For those who prefer short stories to epics, sprints to marathons, singles to albums, the slapdash affair can be summarized by a three-play, 45-second sequence during the second quarter.
Facing second-and-goal at the 1, Tech ran tailback J.C. Coleman off right tackle. He lost a yard.
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Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, VA
On third down, Logan Thomas connected with D.J. Coles in the back of the end zone. Coles was penalized for illegal motion.
On the third-down mulligan from the 7, Thomas forced a pass toward a tightly-covered Trey Edmunds and was intercepted by Ross Cockrell in the end zone.
Short-yardage failures, penalties, turnovers: They doomed 16th-ranked Tech on that series and throughout the 13-10 defeat.
"The defense played lights-out today," Coleman said. "As an offense, we have to go out there and do better than that."
Duke is no longer an ACC pinata, and props to coach David Cutcliffe and defenders such as David Helton and Kelby Brown — they combined for a staggering 33 tackles — for the Blue Devils' first road victory over a top-25 opponent since a 1971 upset at Stanford.
Duke had lost 59 consecutive games away from home against ranked teams, and 47 straight overall since a 1994 home win over No. 13 Virginia.
"They're a lot better than they used to be," Tech linebacker Jack Tyler said. "Everyone knew that coming in. … Cutcliffe is a great coach. We were prepared for how good they were going to be."
But let's not portray the Devils (6-2, 2-2 ACC) as an emerging global power. They allowed 58 points to Pittsburgh, 31 to Troy and 22 to Virginia. They were 0-9 against Tech since the Hokies joined the ACC.
Translation: Tech (6-2, 3-1) should have scored early and often. The Hokies almost doubled the Blue Devils in total offense (387-198), dominated time of possession (39:27-20:33), stopped all 11 Duke third-down attempts and did not allow a pass completion after halftime (six attempts).
"I was proud of how we played," Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster said of his bunch. "We played hard for four quarters, but sometimes maybe the best team doesn't win, and I think today was one of those days."
The Hokies intercepted Anthony Boone four times — true freshman cornerback Kendall Fuller had three — and allowed only one touchdown. This despite the absence of two starters: corner Kyle Fuller (groin injury) and end J.R. Collins (one-game suspension for violating an unspecified team rule).
But after three consecutive outings without a turnover, Thomas threw four interceptions. The Hokies had 67 yards in penalties, 25 on Duke's touchdown drive, did not convert any of the Devils' turnovers into points and bungled a third-quarter, fourth-and-1 at Duke's 37.
Also, Cody Journell hooked 2-of-3 field goals, the latter from 40 yards with 6:02 remaining. He's 8-of-14 for the season, a sharp decline from last year's 20-for-25.
"This group will come together," first-year offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said. "We're gonna finish this thing the right way. It was a tough lesson, but sometimes you have to take a step back before taking a step forward. …
"There's a fine line between winning and losing. We've been walking that line. Today our kids learned how important the details are."
During a six-game winning streak, Tech walked that tightrope against Marshall and East Carolina and, to a lesser degree, Pittsburgh and North Carolina. Saturday, the Hokies tumbled.
Tech still can claim the ACC's Coastal Division and reach the conference championship game by winning its four remaining regular-season games. But that will require a semblance of a running game — the Hokies averaged 3.8 yards per carry Saturday, actually better than their 3.3 norm in the season's first seven games.
Thomas pounded his way to 101 rushing yards, but Edmunds and Coleman managed just 72 on 22 carries.
"It's just time to bounce back and come out harder," Thomas said. "We've got to practice harder, practice smarter and we've just got to get back to the grind. I think there's a lot of things we could have done better, and I'm going to make sure from now on that I'm doing my fair part and setting an example."
Another senior, cornerback Antone Exum, was more forceful.
"There's two ways to respond," he said, "and I know what kind of character we have."
Character will help. Talent will reveal more.