It took four overtimes and too many close calls to count, but Duke managed to pull out a thrilling victory over ACC Coastal Division foe Virginia Tech to clinch bowl eligibility for a fourth straight year.
The Blue Devils 6-1 (3-0 ACC) looked dead in the water in the second half after leading the Hokies 24-16 late in the game and Virginia Tech marched down the field to tie the game. Duke marched back down the field but missed a go-ahead field goal with 1:09 remaining. With all the momentum it appeared that the Blue Devils were headed for a similar fate as last year’s close loss to the Hokies.
In a normal game 1:09 with good field position, playing at home and all the momentum, would have been enough, but this wasn’t a normal game. Playing calling at times was head scratching on both sides and Virginia Tech managed to waste their opportunity and attempted a 67 yard field goal giving Duke a chance to return the ball with no time left.
Fortunately for the Hokies that didn’t happen and after the two traded field goals and touchdowns in the first two overtimes more weirdness ensued. Duke in the third overtime had a first and goal but choosing to pull starting quarterback Thomas Sirk they only managed a field goal.
Virginia Tech answered with a field goal in their third overtime which included a half-back pass on their first play. In the fourth overtime Virginia used its potent ground game to punch in a touchdown but failed to convert the mandatory two-point conversion.
Thomas Sirk despite not showing much proclivity for hitting for big plays down field, hit Erich Schneider on the first play of Duke’s fourth overtime to tie the game. Sirk then ran in the two point conversion to seal the 45-43 win.
It was a strange game for the Blue Devils whose usually stingy defense couldn’t do much to stop Hokie running back Travon McMillan who ran for 142 yards and two scores. Quarterback who came back from a broken collarbone suffered in Virginia Tech’s first game was equally impressive throwing for 270 yards and three scores.
Sirk despite his struggles with the deep ball started strong and finished with an impressive 270 yards passing and four scores. He also led the Blue Devils in rushing with 109 yards.
The offensive output was a welcome site for a Duke offense that has looked anemic at times this season but the struggles of the defense who were without starting defensive end Kyler Brown looked unable to stop much of whatever Virginia Tech threw or ran at them.
Still a win is a win, and the victory keeps the Blue Devils in the ACC Coastal Division race that is led by Pitt (4-0).
Duke returns home next weekend to take on a struggling Miami team who got blitzed by Clemson 58-0, the worst loss ever for the Hurricanes. Meanwhile Coastal leading Pitt has a huge game with North Carolina who also sits at 3-0 in the conference. The winner of that has a big advantage in the division so Duke will have to keep winning.