Joe Giles-Harris had 15 tackles to lead Duke's defense Saturday.

Extra point: Duke football vs. Virginia

After a 31-6 drubbing at the hands of Miami, Duke’s offense failed to make the trip to Charlottesville in a 28-21 loss to Virginia. Daniel Jones struggled again, throwing for just 124 yards on 4.0 yards per attempt. 

Revisiting the three keys to the game: 

  • Stick with the run. Despite enjoying success when they did run the ball, the Blue Devils never fully established their rushing attack, instead relying on the passing game, which was heavy on unsuccessful deep balls. Duke averaged 4.1 yards per carry and rushed for 131 yards, but faced many long third downs after throwing on first and second down. Brittain Brown led the way for the Blue Devils with 10 carries for 54 yards. 
  • Limit downfield competions. A week after giving up seven passing plays of 25 yards or more, Duke’s secondary clamped down on big plays, giving up just one 25-yard reception to Andre Levrone. As a whole, the Blue Devil pass defense was decent, limiting Cavaliers quarterback Kurt Benkert to just 182 yards and two interceptions, but also allowing three touchdowns. 
  • Bounce back. After a deflating loss to the Hurricanes last week, Duke came out flat. Despite forcing Virginia to go three-and-out on its first drive, Jones' third down pass on the ensuing Duke possesion was deflected and returned 58 yards for a touchdown by Quin Blanding. The Cavaliers seized the early momentum, and the reeling Blue Devils never seemed to get their mojo back on offense. Defensively, Duke gave itself a chance with a Jeremy McDuffie first-quarter 46-yard interception return touchdown to tie the game, but two offensive touchdowns were not enough to come home with a win. 

Three key plays: 

12:08 remaining, first quarter: After forcing Virginia to go three-and-out, Duke had a chance to strike first. But Jones’ third down pass attempt to T.J. Rahming was deflected, and Blanding returned it all the way to the house almost untouched. After that, Jones’ next 10 passes were incomplete, and the redshirt sophomore appeared to lose confidence in the pocket. 

3:04 remaining, second quarter: Just two series after Duke had marched 88 yards down the field for a touchdown, it seemed like the Blue Devils were going to take a 14-7 lead into halftime. But Bryon Fields Jr.’s pass interference call that negated what would have been third-and-long, giving Virginia life and a first down inside the red zone. The penalty was the third called on the secondary during the drive. It ultimately set up an 11-yard Benkert touchdown pass to Olamide Zaccheaus to tie the game at 14 headed into halftime. 

1:45 remaining, fourth quarter: Although Duke played miserably on offense for most of the game, it still had a chance to tie the game late, driving all the way to the Cavaliers’ 30 yard line. But outside linebacker Charles Snowden slipped around reserve offensive tackle Christian Harris—who replaced injured starter Gabe Brandner earlier in the game—and sacked Jones on third-and-six, forcing the Blue Devils into a fourth-and-16 that they were unable to convert. 

Three key stats: 

  • One Blue Devil catch of more than 20 yards. Head coach David Cutcliffe made it a point to try and utilize the vertical passing game. To say the least, it didn’t work. Jones completed just one deep ball, a 30-yard strike to Rahming on the final series. 
  • Virginia converts on 8-of-18 third down tries. Although the Cavaliers weren’t particularly spectacular on converting third down tries, it was much better than the 17.7 percent rate Duke had held its opponents to before Friday, the second-best clip in the nation. Those third downs proved to be the difference in the game, especially because the Blue Devils were only successful on 5 of their 17 third-down tries. 
  • Benkert’s three touchdowns. Duke generally did well to slow Benkert, but it couldn’t stop him in the red zone. Despite punting eight times, Virginia was a perfect 3-for-3 in the red zone, all ending with Benkert passing scores. 

And the Duke game ball goes to…Joe Giles-Harris

In another disappointing loss for the Blue Devils, Giles-Harris was one of the few bright spots. The sophomore linebacker racked up 15 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and a sack to help anchor Duke’s front seven, which limited Virginia to just 3.4 yards per carry. 

And the Virginia game ball goes to…Quin Blanding

Jones nearly gave the Cavaliers the ball enough to earn this honor, but one Virginia player stood out—Blanding. Although no one stood out for the Cavaliers on offense, Blanding anchored a defense that shut down Duke’s pass attack entirely. He racked up eight tackles, including three solo, and returned an interception for a touchdown. He certainly didn’t lock down Jones to 3.0 yards per attempt alone, but the All-American safety played a big part in Virginia’s success against the pass. 

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