Observations from Duke’s win over Virginia

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday’s matchup between two of the teams at the top of the Coastal Division was as close as predicted.  The Virginia defense came into the game with a lot of hype and certainly backed it up.  Duke struggled to move the ball, at times, before the run game took over in the second half.  The real story may be the Blue Devil’s defense that put together another complete game.  The secondary was tested and responded.  Duke now finds themselves tied for the lead in the Coastal Division as they head into their second bye week before entering the final stretch of the season.

Key Observations:

The Blue Devil offensive line has played well all season, but Saturday’s game against Virginia may have been their best performance to date.  The Virginia defense came into the game with 19 turnovers, 46 tackles for a loss, and 23 sacks on the season.  They left the game with the same numbers in all three categories.  The Cavaliers still turned in a solid defensive performance, but the ability for the Duke offensive line to protect Anthony Boone and help open up the run game was the difference in an otherwise evenly matched contest.  Duke averaged 5.2 yards per carry, almost 2.0 ypc more than the Virginia defense gives up on average.

The bend but don’t break motto described the Blue Devils to a T on Saturday.  Duke gave up 325 passing yards and 145 rushing yards on the day.  However, in the most important defensive stats column, points allowed, they stayed strong, giving up only 13.  The Cavaliers went at the Duke secondary all day, targeting their big receivers against the undersized Blue Devil corners who were often in one on one coverage.  Duke totaled 10 pass break ups on the day.  Breon Borders was picked on the most by the Cavaliers and came away with 3 official pass break ups.  The 325 yards was the most the Duke defense has given up this season, but make no mistake, the secondary came to play and did all they needed to win.

Its hard to quantify toughness and clutch play, but Duke showed a tremendous amount of both in the game against Virginia.  Duke started strong, taking a 10-0 lead before giving up 10 straight before halftime.  Duke found some early success through the air, but the Cavaliers made adjustments and Anthony Boone had some questionable throws and the game officially became a defensive struggle.  Duke went 4-13 on third downs and had 5 three and outs on the day.  Enough struggles to easily frustrate an offensive.  But Coach Cutcliffe noticed a fire in one player and made a point to get him the ball.  It proved to be the right move.  Shaquille Powell’s off field issues have been documented.  He is playing with a heavy heart, as his younger brother is dealing with cancer treatment (click here to donate).  But those inner pains seem to have provided a motivation for Powell.  Shaq had 11 carries for 62 yards against UVA.  All in the second half and provided enough spark to pull the Blue Devils through.  The Cavalier defense shifted their focus to the run game, which allowed for the go ahead touchdown pass from Sirk to DJ Reeves with just over 7 minutes to go.  The heart and clutch play shown by Duke Saturday has become a calling card of sort for Duke for the last few seasons.

Additional News and Notes:

With the win, Duke reached bowl eligibility for the third consecutive season, a first for the program.

Duke has now won 8 straight home games.  They are 9-2 at Wallace Wade Stadium since the start of the 2013 season.

Jamison Crowder moved into third all time in the ACC with 238 career receptions and seventh on the career receiving yards list.  He is now 3rd on the Duke career receiving yards list.

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