Virginia Tech routed Duke 36-0 at Lane Stadium Saturday afternoon, but the main storyline of the day for the Blue Devils had little to do with the game's outcome and more to do with late hits on starting quarterback Thaddeus Lewis.
Lewis was knocked out of the game early in the second quarter after a violent late hit by Virginia Tech rover Aaron Rouse snapped Lewis' neck back and slammed him to the ground.
The roughing the passer penalty was the second of the first half against Rouse and the third overall by the Hokies, who used big plays in all three facets of the game to shutout Duke for the second straight year.
Lewis' early exit forced Duke to use backup Marcus Jones the rest of the game, and while he played with toughness and competitiveness, the Blue Devil offense could never find a consistent rhythm.
The Hokies got started on the very first play from scrimmage with a 60-yard pass from quarterback Sean Glennon to wide receiver David Clowney. The Hokies went up 6-0 on a touchdown run by Branden Ore, but Duke defensive tackle Casey Camero blocked the extra point attempt.
Lewis had to leave the action for a couple of plays on Duke's first drive when he fell to the ground awkwardly on Duke's first offensive play when he tried to find running room on a quarterback keeper. He re-entered the action on the same drive, but for the day the freshman only directed four offensive series for Duke.
Duke's defense fought hard throughout much of the first half, but the Hokies struck on special teams for their second touchdown of the day on a dazzling 58-yard punt return by Eddie Royal late in the first quarter.
Duke faced horrible field position for the entire first half. The Blue Devils didn't take their first snap in Virginia Tech territory until about midway through the third quarter, when the Hokies already had built a 30-0 lead.
Duke's offense only penetrated inside the 20-yard line twice. The first trip to the red zone ended when Jones was stopped on a fourth down keeper. The second trip ended almost as soon it started when a holding penalty moved the Blue Devils backward.
It was a long day for everybody on the Duke sideline. Blue Devil quarterbacks were sacked eight times and Glennon threw for 301 yards while scarcely being pressured. One final possession enabled Duke to top the 100 yard mark as the Blue Devils finished the day with 139 net yards.
The two biggest bright spots on offense were tailback Justin Boyle and fullback Tielor Robinson, who combined for 68 yards on 17 carries. Boyle played through pain as he continues to recover from an injury he sustained in the season opener against Richmond.
Wide receiver Eron Riley also had a couple of standout plays, finishing the day with a pair of catches for 45 yards.
John Talley had his first interception of the season and the 12th of his career when he picked off a first quarter pass deep in Duke territory.
Blue Devil fans will not remember this game for its final score though. The late hits on Lewis will be the standout memory from this afternoon in Blacksburg.
Duke coach Ted Roof did not directly address the issue in his postgame comments, but Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer and Rouse both appeared to offer apologies to Roof after the game.
"(The game plan) changed a good bit (when Lewis went out) but that's an unfortunate part of this game, is injury," Roof told the Duke Radio Network after the game. "He's a tough kid and he took some shots, but he'll bounce back and he'll be ready to go for Virginia. He got hit in the head in a head-to-head deal, and he was out of it for a little while but he's back and we'll get him healthy and get him ready to go."
Duke has a much needed off week before the Cavaliers come to Wallace Wade Stadium on September 30th.