DURHAM – It may only be early October, but a glance at the ACC football standings tells quite a story. The Duke Blue Devils are a half-game behind first place Miami in the Coastal Division heading into Saturday's showdown with Virginia Tech.
Duke (5-1, 2-0 ACC) is one win away from bowl eligibility. It's last bowl appearance was following the 1994 season, when the 8-4 Blue Devils lost the Hall of Fame Bowl 34-20 to Wisconsin.
Duke has won two consecutive conference games heading into this week. In it's win last Saturday, a 42-17 victory against Virginia, first-time starting quarterback Anthony Boone showed off his skills but things didn't begin all that well – Boone tripped coming out of the tunnel.
“Tripping and falling out of the tunnel, that never happens, so I don't know, people will laugh about it,” Boone said.
After that, Boone didn't have many other mishaps. He threw for more than 200 yards and four touchdowns.
“It felt good going out to actually set the tempo. It's a lot different than going out and the tempo is already set. To be out there to start it was a good experience,” he said.
Duke Head Coach David Cutcliffe says the game was “almost flawless.”
“He ran our offense flawlessly. We had no turnovers in the game. We were penalized very little,” he said.
Boone got the start after quarterback Sean Renfree injured his elbow.
Now that things are rolling in Durham, the schedule gets much tougher. The Blue Devils are a combined 1-39 against their remaining six opponents since 2004. They are 0-8 in that time against the Hokies.
“When you go to Blacksburg, you better bring your best chinstrap and strap it on, and you best bring your A game because that's just the way it is,” Cutcliffe said.
“I don't know how many years they've been in the ACC Championship Game, but it seems like they're always in it. They're the standard and we're trying to meet them,” said cornerback Ross Cockrell.
While a win over Virginia Tech won't be easy, bowl eligibility and a shot at first place is plenty of motivation.
“Oh yeah, I can't stop that. I heard them chirping about it Sunday and I'm not going to stop them. I told my wife I don't want to spoil a good party,” said Cutcliffe.
Virginia Tech lost three of its last four games. All three were against BCS automatic-qualifying conference teams while the lone win was against Bowling Green.
“We know they're not going to take this game lightly, and we're going to go out there and try to take it from them,” said Boone.
The game kicks off at 12:30 p.m. in Blacksburg. After Virginia Tech, Duke moves on to face North Carolina.