Key play breakdown: Duke utterly baffles the Hokies defense on its first touchdown


Through one quarter, Duke had gained just seven yards against the Hokies defense. After a bad handoff and Koby Quansah fumble recovery gave the Blue Devils the ball on the 16, they would triple their yardage total for the game.

Here’s a look at Quentin Harris’ touchdown pass to Noah Gray that gave the Blue Devils a lead they would never relinquish.

The situation:

Duke was down 3-0 and had not moved the ball at all, going three and out in their first three possessions. A turnover in the red one gave the Blue Devils their first legitimate shot at scoring.

The formation:

Duke lined up four wide, three on the left side, including tight end Noah Gray, who is in closest to the line but detached. Brittain Brown is in the backfield.

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Virginia Tech has three down lineman and an end/outside linebacker who is showing pass rush from the right side of Duke’s line. That’s TyJuan Garbutt, who would finish the day with seven tackles and 1.5 TFL. They have tight man coverage on Duke’s sole receiver on the right side and are giving big cushions on the left side.

The snap:

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So much going on here. Harris gives a quick run fake to Brown, who then picks up Garbutt, stopping him in his tracks with a block.

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That essentially ends any chance Virginia Tech had of breaking up this play.

On the other side, Jalon Calhoun, in the left slot, didn’t run a route. Instead, he took a few steps backward into the backfield, possibly to get a wide receiver screen.

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After play faking to Brown, Harris turns and gives a hard fake of a screen pass to Calhoun.

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All three Virginia Tech defenders on that side bite hard. It almost makes the genius of the pass routes wasted, since Aaron Young (out wide) and Gray could basically run anything at this point and be wide open in the end zone.

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But they don’t. Young gives a double move at the 10 yard line, even though he has already gotten a step past his defender, who doesn’t see the move at all. He then heads to the post. Divine Diablo (No. 17) realizes what’s happened way too late. He throws up his arms in cartoon distress and turns to try to catch up.

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Gray takes a wide turn, making it look like he’s going to make himself available for a dumpoff pass near the line, then, as the Tech defenders should have been switching men, he turns and heads straight upfield.

Again, he’s already a step beyond his defender at this point, before he's even crossed the line of scrimmage. So no one is there to be fooled.

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By the time Harris releases the ball, Young and Gray each have six yards of separation on their nearest defenders.

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Far behind the play, Calhoun is already signaling touchdown as Harris throws it.

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As if the utter success of this play needed a punch line, it also served to set up Duke’s trick play later in the quarter.

The Blue Devils had a similar formation, with Deon Jackson in the backfield and four wide, three on the left side.

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Again, Calhoun took a few steps into the backfield at the snap, the same motion he faked the entire Hokies defense with on the first touchdown.

This time, Harris does throw him the ball. Meanwhile, on the other side, Jackson faked as if he was going to pick up the rusher from the right side, but he then slipped the block and headed upfield.

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Calhoun throws across the field, leading Jackson down the right sideline.

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When the ball arrives from Calhoun, Jackson is completely alone.

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A well-designed play can get a team a touchdown. A truly genius play can get them two. That's just what Duke's second-quarter was--a chess master at the top of his game.

Comments (1)

Awesome play design and perfectly executed by everyone on offense. Everyone picked up their assignments and it turned into a big touchdown for the Blue Devils. Wouldn't be surprised if we see more of these types of formations from Duke in the future.