Duke had answers early and late in its 24-21 loss to Virginia Tech on Saturday, the Blue Devils’ third straight setback.
The latter answers weren’t enough to stop the Hokies, though.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Daniel Jones ran in a pair of touchdowns during the second half, bringing the Blue Devils within three points with 7:10 left.
Duke forced a quick three-and-out but fumbled on its next possession. Virginia Tech’s Terrell Edmunds was called for targeting on running back Shaun Wilson with 5:41 left, and Duke took over at the 50 but punted.
The Hokies struck quickly, driving deep downfield and converting two third downs along the way. They ran the clock out for the win.
The teams entered the second quarter tied, Duke hopeful after responding to Virginia Tech’s first scoring drive midway through the first quarter. A Duke offsides call and 20-yard Jarod Evans pass punctuated the Hokies first touchdown drive, which ended with a 14-yard punch by Travon McMillian.
Using his targets primarily in the flats, Daniel Jones led a 10-play charge to tie the score on the Blue Devils’ next possession.
Virginia Tech’s Greg Stroman blocked A.J. Reed’s 30-yard field-goal attempt on Duke’s opening drive of the second quarter, and Adonis Alexander returned it for a touchdown, sucking the momentum out of a Blue Devils team that went 4-of-5 on third-down conversions in the opening quarter.
Jones’ fourth-quarter score left Duke trailing 24-21.
How Duke lost
After the blocked field goal returned for a touchdown, Duke struggled to keep its offensive stride consistent. Jones hit four different targets on third-down conversions in the first quarter. After the Hokies went up 14-7 on the special teams score, Duke’s next three possessions ended with punts. The Hokies’ defense dialed up the pressure after the break, including two Jones sacks for a loss of 18 yards to start the second half.
Though Duke played a strong second half, which it has a lot, it couldn’t recover from the first-half setbacks.
What it means
It means Virginia Tech made it that much harder for UNC to win the Coastal Division and that Duke’s bowl window got much slimmer. Both teams will have a lot of winning left to do to achieve their respective goals.
99: Jones’ rushing yards. The young quarterback set another career high, upping his total from Georgia Tech last week.
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan