DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Virginia Tech took the lead with some “Beamerball.” The Hokies kept hold of it with another program staple — some tough defense at the right time.
Adonis Alexander returned a blocked field goal 75 yards for the early, go-ahead touchdown, and No. 23 Virginia Tech held on to beat Duke 24-21 on Saturday and remain in control of the ACC’s Coastal Division race.
“We took what could have been a really difficult situation, and the kids did a great job,” first-year Tech coach Justin Fuente said.
It was classic “Beamerball” — even without Frank Beamer, who’s in his first year of retirement.
Travon McMillian ran 14 yards for a TD and Jerod Evans passed for 192 yards and scored on a 7-yard run, carrying three Duke defenders along for the ride, for the Hokies (7-2, 5-1, No. 19 CFP).
Daniel Jones pulled Duke within three points with his second touchdown run of the game, a 2-yarder with 7:10 to play.
The Blue Devils got the ball back with 5:55 remaining after forcing a three-and-out, but it looked like they gave it right back when Shaun Wilson fumbled at the 35. But that decision was overturned after a review determined Virginia Tech rover Terrell Edmunds should have been called for targeting, giving the Blue Devils the ball at midfield.
These Hokies didn’t buckle. Duke’s next three plays netted three yards before the Blue Devils punted back, and Virginia Tech ran out the final 4:06, with Evans converting the game-sealing third-and-3 with less than 2 minutes to go.
“I was pleased with the way the team responded after that event,” Fuente said. “That was an opportunity to kind of let the air out of your balloon, so to speak, and it certainly did not happen. The defense responded, the offense got the ball and ran the clock out to finish the ball game.”
Jones, who finished with 148 yards passing, also scored from 7 yards out late in the third quarter to make it 21-14, before Joey Slye extended the Hokies’ lead to 10 with a 27-yard field goal on the next possession.
Wilson had a short touchdown run for the Blue Devils (3-6, 0-5), who have lost three straight and are 1-4 since upsetting Notre Dame.
Virginia Tech: The path to the Coastal Division title still runs through Blacksburg, thanks to that 34-3 win at North Carolina last month. Nothing came easy after they went up 21-7 in the second quarter, but at least the Hokies handled success better than last time and now they will wrap up their first ACC title game berth since 2011 with home wins against Georgia Tech next week and Virginia on Nov. 26.
Duke: The Blue Devils have to be in win-or-else mode the rest of the way if they want to extend their school-record postseason streak to five years. They could reach a bowl game with a 5-7 record because of their high APR scores — and if there’s a shortage of six-win teams — but at this point, there’s a serious question about whether Duke will make it to the five-win mark. “What we have is a good football team without a very good record,” coach David Cutcliffe said.
This victory may not send the Hokies much higher, but at least they made enough timely plays to avoid a repeat of the Syracuse loss last month that sent them tumbling out of the Top 25.
PLAY OF THE DAY
With the score tied at 7 — and two snaps after Jones misfired on a sure-thing touchdown pass that would have given Duke the lead — the Blue Devils brought in AJ Reed, who to that point had made just 3 of 7 field goals all season, to try a 30-yarder.
Greg Stroman came off the left edge to block it, and after Alexander scooped it up and took off downfield, Stroman delivered a crushing block on Reed that helped spring him for Tech’s second special-teams TD of the season and first off a blocked field goal since 2005.
Stroman did not return after he injured his right ankle during a hit from Jeremy McDuffie while fielding a second-quarter punt. He was carried to the sideline and carted to the locker room. Fuente did not provide any details on Stroman’s status.
Evans was held without a touchdown pass for the first time this season. … Virginia Tech was held to 399 total yards. The only time the Hokies finished with fewer this season was in the victory at North Carolina in hurricane conditions.
Virginia Tech: Faces Georgia Tech next Saturday before making a visit to Notre Dame.
Duke: Has a short week to prepare for its fiercest rival, No. 18 North Carolina, on Thursday night.
Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.