No. 23 Hokies visit Duke, look to keep control of division
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) Virginia Tech needs to do a better job of handling success this time.
After reeling off a pair of league wins and taking control of the ACC's Coastal Division, the 23rd-ranked Hokies on Saturday face a Duke team that, on paper, they should have little trouble beating.
Except that the last time they were in this situation, the Hokies essentially fell on their faces .
''Everybody was patting us on the back telling us how good of a job we were doing, we went up to Syracuse and got smacked around,'' coach Justin Fuente said. ''I think that's a pretty clear reference point for our guys in terms of the preparation and the intensity with which we'll have to play. The margin for error is very small.''
So is the gap between the Hokies (6-2, 4-1, No. 19 CFP) and No. 18 North Carolina, the Coastal's co-leaders. The only thing separating them is the 34-3 thumping Virginia Tech laid on the Tar Heels last month, which means the Hokies are one slip-up away from ceding control to UNC .
Fuente ''referenced us like the little kid touching the stove. Is he going to go back and touch it again or is he going to learn his lesson the first time?'' receiver Isaiah Ford said. ''And we want to be the ones that learned our lesson the first time.''
The Blue Devils (3-5, 0-4) - the only ACC team without a win in league play - are in desperate need of a turnaround.
Their upset of since-struggling Notre Dame looks less impressive with each passing week, and Duke dropped three of four during October with the lone win coming against Army. They followed an encouraging loss to No. 5 Louisville with a defeat at Georgia Tech in which they gave up the go-ahead touchdown in the final minutes.
''The biggest thing is to continue to build this 2016 Duke team,'' coach David Cutcliffe said. ''We aren't running from anything. We're working and we're focused.''
Some other things to know about the Virginia Tech-Duke game:
AIR HOKIES: Virginia Tech has gained at least 500 total yards in each of their last two games and doing it against Duke would give the Hokies the first such three-game streak in program history. Ford (23 touchdowns, a school record) and Bucky Hodges (18) are first and third among active ACC players in career TD catches, with Hodges coming off a career-best 145-yard performance at Pittsburgh . ''Those two are enough to keep you up all night,'' Cutcliffe said.
CAPTAINS' CURSE: Duke selected four captains before the season and three are out for the year with injuries , leaving DT A.J. Wolf as the only healthy captain on the team. Leading rusher Jela Duncan was the latest to go down, rupturing an Achilles tendon in the loss to Georgia Tech. ''Hopefully, I'll be OK,'' Wolf said, dismissing a suggestion that the position is cursed. ''Bad luck for those guys.''
WILSON'S TIME: The injury to Duncan means Shaun Wilson will be the unquestioned top tailback for Duke. Wilson, who rushed for a program-record 245 yards two years ago against Kansas, has 373 yards rushing and two touchdowns this season.
BIG PLAYS: Virginia Tech will look to take advantage of Duke's knack for giving up big plays. Of the five touchdowns allowed by the Blue Devils against Georgia Tech, three covered at least 20 yards - including an 82-yard TD run by Justin Thomas and a 21-yard scoring pass in the final minutes. ''I think our guys are conscious of trying to get north and south with the ball after they do catch it,'' Fuente said.
UNI WATCH: Duke is breaking out "Battleship Grey" helmets to commemorate 75 years since the Rose Bowl was held at Wallace Wade Stadium because of World War II. The helmet logo is a nod to the 88th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army that was nicknamed the ''Blue Devils.''
AP Sports Writer Hank Kurz Jr. in Blacksburg, Virginia, contributed to this report.
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