Some thoughts and observations from Duke’s 34-20 loss Saturday to Virginia:
▪ East Carolina fans don’t want to hear it, but Virginia fans have to enjoy what they’re seeing from former Pirates quarterback Kurt Benkert. He’s big, he’s mobile enough and he showed a nice touch on throws of all distances Saturday.
On one key play, Benkert could have run for a first down after moving out of the pocket. Instead, he stopped and gunned a rope of a pass to wideout David Eldridge down the middle for an 84-yard gain. Presence of mind, perfect pass, set up a TD. Impressive stuff.
▪ Daniel Jones said Saturday he has had other awful games at quarterback but seemed hard-pressed to come up with one as bad. It happens. He’s a redshirt freshman. It may happen again.
Duke coach David Cutcliffe said Virginia gave Jones some different defensive looks. And Jones hurt himself with some bad, poorly timed throws. Five interceptions and a fumble from your quarterback is a losing equation almost every time. It was Saturday for Duke.
▪ Virginia appears to be a very energized football team. Very active sideline during the game. Bronco Mendenhall, in his first year as coach, has brought some life to that program, and the Wahoos no longer have to deal with the yoke of losing 17 straight games on the road.
▪ During fall camp, Duke picked four players to be permanent captains this season: Thomas Sirk, DeVon Edwards, Jela Duncan and A.J. Wolf. Sirk and Edwards have been lost for the season with injuries, and Duncan did not play Saturday because of a leg injury suffered at Notre Dame. That’s a big hit for any program.
▪ The strain of losing players and a tough loss to Virginia was apparent after the game. Cutcliffe was testy when asked if he considered playing quarterback Parker Boehme. Coaches never like to be second-guessed, but being tough on a reporter from the student newspaper is never a good idea and one has to think Cutcliffe thought better of it soon after the news conference. It was out of character.
Cutcliffe, in his Sunday news conference, said he was more irritated than frustrated after the game. Said, “We all react when we get angry, and I let myself get angry. I was reactive, and you can’t be that way.”
▪ Army is next for Duke and the Black Knights (3-1) have had a bye week. Army took a 23-20 overtime loss to Buffalo in its last game after leading 20-6 in the fourth quarter. The triple option offers a test of assignment football but also could allow the Duke defensive players to get some of the frustration of Saturday out of their systems by just lining up and hitting people. No Benkert or DeShone Kizer this week. Just basic football.