Durham, NC – Five interceptions and a late game fumble that was recovered for a touchdown for Daniel Jones seemed to push the Blue Devils off of a mountain that they could not climb back up as Duke loses to Virginia 34-20 to ruin homecoming for the Blue and White team. It is never easy to win a game after giving up six turnovers, and that was the case for Jones. Duke (2-3, 0-2 ACC) opened the scoring for today with a 23 yard pass from Jones to T.J. Rahming for the first touchdown of the day. Defensively, Duke did well containing the small plays from UVA. The difficulties came about when ECU transfer quarterback Kurt Benkert was able to move out of the pocket. Duke’s defensive line would get great pressure, but all 11 guys would not be on the same page and there would usually be a man wide open down field for Benkert and Virginia. This was the case on an 84 yard catch and run by the Cavs’ David Eldridge who was eventually brought down at the two yard line by Breon Borders.
Virginia (2-3, 1-0 ACC) would punch it in two plays later to take the lead 13-10. Duke defensive lineman A.J. Wolf described the process of containing Benkert, mentioning that “it’s just an assignment thing. Every play we account for having contain. A few times, [Benkert] just got out of there and we didn’t hold contain. And it’s just about execution play to play. If we just executed the plays correctly, we would have been good there.” Both scrambles helped extend drives that eventually led to UVA scoring. However, Daniel Jones and Duke did not have the same success in that category. Jones had four first half interceptions that really seemed to kill drives just when they got momentum. A couple of the passes to the other team could’ve been handled differently, but that is part of the learning curve of being a quarterback at a high level. Virginia went in to halftime leading 20-10.
Duke fought back and cut the game to a seven point deficit twice, with the second instance being after a first career touchdown for Joseph Ajeigbe on a four yard touchdown run made the game 27-20 after an A.J. Reed extra point kick. Each team would trade stops until Virginia punter Nicholas Conte made his punt sit down on Duke’s two yard line. Virginia players were shouting “this punt counts!” or of the similar effect as the punt team ran off and the defense entered the field. Two plays later, Jordan Mack blitzes for the Cavaliers, no Duke player made an effort to stop him, and he punished Daniel Jones in the endzone to force a fumble. The fumble was recovered in the endzone by Eli Hanback to extend Virginia’s lead to 34-20.
Duke was in the midst of driving the ball down the field before Jones’ pass was poorly thrown and caught by Juan Thornhill to seal the game and ruin homecoming for Duke. This win comes as a shock to the home team, Duke has not lost to UVA since 2006 (four game winning streak snapped). Coach David Cutcliffe was visibly upset after the game, but he did go on to say that “I’m going to handle this. I’m not going to hang my head. I’m not going to run from anything. I don’t expect anybody in this program to do that. Hopefully Cutcliffe and Duke can get back to their winning ways as they will return home next week to take on Army.