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Virginia Tech football: Hokies can now give Miami their full attention – Roanoke Times


BLACKSBURG — As the rain intensified and grip on the football became difficult Saturday night, Virginia Tech punter Oscar Bradburn knew he’d have to change his technique or invite catastrophe, especially after he had trouble corralling the ball on an extra point hold before halftime.

In the second half, Bradburn started catching the punt snap in his chest. Better safe than sorry, he thought.

“I knew I’d be able to go at a reasonable speed by doing that, and it’s probably the safe approach,” Bradburn said. “I don’t want it going through my hands and out the back, because that’d be a disaster waiting to happen.”

Disaster never came for the Hokies, who handled the rainy conditions well a 24-3 win against Duke at Lane Stadium.

That primes No. 13 Virginia Tech (7-1, 3-1 ACC) for a Coastal Division showdown at No. 9 Miami (7-0, 5-0) on Saturday night, a game that will kick off at 8 p.m. and be televised on WSET-TV (Channel 13).

“It’s going to be exciting,” defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. “Particularly starting back in the Big East, we’ve had a lot of battles with those guys and had a lot of battles here in the ACC. I know Miami has a lot of talent. They’re a talented football team. … I know they’re going to be ready to play their best football.”

The Hurricanes weren’t sharp last Saturday, struggling mightily at lowly North Carolina in a 24-19 win that was finally secured with a fumble recovery in the final minute. The Hokies walloped the Tar Heels 59-7 just one week earlier.

Perhaps Miami, which also escaped with narrow wins over Florida State and Georgia Tech , was looking ahead to a game against Virginia Tech that could clinch the Coastal Division title for the first time. The Hokies didn’t fall into that trap.

“We knew that this team was going to require our full attention,” Fuente said of Duke. “Every week requires our full attention. I didn’t say anything [about Miami]. I just told them that we were right in the middle of this [in the ACC]. We’ve got another big one next week, just like we had a big one [Saturday].”

The Hokies stayed in the moment by doing all the little things to beat Duke. They got a dominating defensive performance from Foster’s crew, with offensive capacity at a minimum in the slop conditions.

Tech played things tight and won the smaller battles that proved decisive. While Duke turned it over twice, the Hokies didn’t put the ball on the ground once, other than a Greg Stroman fumble at the end of a punt return that was overturned by replay. That was a far cry from the seven fumbles, including two that the Hokies lost, in last year’s hurricane game at North Carolina.

“We made it a big point of emphasis that for us to have success, we have to have control over the football,” Fuente said. “I told the guys I wanted to see visual confirmation that they are taking care of the football, meaning that it is going through their mind and through their actions.

“I saw a lot of visual confirmation [Saturday] and it’s really nice when you hear your message being disseminated through the team by the team. You hear those guys talking to each other about how important it is.”

Tech also won the field position battle handily. Bradburn had four punts downed inside the Duke 10-yard line, including one at the 2. That set off the key sequence just before halftime that ended with a 26-yard touchdown by Sean Savoy that gave the Hokies a 17-3 lead.

Most importantly Bradburn didn’t mishandle a single snap.

“When you’re playing in a close football game and the weather conditions are like that, one disaster can cause a bunch of problems,” Fuente said. “Oscar handled the snaps and got the ball out.”

As a result, the Blue Devils never started a possession past their own 35-yard line. Virginia Tech started possessions at its own 46 and 47, plus three in Duke territory at the 19, 42 and 43. The Hokies scored 17 points on those three drives on the Blue Devils’ side of the field.

It’s that sort of total team effort that had Duke coach David Cutcliffe singing Virginia Tech’s praises after the game.

“I thought it and said it; it wasn’t coach talk coming in,” Cutcliffe said. “You’re not going to find 10 people that want to play them. They may be a top-five football team.”


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