Oct 23, 2014; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Miami Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya (15) passes the ball as Virginia Tech Hokies linebacker Deon Clarke (40) pressures in the first quarter at Lane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
For the first time since the Hokies’ win over Ohio State, Virginia Tech is true underdogs as they prepare for a trip to Durham to take on the 21st-ranked Duke Blue Devils. This will be a tough game for the Hokies but you can’t completely rule out the Hokies with the wild twists and turns that this season has taken.
One player who will be very critical to the success of the Hokies in this game is Deon Clarke.
The junior linebacker had one of his best games of the season against Boston College with 8 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and 1 sack. Clarke had arguably his best game on the road at Ohio State where he had 10 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 QB hurries, and 1 pass breakup in a game that earned him some national honors for that week.
Duke has a mobile quarterback in Anthony Boone who can make plays with his arm and with his legs when he needs to. Even if the Hokies have Chase Williams back, Clarke will play a big role in putting pressure on Boone and limiting Duke’s solid rushing attack.
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The Duke offense isn’t great but their rushing attack is fairly good, ranking 38th nationally with an average of 199.6 rushing yards per game. Duke has a solid rotation of running backs but no star out of the backfield though Shaquille Powell is the closest they have to a feature back. The Hokies will look to force Boone to have a high volume of passes and Clarke can play a big role in that in trying to slow down the Duke rushing attack.
Bud Foster will likely use Clarke a lot on blitzes to add even more pressure than the Hokies’ strong defensive line already does add. Boone has made very few mistakes for Duke the last few weeks but Clarke will look to add a little extra pressure to force Boone into some rushed throws and turnovers.
Deon Clarke will play a big role on Saturday and a strong game from the junior could give the Hokies a good chance at pulling off the upset.