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Extra Point vs. Virginia: Duke loses control early, drops second consecutive home matchup

<p>T.J. Rahming's six catches were not enough to help Duke compete with Virginia Saturday afternoon.</p>

T.J. Rahming's six catches were not enough to help Duke compete with Virginia Saturday afternoon.

The Blue Devils were able to rebound from a tough loss against Virginia Tech with a great road win at Georgia Tech last week, giving hope that the dream of an ACC Coastal title may still be alive. Sadly, hopes of a berth in the ACC Championship Game all are all but dead now, as Duke proved unable to fend off its second-straight foe from the state of Virginia. The Blue Zone gives three key takeaways and stats and looks forward for the Blue Devils: 

Three key takeaways: 

1. Special teams unit struggles to stop Virginia 

The game opened with Cavalier wide receiver Joe Reed returning the opening kickoff for 37 yards, setting the tone for a dominating Virginia first-half, caused by Duke’s inability to tackle on special teams. Virginia had an average field position at the Duke 49-yard line over its first four drives, making it fairly easy to take a quick 14-0 lead before the end of the first half. The Blue Devils would never get closer than a touchdown the rest of the way, eventually losing 28-14. 

2. Running game unable to get anything going 

Just one week ago, sophomore Deon Jackson rushed for a career-high 98 yards, finally giving some hope for a formidable Duke rush attack. But against Virginia, Jackson was a no-show, totaling just 17 yards on 11 carries. Quarterback Daniel Jones led the team in rushing but was still largely ineffective, managing a meager 37 yards on 15 carries of his own. The Blue Devils’ 58 rushing yards as a team mark a season-low. 

3. Defense fails to contain the mobility of Bryce Perkins 

Duke has matched up against running quarterbacks in the past, but none have been able to use their legs to their advantage like Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins did Saturday. The junior from Queen Creek, Ariz. started off the contest with two rushing touchdowns in the first half, and his mobility gave Virginia’s receiving core ample time to get open all afternoon. This will not be the last week the Blue Devils are forced to deal with a dual-threat quarterback, so the team must work on addressing this issue as the season enters its final stretch.

Three key stats: 

1. 4 

Duke has now lost its past four matchups with the Cavaliers, their last win against Virginia coming Oct. 18, 2014. The Blue Devils entered the game with a 71.3 percent chance of victory according to ESPN, giving the team and its fans hope that this was the year the streak would finally end. But the Cavaliers took control of the contest early, continuing their domination over their rivals to the south. Better luck next year.  

2. 55 

Daniel Jones completed just 22 of his 40 pass attempts Saturday, a completion percentage of just 55 percent, a season-low. Jones also tossed two interceptions against Virginia, a season-high and his third consecutive game with at least one pick. The redshirt junior has appeared to lose some of his accuracy since his return from injury, as the Charlotte, N.C. native got through his first two matchups of the season without a single turnover and an average completion percentage of 74.6 percent. 

3. 97 

Duke did have one positive result come from Saturday’s performance, as redshirt senior wide receiver Chris Taylor set a career-high with 97 receiving yards. The Miramar, Fl. native has shown he can get open downfield, but has struggled with drops all season. That narrative changed against Virginia, with Taylor reeling in six catches including a 46-yard touchdown in the third-quarter, his first score of the year. The Blue Devils should continue to make Taylor a key part of their aerial attack the rest of the way. 

Looking forward: 

Miami’s loss last week opened a very small crack in the door between Duke and the ACC Championship. That door is shut now. The Blue Devils may not be mathematically eliminated just yet, but eventually there must be a time to stop dreaming about the near impossible. Now Duke must focus on closing out the one additional win it needs to secure a spot in a bowl game, with that first opportunity coming next Saturday against Pittsburgh at Heinz Field.