Info Center
TSL Roster Card
(PDF format; to read
it, you'll need Adobe
Acrobat Reader.)
Blacksburg Weather
Lane Stadium
Seating Chart
2004 VT Roster
Duke Links

Official Site
Rivals Site
Rivals Msg Bd
Insiders Site
Insiders Msg Bd
News & Observer
Charlotte Observer
W-S Journal
The Chronicle
USA Today Links
Game Notes (PDF)
Radio Stations
Live Stats (home games)
Game Preview: Virginia Tech vs. Duke
by Jeff Ouellet, 9/16/04

Saturday, September 18th, 2004, noon

TV: Jefferson Pilot/Raycom

Forecast (from
Click the "Blacksburg Weather" link to the right.
Saturday forecast, as of 11:00 am Thursday: Rain, 67 degrees at game time. 100% chance of rain early in the day, decreasing to 80% by game time
Click here for NOAA's Hurricane Ivan track forecast

Click here for's VT/Duke roster card

Preview: Virginia Tech versus Duke
by Jeff Ouellet

After the biggest numerical win in the Beamer era, the Hokies turn their attention towards their first conference game against the Duke Blue Devils (0-2). It will be a monumental day for the Hokie Nation, as VT participates in its first ever revenue sport ACC event. Although it won’t be the most exciting game Lane Stadium has hosted, it may very well be the most significant. Participating in the ACC truly is special.

As for the game this week, there is no escaping the conclusion that Duke’s football program has been downright woeful over the past five years. Seven games into 2003, Duke fired its beleaguered head coach Carl Franks and replaced him with an assistant named Ted Roof that had “no chance” of keeping the permanent job according to Duke AD Joe Alleva.

A funny thing happened on the way to the unemployment line for Roof – the Blue Devils played four good football games out of their last five to close the season, playing NC State tough (28-21), Tennessee competitively (23-8) and beating two conference opponents, GT (41-17) and UNC (30-22). Those conference wins were particularly gratifying for a team that had lost 30 consecutive games to ACC opponents prior to the win over the Yellow Jackets. Roof instilled some pride in his players, and he was rewarded by having the interim tag removed from his title.

Despite the solid conclusion to last year, the Blue Devils lost some key personnel from last year suggesting that 2004 would not build on the promise of 2003. The very good backfield tandem of Chris Douglas, Duke’s all time leading rusher, and Alex Wade graduated as well as defensive standouts Ryan Fowler (linebacker) and Matt Zielinski (defensive tackle). Four starters from a solid offensive line also left.

There also have been some unanticipated losses this offseason for Duke. Tragically, three-year starting defensive end Micah Harris was killed in a car accident in Virginia over the summer.

As if that wasn’t enough, injuries have also come in abundance this fall. Duke lost defensive end Phillip Alexander, their biggest defensive playmaker, perhaps for the season when he suffered a broken leg last week in a 22-20 loss to UConn. Leading rusher Cedric Dargan and standout defensive back Kenneth Stanford also missed the UConn game after suffering injuries in the opener against Navy. None of them will play against VT, and the Blue Devils will also be missing receiver Senterrio Landrum, defensive end Brian Sallee, and punt returner Jamin Pastore.

Duke did not play well in its opening game, a 27-12 loss to Navy, but they rebounded with a very solid performance against Connecticut last week. It is a game Duke could have, and probably should have, won. They led 20-6 but lost 22-20 when they missed a field goal late.

Duke’s Offense

Duke’s new offensive coordinator, Marty Galbraith, has an impressive resume and has a history of coaching high scoring offenses. He uses multiple formations and emphasizes (at least with this personnel) a short passing game. While Galbraith is a solid coach, the early returns have not been good with this talent, as the Blue Devils are ninth in the ACC in scoring at 16 points per game, ninth in rushing with 118 yards per game, and tenth with 137 passing yards per game. Among other problems, the offense lacks a jaw dropping playmaker.

Duke has two quarterbacks that will see time against VT. 6’2”, 215 SR Chris Dapolito played most of the way last week against UConn. Dapolito is mobile and has tremendous leadership qualities. He was voted as one of five captains by his teammates despite the fact he wasn’t projected to start this year.

Dapolito’s physical skills aren’t overwhelming, but he makes enough plays to keep his team in the game. In the opener he ran for 47 yards on nine carries, and on the season he is 17-28 for 176 yards with one touchdown and one interception. When he throws, he tends to utilize the running backs and tight ends.

SO Mike Schneider started eight games last year and the opener this year. He has nice size (6’2”, 215) and a solid arm. He is the best passer on the roster. He struggled to read defenses at times last year and his numbers weren’t very good (only 1,220 yards passing with six interceptions versus four touchdowns). He does have some promise.

Schneider sat on the bench last week for the first 56 minutes as Dapolito got the start, but Roof showed great faith in him when he asked Schneider to lead the Devils on the final drive when Duke was down two points (he asked Schneider to take over because he is the better passer). Schneider showed great resiliency in leading his team down the field, converting on a fourth and seventeen, but Duke lost the game to UConn when their kicker missed a 36 yard attempt with less than 10 seconds left.

The third quarterback in Durham is a name familiar to VT recruitniks, and he just may be the best athlete on the Duke roster. SO Curt Dukes (6’1”, 215) was a high profile option quarterback prospect from North Carolina who narrowed his choices to Nebraska, PSU and VT before eventually casting his lot with the ‘Huskers. Things didn’t work out in Lincoln, and he transferred to Duke.

Dukes lost the quarterback battle to Dapolito and Schneider, but he is the wild card in this game. Dukes is a very good runner – he had one carry from the fullback position last week for 16 yards – he can catch the ball, and he can throw it. He could line up at any of the skill positions. While his versatility is a blessing, it also can be a curse this early in the year: Duke has not given him as many touches on offense as you would think given his athleticism. Incorporating him into the game plan should be a priority for Galbraith this week.

The starting tailback was supposed to be 6’0”, 200 JR Cedric Dargan, but Roof said Wednesday that Dargan will not play this week. After opening with 101 yards in the first half against Navy (on 17 carries), Dargan was limited by three different leg injuries to only three carries for 14 yards in the second half. At his best, Dargan is a tough inside runner with speed. He is a legitimate ACC caliber tailback.

Dargan’s backup, and this week's starter, is 5’10”, 215 SO Aaron Fryer. Fryer was not productive last week against UConn as he only had 59 rushing yards on 20 carries. Duke will need to average over 4 yards per carry out of its tailbacks to have any shot at keeping the game close.

Duke has three very good tight ends. The triumvirate combined for 40 catches and 606 yards on a team that did not throw the ball well. 6’4”, 260 SO Ben Patrick has the most talent and may very well end up in the NFL. He has excellent hands and is a very good route runner. He only has four catches on the year, but he still is a big part of the offense. Roof considers him the team’s best receiver.

The backup duties at tight end will be handled by 6’5”, 255 SR Calen Powell. Powell is a good blocker at the point of attack and a solid, dependable veteran somewhat similar to Jared Mazzetta at VT.

The third tight end for Duke is slated to start at fullback. 6’4”, 235 JR Andy Roland was the starter at tight end last year and played well enough to be an early nominee for the Mackey Award given to the best tight end in college football. However, in an effort to put his best players on the field, Roof has moved Roland to fullback. Just because Roland is labeled a fullback does not mean he will always line up in the I formation: Duke uses multiple alignments and is not afraid to shift Roland to show a jumbo look with three tight ends. Roland was responsible for Duke’s longest offensive play from scrimmage this year, a 47yard reception.

The wide receivers do not have much game experience. The veteran is 5’9”, 185 SR Senterrio Landrum, but he is out this week and will be replaced by Ronnie Elliot, another undersized player (5’10”, 185 JR) who has shown some productivity with six catches for 60 yards this year. 5’10”, 180 SO Deonto McCormick is the other starter, and he is Duke’s leading receiver with 7 catches on the year for 66 yards.

The player to watch long term is freshman Corey Thompson, a good prospect with size (6’2”, 180) and ability. Thompson is a true freshman who came up with two big catches last week in Duke’s final drive.

The offensive line was very strong last year, but Duke only returns one starter from that group, right tackle Christian Mitchell. Mitchell is massive at 6’7”, 325, and Duke likely will look to run behind him in short yardage. The other tackle, JR Jim Moravchik, is also big (6’5”, 305) and has some starting experience.

Duke’s interior line is composed of 6’4”, 300 SR center Dan Mooney, 6’5”, 305 JR left guard Chris Best and 6’4”, 300 SO right guard Tyler Krieg. Krieg moved over from center after the spring to allow Mooney to start. It is a homecoming of sorts for Mooney as his father was a former player at Virginia Tech.

Overall, the Duke offensive line is not a strength. They are only averaging 3.3 yards per rush on the season, and they have surrendered 5 sacks this year. I expect VT to be able to redirect the line of scrimmage and play in the backfield a lot Saturday if the footing is solid. If rain is severe, that may help the bigger Duke line cope with the Hokies’ quickness.

Duke’s Defense

The Blue Devils typically are a 4-3 defense, but Roof threw a curveball last week when he opened in a 3-4 and then blitzed on virtually every down. Roof has been forced to cut and paste because of injuries, and with the loss of Alexander and Sallee and the depth at linebacker, don’t be shocked if Duke also plays some 3-4 this week.

Duke’s numbers on the defensive side of the ball aren’t pretty either: ninth in the ACC in total defense (416 yards surrendered per game), eighth in scoring defense (24.5 points), and tenth in the conference in both rush defense and pass efficiency defense.

Up front, the loss of Harris and Alexander is difficult to overcome. 6’4”, 235 JR Justin Kitchen will be replacing Alexander and he had a nice game last week with 8 tackles, two tackles for a loss and a sack. Roof thinks he is more than capable of manning the spot full time.

The other end is 6’4”, 250 SO Eli Nichols. He is an active player who registered 2 solo and 4 unassisted tackles last week, along with a tackle for a loss. He is a first time starter this year.

Duke has some big bodies inside. 6’6”, 315 Orrin Thompson holds his ground and is enough of a stalwart to play either defensive tackle in a 4-3 or nose guard in a 3-4. He gets the unenviable job of keeping the Duke linebackers free to run to the ball. SO Casey Camero showed some promise last year at end, and he might be a playmaker down the line. At 6’5”, 265, he can play any position on the defensive line. Duke likes to rotate defensive linemen to keep their players fresh, but rather than substituting they may simply resort to a 3-4 alignment.

The strength of the Duke defense lies in their linebacker corps. 6’1”, 240 SR Giuseppe Aguanno started last year on the strongside, but he moved to the middle last spring to fill Fowler’s shoes. He has 16 total tackles on the year and is a natural, instinctive player. He likely will be the leading tackler for the Devils on the season, and he will make his fair share of plays in the backfield.

The other returning starter is weakside linebacker Brendan Dewan (6’1”, 205 SO). Dewan is very fast and in fact started out as a running back after he matriculated. He is not overly physical at the point of attack and VT may chose to attack him head on, particularly if Duke goes to a 3-4. He has 15 tackles on the year and can fly to the ball.

Junior strongside linebacker Malcuff Ruff is a 6’0”, 250 thumper in run support. He sheds blockers well and is solid at the point of attack. He also moves better than you might think given his size. Like Dewan, he began his career in the Blue Devil backfield. He has 14 tackles on the year.

If Roof goes to a 3-4, Ruff will slide inside and allow 6’0”, 210 JR DeAndre White onto the field. White played a significant amount last year, and as you would figure from his frame, he is best in space. Roof’s defensive philosophy is much like VT’s in the early 1990’s in that he is willing to sacrifice size among his linebackers for speed.

Duke’s best player in the secondary is senior corner Kenneth Stanford, who is (repeat after me) out for this game, according to Roof. Stanford is undersized at 5’9”, 180, but he is one of the fastest corners in the ACC. He won the award as the team’s best defensive back each of the past two seasons, and he was fifth last year in the conference with 13 passes defensed. Stanford missed last week with a shoulder injury and will be replaced this week by 5'11", 170 FR Daniel Charbonnet, who got his first career start last week against UConn.

The other corner is 5’11”, 180 SO John Talley. Talley tied for the team lead last year with two interceptions although he wasn’t a starter. He made the biggest play of the game last week against UConn when he intercepted a pass and returned it 62 yards for a touchdown.

Both safeties are two year returning starters. 6’1”, 190 JR strong safety Brian Greene is a converted corner who has good speed but isn’t a great tackler. He will be challenged in run support by the physical nature of Cedric Humes and Justin Hamilton. 6’2”, 195 SR free safety Alex Green is a solid player, but he has tended to overcommit in the past and that could be exploited by a senior like Bryan Randall.

Duke’s Special Teams

Historically, Duke is pretty solid on special teams. However, this year Duke is no better than average because of the absence of a big play return specialist.

The kicker is senior Matt Brooks who is four of six on the year. His makes are all relatively short, as his long kick on the season is 36 yards. Both his misses were also from 36 yards, and his big miss last week versus UConn could affect his confidence going into a windy and rainy Lane Stadium against arguably the best kick blocking unit in the country. That should be a concern for Duke.

The place kicking backup is a scholarship player, freshman Alex Feinberg, and he could get an opportunity if Brooks misses one early or if the Devils need a long field goal. Brooks struggles kicking from 40 yards or more.

Punter Trey McDonald is a senior who has kicked for parts of the last four years. He averaged 40.7 yards per punt last year and has a reputation for being a good placement kicker. In the UConn game, McDonald punted three times and Brooks punted twice. The net average for the five punts was over 40 yards per kick, an excellent number.

The return game has been nonexistent thus far. 5’9”, 195 JR Jamin Pastore, who won't even play this week, has returned only one punt for five yards, and Duke as a team is only averaging 14.4 yards per kick return. Landrum and Elliot are deep to return kickoffs.

The Lowdown

Roof has energized the Duke program since he was hired last year and while progress may not be seen on the field this fall, he has the program moving forward on several fronts.

As his first order of business, Roof convinced Alleva to increase the budget for his assistant coaches, and then he proceeded to aggressively recruit some big names. New offensive coordinator Marty Galbraith came from the Arizona Cardinals and has an impressive resume after working with Phillip Rivers at N.C. State and Chad Pennington at Marshall. Other assistants came from Stanford (wide receivers), Syracuse (defense) and Georgia Tech (recruiting coordinator). He also hired Tom Knotts to coach quarterbacks. Knotts is a Duke alumnus who won four straight state titles at Charlotte Independence High School. Knotts has a certain degree of credibility because of his work developing both C.J. and Chris Leak, and he has helped Duke land some nice quarterback commitments in its 2005 class.

Roof also signed a recruiting class last February with far better athletes than Duke typically lands. He put an emphasis on speed, a necessity when trying to build a program because it’s easier to find speed (and add weight) than vice versa. His 2004 class consisted of eight kids from Georgia, Roof’s home state, and he had eight signees from the three best talent states in the country: three each from Texas and California and two from Florida. He even beat UCLA and Notre Dame for a wide receiver out of the state of Washington.

All that may bode well for improving the future, but it won’t help this weekend. In order to have consistent success against the VT defense this year a team needs game changing athletes on the offensive side of the ball, a la Reggie Bush, or (perhaps) a pounding running back. Duke has neither. It seems very unlikely they will be able to consistently move the ball.

Defensively, Duke will need to play aggressively. That includes walking an eighth man into the box, and playing bump and run on VT’s fabulous foursome at wide receiver. Right now the youngsters still need work on staying consistent with routes after a jam at the line.

All told, I think Duke will make a representative showing defensively, especially if the weather is bad thereby limiting VT’s passing game. It will be interesting to see if the Hokies’ running game, thus far their weakest link, is able to come through if the conditions require it.

I think the weather will help keep the score down for both teams, and I wouldn’t be surprised if VT had a few turnovers in the rain with their young players. Bear in mind one thing Duke has done well this year is win the turnover battle as they are plus 1.5 per game on the season. Regardless, VT has too much talent for the Blue Devils.

Prediction: VT 27, Duke 6

Will Stewart's Take: I went back to look at the box score from last year's Hurricane Isabel game against Texas A&M, which VT won 35-19, and I noticed the following:

· The Hokies ran the ball 47 times and threw it just 13.

· Kevin Jones had a career-high (at the time) 188 yards on 30 carries. The team as a whole had 273 yards on 47 carries.

· Randall completed 9 of his 13 throws, but for only 63 yards.

· A&M ran it 39 times (102 yards) and passed it 26 times, completing 14 for 170 yards.

I think VT will do the same thing they did last year against Texas A&M. They'll try to control the game and keep the ball safe by running it close to 80% of the time, and when they do throw, it'll be short, safe stuff. If Duke comes out in a 3-4 and blitzes like they did against UConn, Bryan Stinespring might adjust and start throwing some quick hitters to his wide receivers and tight ends, trying to spring them against the Duke secondary. But I think the primary game plan will be to run.

Of course, the Hokies don't have Jones this year. But then again, Duke is not nearly as good this year as Texas A&M was last year, even though the Aggies haven't been setting the world on fire recently.

Duke will struggle offensively. I'll one-up Jeff and predict that VT shuts Duke out. The key to getting a shutout is for the Hokies to not turn the ball over deep in their own territory. If they can avoid that, I can't see the Blue Devils moving the ball appreciably for any kind of score.

I also think that if the Hokies scored 35 points on A&M with Jones, they can score about that much on Duke without him. So I'll go with 31 points, consisting of 4 TDs and a field goal.

The key for VT is to go in, get the job done, and get out. This one should be workmanlike and unexciting, with the rain Saturday expected to be the source of the most entertainment.

Will's Prediction: VT 31, Duke 0

TSL Football Page

TSL Home