For head coach Ted Roof, the game-plan for Virginia is simple. If the Blue Devils show up in Charlottesville to play the No. 23 Cavaliers Saturday afternoon and believe they can win, anything can happen.
"For us to go there and think we don't have any chance, that's a waste of time," he said. "If I didn't think there was a chance to win we wouldn't get on the bus."
Roof's optimistic sentiment heading into a game where Duke appears overmatched on paper is one that he has preached to his team all week in practice.
The message to look ahead rings clear after a disappointing start to the 2005 campaign, notwithstanding last Saturday's 40-14 win over Division I-AA VMI. Roof has advised the Blue Devils (1-2, 0-1 in the ACC) to forget the thoughts of the disheartening loss at East Carolina Sept. 3 and the thrashing at home at the hands of Virginia Tech Sept. 10.
"It's a new season," defensive tackle Casey Camero said. "No wins, no losses. We're going out there to get our first win. Nobody likes starting off the season 0-2, and we really did what we were supposed to against VMI. Now it's time to prepare for a better football team, and that's Virginia."
The attitude in practice is one that will be difficult to translate onto the field. Virginia (2-0, 0-0) boasts the ACC's second-best rushing attack while Duke is eighth in rushing defense. Last year, the Cavaliers racked up 348 rushing yards in their 37-16 win over Duke at Wallace Wade Stadium Oct. 23.
Duke won't catch any breaks either, as Virginia welcomes back dynamic tailback Wali Lundy, who sprained his foot in the team's season opener. Lundy will team up in the backfield with dual-threat quarterback Marques Hagans, who has been coming into his own as a senior this year.
"He looks like he's shot out of a sling-shot when he decides what to do," Roof said of Hagans. "He gets to full speed after about his third step, which is something."
Hagans ran for 110 yards in leading the Cavaliers to a tight win over then-No. 25 Syracuse last Saturday. His 26-yard run in the game's final drive helped seal the victory.
With the prospect of facing a diverse and talented rushing attack, Duke has been searching for answers all week.
"We're going to try and see if we can play 14 guys on defense and see if the refs will catch us," Roof joked. "We know we're going to have to stop the run to be successful. That's what their offense is built around."
It will not be the first time the Blue Devils face a mobile quarterback this season. Camero said that some of the same defensive sets used against Virginia Tech's Marcus Vick will be employed again for Hagans.
For Duke to be successful they will have to establish the point of attack better than they have so far this year, Roof said. The team talked this week about being more physical with Virginia than it has been with any opponent the Blue Devils have played so far this season.
"Against Virginia Tech we got outmanned, we got outplayed," senior fullback Malcolm Ruff said. "We want to work on being a physical team so that on Saturdays we're the aggressors."
Ruff knows all too well about the importance of such an attitude against Virginia, because as a linebacker last year he witnessed the Cavaliers' rushing prowess. Now on the other side of the ball, he and his teammates know it will take a big effort from everyone to steal a win, Ruff said.
One of those members is quarterback Mike Schneider, who has been shaky so far this year throwing for an average of just 74 yards per game. Roof is sticking with Schneider as his starter, despite the impressive play of freshman Zack Asack against VMI and the return of backup Curt Dukes from injury. Roof said he expects both Schneider and Dukes to take snaps, and he did not rule out his other options.
The Blue Devils know, though, that to have any chance Saturday, they have to put last week's easy win behind them.
"Confidence is a powerful thing," Roof said. "Executing and being successful certainly builds confidence. But the bar goes up this week. We're back in the league and a top-25 team. We've got to play better to win."
Roof said that heralded freshman Vince Oghobaase, who is still recovering from an injury he suffered during spring practice, will again be out for the game.... Codey Lowe and Ben Patrick did not practice Wednesday and their playing status is doubtful.... Joe Surgan will return from his one-game suspension and will reassume his role as starting place-kicker.
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