Virginia Tech has no more room for error.
The Hokies (3-4, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) have lost three of four, and they play surging Duke (5-1, 2-0) on Saturday. The Blue Devils are looking to jump into first place in the ACC lead; the Hokies are playing for survival. A Virginia Tech loss, with three unbeaten teams in the Coastal Division, the Hokies' ACC title goals are likely finished.
The Blue Devils, meantime, are unbeaten in league play along with North Carolina (2-0) and Pittsburgh (3-0), and they will play both on consecutive weekends to start November.
Virginia Tech has won 13 of its last 14 meetings with the Blue Devils, with the lone loss coming two years ago at Lane Stadium. But that Duke team was driven by offense, and one of the nation's best defenses is now its calling card.
Cornerback Brandon Facyson believes he and the Hokies are ready to get back to their winning ways.
''Obviously we didn't want our record to be this way. It's not how it's supposed to be, but we're taking it as is and we're continuing to grow each day,'' he said. ''And with every loss, every win, we bond together stronger.''
The Blue Devils have won 11 of their last 12 road games, including their visit to Lane Stadium two years ago. That 13-10 victory will boster their confidence, even if it's their only victory in the last 14 meetings.
''I think it gives us confidence because it's always tough to go on the road and get a win, but especially in Blacksburg,'' linebacker Dwayne Norman said. ''I remember that's the loudest stadium that I've ever played in.
''The fans never sat down the whole time. They were behind us screaming and yelling the whole game. It's something we're definitely proud of that we went up there got a win, and hopefully we can do it again.''
Here are some things to watch when Duke plays at Virginia Tech:
BREWER'S RETURN: The Hokies got solid play from dual-threat replacement Brenden Motley in Brewer's absence, but have failed to develop more receiving options beyond WRs Isaiah Ford and Cam Philips and TEs Bucky Hodges and Ryan Malleck. Brewer might be able to expand the targets, or at least utilize a few of them more, even against a Blue Devils defense that has twice held opponents (Boston College and Army) without a first-half passing yard.
DEFENSIVE PRESSURE: Virginia Tech is tied for third in the ACC with 15 sacks, while Duke leads the ACC in sack prevention, having allowed just four sacks. If the Hokies can pressure Sirk, he might make uncharacteristic mistakes.
TRAVON TIME: The Hokies appear to have settled on Travon McMillian as their featured tailback. He ran for 99 yards last week in a loss at Miami, and another solid game could settle things for the Hokies on offense.
BIG PLAYS: The Hokies have a penchant for being solid on defense for most of the game, then getting burned when a play breaks for a big gainer or a touchdown. If one team can manage to make those big plays happen in what figures to be a defensive struggle, that team will have a distinct advantage.
MISLEADING HISTORY: The Hokies have traditionally prevailed against Duke - once considered the doormat of ACC football, but times have changed. Virginia Tech would do well to be ready for a challenge from a well-prepared Blue Devils squad.
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