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Next Up For Football: Virginia Tech

Are the Dukies okie-dokie for the Hokies?

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NCAA Football: Duke at Middle Tennessee
Sep 14, 2019; Murfreesboro, TN, USA; Duke Blue Devils wide receiver Eli Pancol (6) catches a pass for a touchdown against Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders safety Kylan Stribling (17) during the first half at Johnny Red Floyd Stadium. 
Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Duke hasn’t had much luck with Virginia Tech lately. The Hokies have won three in a row against the Devils, the last two by scores of 24-3 and 31-14.

Duke defensive end Chris Rumph says it wasn’t luck last season.

“I think they out-competed us for four quarters,” Rumph told the media Tuesday. “This year we’re coming back for vengeance. The main thing we’re focusing on is finishing. The stadium is going to be rocking, Friday night, ESPN, what else can you ask for? We’re going to come out and give our whole 110 percent.”

Rumph could be a key in leading Duke to its first win over Virginia Tech since 2015. He had four tackles against Middle Tennessee State in Duke’s last game but all four were for losses. Two were sacks and the Blue Raiders lost 10 yards to Rumph’s efforts.

Rumph is 225-30 pounds, pretty modest for an ACC defensive end. But he’s quick and relentless.

“I told him you do a better job of turning 230 pounds into 180,” David Cutcliffe said of Rumph, “he can get through a crack that big [holding up his hands inches apart}. He’s got a knack. He’s also very competitive, he’s very smart, he’s got a lot of football savvy, he comes from a football family. We use him in a lot of different ways and will continue to do that.”

“I just play to my quickness, play to my speed,” Rumph said. “I don’t let them control the tempo of the game. I try to know what my abilities are and maximize them.”

Cutcliffe said last year’s game was decided in the trenches.

“The toughest thing is they [VT] are always so good on the offensive line. . . . Some guys have to win some battles. , . . I think we’re better than we’ve been up front. We’re more mature now. We just have to go compete.”

Rumph says the key to beating the Hokies is to control the running game and force Ryan Willis into difficult throws.

Willis passed for 332 yards against Duke last season, so Duke didn’t make him make a lot of difficult throws.

Cutcliffe said Duke has to do more than just pressure Willis, they need to sack him.

“We had 62 missed sacks a year ago. Sometimes when you win the battle but don’t get the prize winning the battle isn’t enough. You have to win the battle and get the prize.”

Offense? Again, words like “maturity and poise” were heard more than once. Brittain Brown is practicing but no contact yet. He will make the trip but no guarantee he will play. But wide receiver Jake Bobo will play, giving Quentin Harris another weapon.

“After the opener [in Atlanta] no stage is too big for us,” wide receiver Scott Bracey said. “Having our young players continue to step up, having depth and playing a lot of people will help us in the long run.”

Rumph says Duke benefited from the open date.

“Coming off of last week, we have a lot of confidence going into the game. The offense is rolling right now. That gives the defense a lot of confidence knowing that if we get a three-and-out, the offense is going to go in and score. Any time we get a break, we’re going to enjoy it. The whole team is fresh and ready to go.”

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