The graduate transfer rushed for 208 yards and two touchdowns to lift the Hokies to the 38-31 win
DURHAM, N.C. – Khalil Herbert ran for 208 yards and two touchdowns, Braxton Burmeister accounted for three scores, and undermanned Virginia Tech outlasted Duke 38-31 in an ACC game played Saturday evening at Wallace Wade Stadium.
With the victory, the Hokies – who played without 21 players and two coaches – moved to 2-0 on the season, 2-0 in the ACC. Duke fell to 0-4, 0-4 in league play, and lost to Tech for the ninth consecutive time in Durham.
For the second consecutive week, the Hokies played with a limited roster. A week ago, Tech was missing 23 players in its victory over NC State.
“A majority of what we dealt with last week was offensively,” Tech coach Justin Fuente said. “We had a large number of guys out, but a large number of those guys that played had not practiced very much – but you have a little more control over it on offense. What really scares you is on the defensive side of the ball when your numbers start to get low at a particular position.
“There’s no punting on defense. You can’t escape it. You can’t get off the field. In my opinion, that’s where it can become dangerous if you’re in a situation where you so thin some place that you can envision a scenario where you’re in serious jeopardy out there because you can’t get off the field. We weren’t to that point, quite. In my opinion, we were close, and that scares you.”
Tech’s offense certainly aided the defense, holding the ball for more than 34 minutes behind Herbert, whose 208 yards rushing were the seventh-most ever by a Tech running back in a single game and the most since Darren Evans set the school record with a 253-yard performance against Maryland in 2008.
“Just helping the team out and coming out with a win is really the big thing,” Herbert said. “We had to fight for this one, so just helping the team win and winning the game is the best part about it.”
The Hokies finished with 324 yards rushing – their second-best performance in an ACC game. A week ago, Tech rushed for 314 yards in its 45-24 victory over NC State.
Duke grabbed a 14-10 lead on Deon Jackson’s 10-yard run early in the third quarter, but Burmeister guided Tech on long scoring drives. He scored on a 2-yard run with 9:17 left that gave the Hokies the lead for good, and on Tech’s next possession, he led the Hokies on a 94-yard march that ended with his 14-yard touchdown run that gave the 24-14 lead.
The Blue Devils twice cut the Tech lead to three points in the fourth quarter, but each time, Herbert answered. The graduate transfer from Kansas scored on a 23-yard run with 9:58 to give Tech a 31-21 lead and then iced the game with a 60-yard run that gave the Hokies a 38-28 lead with 2:20 remaining.
Burmeister didn’t play his best– he turned the ball over twice and completing just 9 of 25 attempts – but he accounted for three scores. He rushed for the two touchdowns and threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to James Mitchell in the first quarter.
Playing without several starters in the secondary, Tech’s defense held Duke to 410 yards. That group also had an interception and sacked Duke quarterback Chase Brice seven times.
MATHENY STEPS UP
Tech’s staff started Tyler Matheny at free safety in place of Divine Deablo, and the redshirt sophomore held up well for the most part in his first career start. A walk-on who picked Tech over a wrestling scholarship from Virginia, Matheny finished with seven tackles, including two for a loss, and an interception.
“More excitement than nerves,” Matheny said of his first start. “It was unreal, to be honest. It was kind of like a dream of mine to be in this position, and now it’s here.”
• Tech coach Justin Fuente improved to 5-0 in ACC games played in the state of North Carolina.
• Tyler Matheny started his first game at Tech and registered his first career interception.
• Mitchell’s touchdown reception was the fourth of his career.
• Johnson has made 16 consecutive field goals.
• Emmanuel Belmar had a career-high three sacks, and Amaré Barno recorded the first two sacks of his career.
The Hokies will return to the Tar Heel state for a second consecutive week when they take on North Carolina next Saturday in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The kickoff is slated for noon.
Hokies graduate transfer Khalil Herbert rushed for 208 yards and two touchdowns against Duke.