- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 3, 2009

DURHAM, N.C. | Duke could be catching No. 6 Virginia Tech at just the right time.

The Hokies are flying high after their big victory over Miami. And the Blue Devils, who quietly are feeling good about themselves after an easy victory over a Football Championship Subdivision team, played Virginia Tech close last year in Blacksburg.

Possible upset formula? The Blue Devils (2-2) proving to themselves they can play with the Hokies and a little post-Hurricanes hangover for Virginia Tech (3-1, 1-0 ACC).

Hokies coach Frank Beamer has seen it before.

“I think we can look at our game from last year and see how tough these guys played us,” Beamer said. “You talk about those things, there’s a lot of examples of guys coming off great wins and then, the very next week, getting beat. … We understand we better get ready to play a heck of a football game against Duke.”

Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis said the Hokies will be ready to play.

“It doesn’t matter if they beat Florida and they’re coming in here the next week, you know?” Lewis said. “You just have to play football.”

Nonetheless, if there’s a team that Virginia Tech seemingly could afford to overlook, it’s Duke. The Hokies have changed conferences twice since their last loss to the Blue Devils in 1981, jumping from being independent to the Big East and finally to the ACC.

Virginia Tech has won eight straight meetings since then. The closest Duke has come to knocking the Hokies off was last year, when Virginia Tech claimed a 14-3 victory over a Blue Devils team that played without Lewis, who had an ankle injury.

He’s healthy this time, and both teams are well aware of what happened last week: Three top-10 teams were beaten by unranked opponents.

Hokies quarterback Tyrod Taylor gave the Hurricanes fits with his arm and his legs, throwing a 48-yard touchdown pass while running for 75 yards to move past Michael Vick into third place on the school’s career rushing list for quarterbacks.

“We know that they’re going to pound, pound and take their shots. … We have to always stay on our toes and be prepared for them to take a shot,” Duke cornerback Leon Wright said. “We’ll be fine as long as we don’t try to overplay ourselves or be superheroes. Let our defensive front and linebackers handle the run, and stay back on our guys, and make the play when the ball’s in the air, we’ll be fine.”

Virginia Tech’s traditionally tough defense figures to create a difficult matchup for Lewis and coach David Cutcliffe’s pass-based offense. The Hokies have been criticized for being leaky against the run — they were before the Miami game, at least — but those numbers should improve against a Duke ground game that ranks 11th in the ACC. The Blue Devils are throwing for 267 yards a game, and nine of their 13 offensive touchdowns have come through the air — but Virginia Tech has allowed only one passing touchdown this season.

Those numbers haven’t come against weaklings. Virginia Tech’s three victories came against teams that have no other losses. That won’t be the case after this week — Duke has already lost to defending FCS champion Richmond and No. 18 Kansas, with victories against some of the worst teams in both subdivisions (Army of the FBS and North Carolina Central of the FCS).

“You can never take anyone lightly, and we’re going to go out there and work as hard as we have for every other game this season,” linebacker Cody Grimm said. “Hopefully it pays off.”

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