Duke will need to prevent Virginia quarterback Kurt Benkert from making big plays.

Third and goal: Duke football vs. Virginia

After being dealt a crushing 31-6 loss against Miami last week, Duke will look to rebound on the road against Virginia. Here are three keys to Saturday's contest: 

Stick with the Run

It’s no secret that Duke’s strength offensively has been on the ground. The Blue Devils’ dynamic duo of running backs, Shaun Wilson and Brittain Brown, have combined for just shy of 800 rushing yards this season on 6.0 yards per carry. In Duke’s 31-6 thrashing at the hands of Miami, Wilson and Brown carried the ball just 19 times, compared to 42 passing attempts and 18 rushes by Daniel Jones. It’s crucial that the offense establishes the run early and doesn’t get caught trying to catch up through the air. 

Limit Downfield Completions

Duke’s rushing defense has been spectacular thus far, as it has yielded just 2.7 yards per rushing attempt, the 10th best clip in the nation. The passing defense has been more vulnerable, as it is ceding 7.4 yards per pass, which is tied for the 81st best rate in the country, and gave up seven plays of 25 yards or more against Miami. In Virginia’s lone loss, a 34-17 shellacking by Indiana in Charlottesville, Kurt Benkert, the Cavaliers’ quarterback, averaged a meager 3.9 yards per attempt, more than 3 yards fewer than his season average. If the Blue Devils can keep Benkert’s passes close to the line of scrimmage, they should be able to keep Virginia’s passing offense in check.

Bounce Back

Last week’s crushing loss to Miami could deflate the Blue Devils. Duke was looking for its first 5-0 start since 1994, but failed to come close to accomplishing that feat—the team needs to rebound after this letdown. The Blue Devils still have a legitimate chance at winning the ACC’s Coastal division, and if the cards fall their way, could manage their second double-digit win season of all time.  If Duke can pull off an ACC road win against the Cavaliers on Saturday in convincing fashion, the team will be back on track for a great year.

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