For the fifth consecutive year, Duke fell to the Cavaliers, this time by an embarrassing 48-14 margin. The Blue Zone gives three key takeaways, stats and looks forward for the Blue Devils:
Three Key Takeaways:
1. The Cavaliers won the game on turnovers
Seeing that Virginia only had 57 more offensive yards than Duke, one would wonder how the Cavaliers were able to outscore the Blue Devils by 34 points. But in the end, it really came down to one thing: Virginia had great field position all afternoon. When you recover three fumbles in a game, that’s bound to happen. Add that to a kickoff return touchdown and you really don’t need many offensive yards to win by a comfortable margin. At least they didn’t have a turnover chain.
2. Duke’s offensive line has issues
Quentin Harris was not having a good time on the field against the Cavaliers. The Duke quarterback had little time to pass out of the pocket, always having to scramble for more time or simply throwing dangerous passes. The Virginia front four got into the backfield on basically every play, with the Blue Devil offensive linemen scrambling to get even a finger on them. Whenever Harris threw the ball, he either took a hit, got the pass batted, or—in some unfortunate cases—both. Don’t let the fact that the Cavaliers had only one sack fool you. Duke's offensive line struggled against the pass rush and, as a result, the team's pass game was never able to take off.
3. Momentum is key
This third takeaway was copied and pasted from last week’s "Extra point", because momentum seems to be the single most important factor in Duke football’s performance. When they get hot, the Blue Devils are unstoppable, scoring touchdowns just for the fun of it. When they get cold, they get outscored by 34 points in one of the most important games of the season. Virginia did a great job of breaking up Duke’s flow and capitalizing off of its mistakes. If they want to win, the Blue Devils need to find a way to create momentum and protect it at all costs.
Three Key Stats:
1. Three fumbles lost for Duke
Almost every member of Duke’s backfield lost the ball at some point Saturday afternoon. The worst of the three fumbles was the one to start the second half. The Blue Devils were down 17 points and had an opportunity to shift the momentum in their favor. What they did instead was shift the momentum even more in the Cavaliers’ favor, allowing them to begin the half deep in Duke territory. In fact, every fumble made by a Blue Devil effectively put a stop to any momentum they made or hoped to make, hence the final score.
2. Two fake punts in one drive
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It's unknown for sure whether the first of Austin Parker’s fake punts was a true fake punt or an improvisation, but for the purpose of this stat let's say it was intentional. Regardless, we were all graced with a showcase of the punter’s speed and shiftiness. Midway through the third quarter, in a time when the game was already getting out of hand, the decision to put the punter’s ball carrier-vision to the test was unexpected. However, it did light a small spark on the Duke sideline, and it was certainly entertaining to anyone who isn’t a Virginia fan. Parker finished the night with two rushes for 17 yards and, most importantly, zero fumbles.
3. Everything about the passing game
If you’re a fan of pass plays, you probably switched to the LSU vs. Mississippi State game at halftime. Neither Duke nor Virginia could get the passing game going; no QB threw for over 150 yards and the only player to post a passer rating higher than 100 was Chris Katrenick, as we all expected. Interestingly enough, all four quarterbacks who saw the field completed exactly half of their passes, and all but Katrenick threw more interceptions than touchdowns. At least Joe Burrow played well.
Next Saturday at 4 p.m., Duke will take on North Carolina in Chapel Hill. As always, the game will be competitive, more so since this time around with both teams coming off a critical intra-conference loss.