Extra point: Duke football defeats Virginia with elite defensive performance

<p>Four Duke football players rushed for more than 30 yards against Virginia.</p>

Four Duke football players rushed for more than 30 yards against Virginia.

Duke bounced back from a quality loss to Kansas last week with a commanding victory against Virginia Saturday in Wallace Wade Stadium. The Blue Zone takes a look at key stats and takeaways of the win, as well as what to expect next time:

Three key takeaways

1. Riley Leonard is the real deal

Even in a loss last week, the Blue Devils' quarterback sophomore Riley Leonard performed very well. This week was no different. He was an offensive machine, connecting on 75% of his passes (18-24) for 129 yards through the air, including one touchdown. Leonard also used his legs to remind the Cavaliers that he is a dual threat, rushing for a net total 59 yards and two touchdowns. The Blue Devils’ offense was firing on all cylinders Saturday, and Leonard’s continued strong performances are a big reason why. 

2. Spreading the rushing love

All season, it seems like the Blue Devils have been more than willing to utilize a variety of weapons in the backfield to keep the ball moving on the ground, and yesterday was no exception. Four Blue Devils (including Leonard) rushed for more than 30 yards Saturday. Sophomore Jaquez Moore had the long rush of the day when he broke free, made a 59-yard dash down the left sideline and scored. The amount of talent on the ground head coach Mike Elko seems willing to use will likely be problematic for opposing defenses throughout the rest of the season. 

3. Continuing to shine on defense 

As the previous defensive coordinator at Texas A&M, Elko is a coach with a defensive background, and his team’s defensive performances have served as continued reminders of that. This week, the Blue Devils held Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong to just 202 yards on a dismal 51% completion rate. On top of that, the Blue Devils forced two turnovers on an interception and a forced fumble on a kickoff return. Virginia managed to put some points on the board, but at no point during this game were they ever really “in” it.

Three key stats

1. 36:03 time of possession

If there is one stat that shows how in control of this game Duke was, it is this one. The Blue Devils held onto the ball for 60% of the game. They ran long, slow, rush-heavy drives that prevented the Cavaliers from even having the chance to score. Duke’s ability to control the pace of this game and keep its offense on the field was key in this win.

2. 2-of-3 fourth down conversions

The Blue Devils were fearless on offense in this matchup, which included going for the fourth down three times and converting on two of those attempts. Similarly to the previous stat, the high conversion rate kept the offense on the field and running downhill. The Cavaliers simply didn’t have the time to get their feet back under them, and even when they got a third-down stop there was the looming risk that Duke would keep its offense on the field and extend the drive.

3. Six penalties for 87 yards

The “you can’t do that” chants were loud and frequent in Wallace Wade when the Cavaliers came to visit and for good reason. Virginia committed six infractions for a whopping total of 87 yards. Personal fouls were particularly damaging, with flags coming out for things like unnecessary roughness and roughing the passer. More than once, Virginia seemed to stop a Duke drive on third down before a flag moved the Blue Devils down the field and allowed them to continue the attack. Sloppy penalties can kill a defense, and they absolutely did Saturday night.

Looking ahead:

Next week, the Blue Devils will travel to Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta to take on Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets are 2-3 on the season and will be coming from a massive upset against No. 24 Pittsburgh. Duke will look to continue a track record of dominance on both sides of the ball while Georgia Tech tries to adjust to new leadership following the termination of its athletic director and head coach. 


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