BLACKSBURG, Va. — Virginia Tech outgained Duke by nearly 200 yards, held the ball nearly 20 minutes longer, picked off four passes and did not permit a single third-down conversion.
And lost. How odd. Let’s try this again.
Virginia Tech coughed up four interceptions in varied and comical fashion, converted just 4 of 18 third down attempts and missed a pair of field goals.
And could not possibly have won. Perhaps that best explains how Virginia Tech finally got burned in a humiliating 13-10 loss after playing with fire all season.
The Hokies made mistakes on Saturday that they had avoided for much of the season. Coach Frank Beamer didn’t have many answers after the game and said he and the coaching staff will be spending a lot of time in the film room figuring out what went wrong.
“We’ll go back and look at the video and I think we’ll see some opportunities that we didn’t take advantage of,” Beamer said.
What happened on those third downs?
“We’ll look back and see that we could have made a lot more plays, I think,” Beamer said.
What went wrong for Logan Thomas, who had gone a career-best 116 attempts without throwing an interception before tossing four against Duke?
“We’ll look at the video and see what exactly took place,” Beamer said. “It was a tough one there.”
Virginia Tech had been surviving this season with an offense that did just barely enough to win games served up by its lights-out defense. In doing so, the Hokies avoided turnovers and took advantage of the many occasions when the defense spotted the offense good field position.
Duke came into the game averaging more than 35 points and 450 yards per game. The Blue Devils were held to 13 points and a mere 199 yards and were 0 of 11 on third down. Two of their scoring drives covered 22 and 35 yards and resulted in field goals in excess of 50 yards. It was the first time this season that a BCS-conference team converted two such field goals.
“We played hard for four quarters but sometimes maybe the best team doesn’t win,” Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. “I think today was one of those days.”
In truth, Duke managed just one sustained scoring drive, covering 63 yards on six plays. But even then, 25 yards and two first downs came on pass interference and holding penalties against the Hokies defense.
When Anthony Boone scrambled for a nine-yard touchdown, it gave Duke a 13-0 lead, which had the feeling of being insurmountable, given Thomas’ relapse into poor decision-making and errant throws.