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Duke mistakes open floodgates for Cavs

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - In ACC play this year, the state of Virginia has been merciless to Duke.

Two weeks after a 45-0 loss at home to then-No. 7 Virginia Tech, the Blue Devils (1-3, 0-2 in the ACC) fell 38-7 to No. 23 Virginia (3-0, 1-0) in Charlottesville Saturday afternoon. Duke hung close for the first half, but an opportunistic, 21-point Cavalier third quarter ended the Blue Devils' hopes at stealing a win.

Up just 10-0 at the half, Virginia moved the ball downfield to Duke's 31-yard line on the first drive after the intermission. But before their third-down play, the Cavaliers committed three consecutive false starts, leaving them with what Duke head coach Ted Roof described as a "third-and-forever" situation. On the ensuing third-and-24 play, Virginia tight end Tom Santi ran a seam route past the Duke defense and was hit in-stride with a pass from Marques Hagans for a 46-yard touchdown.

"I hate to say it, but it kind of turned sour from there," Duke defensive end Eli Nichols said.

The Cavaliers reeled off two more touchdowns in their next four plays and were up 31-0 before the Blue Devils got on the board early in the fourth. Behind Hagans, who finished with 174 yards and four touchdowns on 13-for-21 passing, Virginia shredded a tired Duke defense that played a gritty first half but could not keep up in the second.

"We got worn down, and some of those tackles we were making for one- and two-yard gains in the first half became six-yard gains and seven-yard gains in the second half," Roof said. "Part of that is our defense needs to get off the field and our offense has to stay on the field so the [defense] doesn't get worn down."

The Blue Devils turned the ball over four times during the game, including a first-half fumble and an interception from starting quarterback Mike Schneider. The fumble led to a Virginia field goal with four minutes left in the first quarter.

The Cavaliers capitalized on another Duke miscue when Hagans completed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Deyon Williams with 8:30 remaining in the second quarter. The drive followed a muffed kick that went just 26 yards by Blue Devil punter Chris Sprague.

"We can't make those mistakes and expect to beat a good football team," Roof said of the turnovers. "I was proud of the way we fought, but the execution wasn't there."

After Schneider's two giveaways, Roof substituted in freshman quarterback Zack Asack, who looked impressive in last week's rout of VMI, going 4-for-4 with a touchdown. Despite directing Duke's only scoring drive, Asack could not keep the ball out of Virginia's hands.

The first of Asack's two interceptions came on Duke's most successful offensive set of the first half. The freshman displayed his athleticism with an 18-yard scramble on the first play of the drive and also completed two passes to wideout Ronnie Elliott.

But when Asack tried to force his third consecutive pass attempt to Elliott with two minutes to go in the half and the ball on Virginia's 28-yard line, the results were not as good. The pass just short of the end zone sailed high over the middle and ended up in Cavalier cornerback Tony Franklin's hands.

"We had good momentum, it was just a bad pass, a bad decision on my part," Asack said. "Those are things we need to work on and stop from happening."

Even with all the mistakes, Duke came out for the second half down just two scores and fired up to be playing a top-25 team so closely, Nichols said.

Virginia dashed the Blue Devils' hopes with Hagans' 46-yard bomb. Hagans threw for all three touchdowns in the third quarter, and backup tailback Cedric Peerman capped off the Cavalier scoring with a 17-yard, one-play drive following a 68-yard kickoff return.

Asack did his best to keep the offense on the field in the second half, but he could not break through the Cavalier defense until Virginia head coach Al Groh had taken out most of his starters.

"I thought he did some good things, but it's a growing process for a true freshman," Roof said of Asack, who finished with 87 yards on 7-for-13 passing. "He has to continue to take care of the football and finish the drive."

Asack's second interception came when front-line pressure forced him to attempt an off-balance pass to Marcus Jones, only to have Virginia defensive back Marcus Hamilton jump in front. It was Hamilton's second of the day-he had also been responsible for Schneider's pick.

On Duke's only scoring play of the game, Asack got some revenge on Hamilton. Wideout Jomar Wright raced past Hamilton and caught a pass from Asack in the end zone on the first play of the fourth quarter. The touchdown brought the score to 31-7, but that was all the scoring Duke could muster.

"I think this was the most hard-fought game we've played this season," Asack said. "All of us, including myself, we just have to learn from our mistakes and forget about it."

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