Duke football scores 35 unanswered points to down Virginia
Thirty-five unanswered points changed that very quickly.
Duke tore back into the contest behind the play of its defense and upended Virginia 35-22 at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, Va., earning the team its first ACC victory of the season and pulling the Blue Devils within one win of bowl eligibility for the second consecutive year.
"This is huge. Being down 22-0, I don't know if a Duke team has ever come back from that big of a deficit in a long time," redshirt senior cornerback Ross Cockrell said. "We came together. We became strong as a family, and that's what our goal is."
Virginia (2-5, 0-3 in the ACC) was forced into a three and out on five consecutive possessions by the Duke (5-2, 1-2) defense, keeping the Cavaliers from picking up a first down from the middle of the second quarter until early in the fourth.
"I told them at the start of the third quarter, I went down to all of those older guys and said, 'I'm putting my money on you guys. You're the ones who are going to turn this around in the second half. I'm not worried about offense, I'm not worried about special teams. I'm putting my money right up front on the defense,'" Cutcliffe said. "And they grinned, and I meant it. I feel really good about those guys."
The Blue Devil defensive line was a force throughout the second half, limiting Virginia to seven rushing yards for the remainder of the contest and recording 10 tackles for a loss on the afternoon.
Running back Kevin Parks provided each of the Cavaliers' first three scores with two rushes from a yard out and a 13-yard reception, but after Virginia tacked on a two-point conversion to take a 22-point lead, it was all Duke. Redshirt junior quarterback Anthony Boone led the Blue Devils on a touchdown drive in the last minute of the first half, hooking up with wide receiver Jamison Crowder to get his team on the board.
"We got hit in the mouth a little bit, and we were surprised," Cockrell said. "We were back on our heels and the offense got us started with that touchdown late in the first half. After that, it was just pedal to the metal."
Duke's quarterback duo of Boone and Brandon Connette controlled the clock in the second half. Boone finished 21-of-39 for 245 yards, throwing two touchdowns and one interception, but it was Connette who provided some of the game's key plays, scampering for a 6-yard touchdown to cut Duke's deficit to one score and giving the Blue Devils the lead when he hit tight end Braxton Deaver for a 47-yard score on fourth-and-1.
Connette was at his most effective on fourth down, leading the Blue Devils to a perfect 4-for-4 performance to keep drives alive as Duke mounted a comeback.
"Brandon Connette gives us a bull in some tough circumstances. Those were some big conversions that made a difference in the game," Cutcliffe said. "He's always there, which is a good feeling to know."
Boone found Deaver for his second touchdown catch of the day, hooking up on a 24-yard connection with 4:17 remaining in the game to seal the victory.
"Once Anthony gets into his rhythm, he's really hard to stop," Deaver said.
With the victory, Duke has five wins on the season and can reach a bowl game for the second straight year with a win next week against Virginia Tech, sending the Blue Devils to a second straight bowl game for the first time in program history.