Beat Virginia 35-22
Duke won the second half 28-0, part of the string of 35 unanswered points that started after Virginia’s two-point conversion to make it 22-0 with 3:16 left in the first half (the Blue Devils also outscored the Cavaliers 28-0 in the final half of last year’s 42-17 win). After Virginia took its lead, the Cavaliers went on five straight three-and-out drives, netting minus-14 yards in the process. After that streak ended, it didn’t get much better for Virginia: the final three drives ended in a missed field goal (a 44 yards attempt after a false start penalty wiped out a 39-yard converted kick), turnover on downs and an interception.
Once again, safety Jeremy Cash once again was all over the field for Duke, recording eight total tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a pass break-up. Reserve defensive lineman Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo recorded two sacks for a loss of 23 yards, and redshirt freshman safety Corbin McCarthy had a crucial third-down sack that went for an 11-yard loss. Defensive end Kenny Anunike also recorded a five-yard sack and an additional 1.5 tackles for loss.
Offensively, once Anthony Boone found his rhythm, the unit moved at will, amassing 287 yards of offense in the second half. Boone went 12-of-17 (70.6 percent) for 154 yards with one touchdown and an interception in the second half. That was after going 9-of-22 (40.9 percent) for 91 yards in the first half. Tight end Braxton Deaver caught two touchdown passes, one from Boone, one from Brandon Connette.
The touchdown from Connette came on a fourth-and-1 call at the Virginia 47-yard line early in the fourth quarter. Deaver took a naked bootleg from Connette 47 yards to make it 25-22 Duke.
“When the call came in, I said, ‘hey, don’t get smashed by somebody, because they had brought almost the damn house on the play,” Deaver said (Connette did complete the pass with a rusher in his face). “I was able to miss somebody and get out. I caught the ball, and there was nobody out in front of me. I told somebody I’m not the most vertically fast guy in the world, but I had a whole cavalry out in front of me blocking that did an unbelievable job.”
Head coach David Cutcliffe also joked that Deaver showed him something with his fleet of footness to complete the play.
Duke’s run game was effective as well, with 180 yards on 44 carries, an average of 4.1 yards per rush. Josh Snead led with 53 yards on seven carries (7.6 yards per carry).
What needs work:
Duke’s defense has a knack for playing well after halftime, dating back to the game against Pitt (where they at least played significantly better than the first half). Cutcliffe chalks that up to halftime adjustments, conditioning level and mental toughness. Still, it would be ideal if the defense could play well from the beginning of games, not the midway point.
“There’s so much offense to defend at the collegiate level,” Cutcliffe said. “We’re going in and out of option, zone-read, dropback passing game, shotgun runs, runs under the center, I-formation, power formations, and it takes awhile to look at it at the speed of a real opponent, not a scout team that’s going to run it. You see across the country defenses catch up a little bit in the second half.
“You’ve got to play for 60 minutes,” Cutcliffe said. “You can’t let the first 15 or 30 minutes dictate it. You’ve got to make more plays then they make, ultimately, when the game is said and done.”
Cutcliffe also said the team is also looking at Boone’s warm-up process to figure out why he also started slow.
Continuing an existing trend, punter Will Monday struggled. His six punts averaged 40 yards, and just one landed inside the 20-yard line.
Duke will travel to Virginia Tech, playing at 3:30 on ESPNU. This is the second straight year the Blue Devils have done to Blacksburg seeking win No. 6 (the team was 5-1 last year). In 2012, Duke raced out to a 20-0 lead in the first quarter before surrendering 41 unanswered points and losing 41-20.