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 4 1/2 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."
Virginia Tech: The Hokes have won twice despite some tricky circumstances. They were down 23 players and two full-time coaches for last week's win against N.C. State. That number dipped slightly this time, but their strong ground game did not. The Hokies ran for 314 yards last week then surpassed that total with 324 more against the Blue Devils.
"It definitely gives us some confidence," Herbert said, adding: "It's going to help set up the rest of our offense, so I think that definitely helps us down the road."
Duke: The Blue Devils entered this one with their worst start since a winless 2006 season before Cutcliffe's arrival, which transformed the program into a regular bowl participant after years of struggle. They were in this one until the final minutes, but couldn't take advantage of their best late opportunity.
"The only thing is to finish," safety Michael Carter II said. "We finish, we win the game."
The Blue Devils had been turning the ball over at an alarming rate, entering with 14 turnovers for the highest total of any Bowl Subdivision team. This time, the Blue Devils had just one -- and not coincidentally had their best scoring output of the season -- but it wasn't quite enough to pull this one out.
"We had too many self-inflicted wounds that stopped some drives and momentum that we need to clean up," Brice said. "Not turning the ball over as much gives us a chance to compete and win a game like that."
A BIG OPPORTUNITY
Virginia Tech defensive back Tyler Matheny got a chance for a big role in the shorthanded secondary. The redshirt sophomore had seven tackles and an interception on Brice's tipped pass.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies visit No. 12 North Carolina next Saturday.
Duke: The Blue Devils visit Syracuse next Saturday.
More AP college football: http://apnews.com/Collegefootball and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Top25
Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap
What's at stake in the Iron Bowl?
Players from Alabama and Auburn discuss the significance of the Iron Bowl and what it would mean to defeat their bitter rivals.
No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes cancel Saturday's football game vs. Illinois Fighting Illini
No. 4 Ohio State on Friday night canceled Saturday's football game at Illinois, citing more positive tests for COVID-19 in the Buckeyes' program.
Wyoming running game barrels past UNLV, 45-14
— Lee Williams had three short touchdown runs, Trey Smith rushed for a career-high 164 yards with a touchdown and Wyoming rolled up 399 yards on the ground to breeze past winless UNLV 45-14 on Friday night.
Central Michigan scores 25 in 4th quarter, beats EMU 31-23
— Lew Nichols III had two fourth-quarter touchdown runs and finished with a career-high 196 yards rushing, and Central Michigan scored 25 points in the final quarter to beat Eastern Michigan 31-23 on Friday night.
Iowa's Kirk Ferentz scoffs at Nebraska's gripe over clapping from sideline
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz took issue with Nebraska's complaint over clapping from the Hawkeyes' sideline, saying, "The next thing you know, we're going to be treating this like golf."
Louisville, Boston College make it to field at last (maybe)
— Even making it to Thanksgiving without a single positive COVID-19 test didn’t spare Boston College from the schedule shuffling that has hit college football this season.