Duke's passing game was ineffective all day, as Daniel Jones completed just 14--of-42 attempts and didn't ...

Making the grade: Duke football vs. Virginia

Despite a solid performance defensively, Duke and its offense could never get going, totaling just 255 yards in a 28-21 loss to Virginia Saturday. The Blue Devils converted just five of 17 third down attempts and turned the ball over twice in their second straight loss.   

Offense: D+

Pass: Daniel Jones had another brutal outing against the Cavaliers, only completing 14 of his 42 passes for 124 yards along with a touchdown and two interceptions. One of the interceptions was the result of an unfortunate deflection, but Jones struggled with decision-making all afternoon. Duke’s wide receivers struggled to create separation against the Virginia defensive backs as well, further complicating things for the Blue Devils. 

Rush: In limited opportunities in a pass-heavy attack, the Blue Devils' rushing attack was effective, gaining 131 yards on a solid 4.1 yards per carry. Brittain Brown led the way with 10 carries for 54 yards, while Jones picked up 36 on the ground himself. With Duke's struggles to convert red zone opportunities into touchdowns in recent weeks, head coach David Cutcliffe employed Quentin Harris frequently in the red zone—and it worked. The Blue Devils found the end zone twice inside the 20-yard line, including a four-yard Harris scamper to cut Virginia's lead to a touchdown with 6:14 left to play. 

X’s and O’s: The Blue Devils’ pass blocking was improved after their rough performance against Miami, but Daniel Jones failed to take advantage of it and a lack of execution through the air ultimately doomed Duke to their first road loss of the year. Although Duke was solid when it ran the ball, it didn’t do it frequently enough to establish a rhythm. Cutcliffe’s offense tried to work the ball downfield on first and second down to no avail, leaving many long third downs. This wasn’t the balanced attack that Cutcliffe’s team had displayed early on in the season. 

Defense: B

Pass: Duke’s pass defense mostly did its job against the Cavaliers, only allowing 182 yards and picking off quarterback Kurt Benkert twice, including one that Jeremy McDuffie returned 46 yards for a touchdown. However, they also let up three touchdowns and had trouble containing Olamide Zaccheaus, who had eight receptions for 69 yards and a touchdown. 

Rush: The Blue Devils rush defense was its normal stingy self, limiting Virginia to just 128 yards on 38 carries—or 3.4 yards per attempt. The defensive line did a good job holding up the blockers and allowing the linebackers to flood in and stuff the running backs. The Cavaliers’ longest run was for only 17 yards as well as Duke bottled up the run game and stopped the explosive plays that had plagued them earlier in the year.

X’s and O’s: The Blue Devils stopped the big plays that had hurt them last week against Miami, but was eventually worn down from being out on the field and fell prey to several extended plays. 

Special teams: B

The Duke special teams unit was kept busy on Saturday, as the offensive stagnation meant that Austin Parker punted 10 times with an average of 43.3 yards per kick. He also converted all three extra point attempts and did not get the chance to try a field goal all afternoon. 

The return game was largely held quiet as only one kickoff was returned all afternoon, but Shaun Wilson made the most of it, bringing it back 70 yards to set the Blue Devils up with great field position. However, Duke also allowed Virginia to return three kicks for an average of 27 yards including a long of 40. 

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