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Herbert, Virginia Tech beat Duke 38-31 for 2-0 start

Khalil Herbert ran for 208 yards and two touchdowns, including a 60-yard score with 2:20 left, to help shorthanded Virginia Tech hold off Duke for a 38-31 win.
Credit: AP
Virginia Tech running back Khalil Herbert (21) carries the ball against Duke during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 3, 2020, in Durham, N.C. (Nell Redmond/Pool Photo via AP)

DURHAM, N.C. — Khalil Herbert ran for 208 yards and two touchdowns, including a 60-yard score with 2:20 left, to help shorthanded Virginia Tech hold off Duke for a 38-31 win on Saturday.

The Kansas graduate transfer’s huge day included an 83-yard kickoff return that set up a short third-quarter scoring drive for the Hokies (2-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference). They were down 21 players and two full-time coaches due to a combination of coronavirus and injury issues after similar trouble for last weekend’s win against North Carolina State. “I’m not sure I can put into words how difficult what we’ve been dealing with is,” Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said.

Herbert certainly helped on that front. His huge kickoff return came immediately after a third-quarter Duke touchdown for a 14-10 lead, while his other rushing score was a 23-yard sprint around the left side for a 31-21 lead with 9:58 left.

“His vision is amazing and he’s really explosive when he finds that hole,” said Braxton Burmeister, who scored on two keepers for the Hokies.

The Hokies’ defense — with the secondary among the hardest-hit positions — also came up big by forcing a three-and-out after Burmeister lost a fumble to give Duke a chance for the lead with 4½ minutes left.

Herbert took care of the rest, breaking loose around the left side again for the 60-yarder for a 38-28 lead while cracking the 200-yard mark to essentially seal this one.

Deon Jackson scored twice on the ground for the Blue Devils (0-4, 0-4), including when he shot up the middle for a 10-yard score that gave Duke a 14-10 lead with 11:27 left in the third.

But the Blue Devils didn’t hold that lead long. Herbert answered with his huge kickoff return -- it was originally ruled a touchdown before a replay review confirmed he stepped on the sideline -- that set up a short go-ahead score from Burmeister.

Chase Brice threw for 271 yards and a touchdown for Duke, off to its worst start in 14 years.

“We have enough playmakers to win football games,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “It’s the most unique time in college football, most unique time in my career, so I don’t know what you have to do step by step. It’s different what we’re dealing with. You have to fight and you have to fight together.”