DURHAM — Virginia Tech running back Khalil Herbert put Duke's comeback hopes to bed on Saturday night at Wallace Wade Stadium when he burst through the left side of the line for a 60-yard touchdown run.
Herbert dominated in the second half, on the ground and on special teams, powering a short-handed Hokies squad to a 38-31 win.
Herbert crossed the 100-yard mark for the second straight time with 20 carries for 208 yards and set a school record with 358 all-purpose yards. It was the first time a running back has run for more than 100-yards in back-to-back games during Coach Justin Fuente's tenure and first 200-yard game for a Tech running back since 2008 (Darren Evans).
After Duke took a 14-10 lead early in the third quarter, it was Herbert’s 86-yard kick return that provided just the spark Tech needed to get going.
The Kansas transfer ran it back to the end zone on the return, but a review of the play showed him stepping out of bounds with a sliver of his big toe at Duke’s 16-yard line.
It was the program’s longest return since Demitri Knowles returned a kick 88-yards against Maryland in 2013. Herbert took back another return across midfield in the fourth quarter to give him 358 all-purpose yards.
Burmeister put Tech up 17-14 on a 2-yard run and he extended the team’s lead to 10 points on the next possession with a 14-yard touchdown run. He set up the score with a 56-yard pass down the middle of the field to receiver Tayvion Robinson.
Burmeister finished the game 9 for 24 for 163 yards with three touchdowns (one passing) and an interception. He carried the ball 15 times for 54 yards.
The Hokies were on the road for the first time this season, but were short-handed once again with 21 players unavailable to play and two full-time coaches including defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton sidelined.
The defense was down four starters including three in the secondary.
Tech’s depleted secondary showed some cracks in the second half — the Hokies started two true freshmen and a walk-on — but held up enough to close out the win. Defensive tackle Norell Pollard came up with a sack inside the four-minute mark on a key third down.
The cracks started to show when Duke managed to reel off a series of quick scoring drives coming out of halftime. The Blue Devils put together three scoring drives of 75 or more yards.
Duke quarterback Chase Brice picked on freshman corner Dorian Strong a couple of times to get the offense going. He completed passes of 41- and 36-yards to Jarett Garner to shorten the field.
It was quite the turnaround after Duke only put up 91 total yards in the first half (3.1 yards per play).
Tech walk-on Tyler Matheny intercepted a tipped ball while the defensive line held Duke to 24 rushing yards (on 17 attempts) and accounted for three of the team’s four sacks in the first half. The Blue Devils went three and out four times on seven first-half possessions.
The first half also amounted to a series of missed opportunities for Virginia Tech’s offense.
Burmeister threw a 12-yard touchdown to tie the game with 4:26 left in the first quarter, but he went 7 of 18 in the first half and threw an interception in the final minute of the second half that cut short a promising drive in Duke territory. The ball was a badly under-thrown attempt to Raheem Blackshear that went right into the arms of Duke cornerback Jeremiah Lewis.
Tech had to settle for a 21-yard field goal from Brian Johnson — his sixteenth straight without a miss — on the offense’s most productive drive of the half, a 16-play, 76-yard drive that lasted more than seven and a half minutes. The Hokies converted two third down attempts on the drive and a fourth and short inside the 20-yard line.
Blackshear had a pair of long runs and Khalil Herbert had his longest carry of the half for 12-yards to get Tech into scoring position. Tech coaches and players went wild for Herbert when he bowled over Lewis on the first down run right in front of the team’s sideline.
Burmeister tried to hit Mitchell in the end zone from Duke’s 4-yard line, but safety Marquis Waters broke the play up.
Duke went up early thanks to an early gift from the Hokies when Robinson fumbled a punt return and recovered the ball in the end zone.
Robinson, who muffed a punt in the season opener against N.C. State, let the ball fall between his hands while backpedaling at around the 20-yard line. Tech defensive back Keondre Banks had a chance to recover the ball, but it bounced away from him as he tried to fall on it.
Blue Devils safety Jaylen Stinson dove on it to give his team a 7-0 lead with 11:37 left in the first quarter. Robinson was replaced by Tech running back Raheem Blackshear on punt returns.