitri Knowles that had been tipped by Breon Borders. Duke ran out the final 4:22 off the clock, including a conversion on a critical fourth-and-1 from the Tech 44, to seal the win.
“They’re a lot better than they used to be,” Tech mike linebacker Jack Tyler said of Duke. “Everyone knew that coming in. They’re so well coached. Coach [David] Cutcliffe is a great coach. We were prepared coming into the game. We just didn’t make enough plays. That was our biggest problem.”
Duke grabbed a 6-0 lead thanks to two field goals from kicker Ross Martin. His 51-yard field goal early in the second quarter gave the Blue Devils a 3-0 lead and then he added a 53-yarder on the final play of the first half to give Duke a 6-0 bulge.
Tech got inside the Duke 30-yard line on three occasions in the first half, but failed to score. On the first occasion, the Hokies failed to convert on fourth down from the Duke 29, and on the second, Tech scored a touchdown on a Thomas throw to D.J. Coles. But the play was negated because of a motion penalty on Coles, and Thomas later threw an interception in the end zone. On the final occasion, Journell missed a 45-yard field goal that hit the left upright.
In the second half, Duke grabbed a 13-0 lead on a 9-yard touchdown run by quarterback Anthony Boone with 6:14 left in the third quarter. The run capped a 63-yard drive.
“Defensive-wise, we have to make plays and do our part, no matter what the field position or things like that,” Tyler said. “If we don’t let them score a touchdown, we win the game. That’s the most disheartening part. You can put that loss on us, too. Statistically, it doesn’t seem the defense played that badly, but we could have done more to get a win for our team.”
The Hokies tried to come back after Duke’s score. They finally got on the board with 11 seconds left in the third quarter after Thomas scored on a 5-yard run to cap a 99-yard drive. Journell’s extra point cut the lead to 13-7.
Journell provided the points on the Hokies’ next possession, hitting a 42-yard field goal with 9:23 remaining to cut the lead to 13-10. Tech grabbed even more momentum when Kendall Fuller picked off a Boone pass on the second play of Duke’s next possession. That gave the Hokies the ball at the Duke 43.
But the drive ended when Journell missed badly on a 40-yard field goal that would have tied the game with 6:02 remaining.
Journell is now 8 of 14 on the season. He has missed at least one field goal in four of Tech’s eight games this season and two field goals in two of them.
“I’m concerned when a guy as steady as Cody misses two,” Beamer said. “But we’ll look at it. There was some pressure on that last one. I don’t know exactly what happened, but there was some pressure.”
Thomas rushed for 101 yards on 24 carries, and he completed 21 of 38 for 214 yards. But for the first time since the Alabama game, he did not throw a touchdown pass, and the four interceptions were a career high.
“Obviously, it’s frustrating,” Thomas said. “We did a lot on offense that was good.”
Boone paced the Blue Devils’ offense, running for 44 yards and throw for 107. But he completed just seven passes, and he threw four interceptions – including three to Fuller. Tech leads the nation with 17 interceptions.
Fuller became the first Tech player to record three interceptions in a game since Jayron Hosley intercepted three against NC State in 2010. His five interceptions this season are a single-season record for a Tech freshman, breaking the mark held by teammate Brandon Facyson, who missed the game with a concussion, and former defensive back Eric Green (2000).
The Hokies now play three of their final four games on the road, beginning next Saturday with a trip to Chestnut Hill, Mass., to face Boston College. Kickoff is slated for noon.“It’s time to bounce back and come out of this even stronger,” Thomas said. “We’ve got to practice harder and we’ve got to practice smarter. We’ve got to get back to the grind. There are a lot of things that we could have done better, and I’m going to make sure from now on that I’m doing my fair part, setting an example.”
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