At the end of the first half it certainly didn’t appear that David Cutcliffe would improve his record over Virginia after he saw his team play a horrible half and trailed the Cavaliers 22-7.
Only a late second quarter touchdown saved the Blue Devils, who were struggling in every phase of the game from getting blanked in the first half. To add insult to injury after taking a 20-0 lead, Virginia coach Mike London opted to go for two points, a move that mostly likely came up in Duke’s halftime conversation.
The game didn’t start off well for Duke’s defense who stifled Navy last week. On Virginia’s first possession it looked as if the Blue Devils would pick up where they left off last week, but the Cavaliers ran a fake punt and picked up a first down that kept Virginia’s first scoring drive alive.
Offensively Anthony Boone lacked the sharpness of a weak ago and struggled to get Duke past mid-field. All-in-all it had the makings of a disappointing performance.
Then came the two-point conversion and suddenly Duke faced a 22 point deficit with time waning in the half. Boone helped the struggling Blue Devil offense put together a late drive in the second quarter when he hit Jamison Crowder (9 catches 113) for a touchdown. With that Duke went into the locker room with a bit of confidence and perhaps a bit of a chip on their shoulders. It all came out in the second half.
Duke would go on to outscore Virginia 28-0 in the second half, and end the game with 35 unanswered points led by Boone (21-39, 245 yards and two touchdowns) and a defense that completely shutdown the Cavaliers pitching their second consecutive second half shutout of an opponent.
The Blue Devils were a completely different team in the second half playing like a team possessed and playing like a team that is prepared to make being good enough to play in a bowl game a yearly occurrence.
Duke’s running game once again came through with a solid group effort accumulating 180 yards led by Josh Snead (7 carries for 53 yards). It was the return of backup quarterback Brandon Connette, who ran in a touchdown in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 22-17, and then later threw a go-ahead 47-yard touchdown pass to Braxton Deaver (3 receptions, 96 yards, 2 touchdowns).
The win is the first in ACC play, for Duke but more importantly it gives the Blue Devils their fifth win of the season, one away from being bowl eligible for the second consecutive year. And with a very Florida State and Clemson-free schedule remaining, you have to like Duke’s chances of finding at least one more win on their schedule.