Extra point: Fourth-quarter scoring, defensive struggles define Duke football's loss to Virgina

Freshman quarterback Grayson Loftis awaits the snap in Duke football's loss to Virginia.
Freshman quarterback Grayson Loftis awaits the snap in Duke football's loss to Virginia.

After traveling to Charlottesville Saturday afternoon, Duke football experienced a disheartening loss to Virginia. The Blue Zone is here with three key takeaways, stats and a look ahead following the Blue Devils’ defeat:

Three key takeaways

1. Fourth-quarter efforts

After a discouraging third quarter, the Blue Devils entered the final 15 minutes of play trailing 24-13. They looked to freshman quarterback Grayson Loftis to decrease the deficit. Early in the quarter, the Gaffney, S.C., native completed an 11-yard pass to redshirt freshman Mekhi Wall to move Duke down the field. Closer to the red zone, the Blue Devils were able to turn to their running game, with junior Jaquez Moore’s rushing touchdown bringing Duke within a single-digit deficit. With Virginia still leading with 1:13 left in the game, Loftis completed a two-yard pass to Wall. The freshman and his offensive crew closed a significant gap and fought hard in the last minutes of the contest. 

2. Defensive struggles

Coming off of a disheartening loss against in-state rival North Carolina, it was evident that head coach Mike Elko’s crew needed to polish their defense for this week’s matchup against the Cavaliers. While the Blue Devils were able to find some defensive cohesion late in the game, Virginia’s offense was already too fired up to be subdued. Duke’s defense looked chaotic yet unsure, providing ample opportunities for freshman quarterback Anthony Colandrea to easily complete deep passes while also allowing the Cavaliers to turn to the running game. The Blue Devils failed to put up a defensive fight on crucial third downs when their opponent’s scoring was within reach. 

3. Malik Washington’s success

Virginia graduate wide receiver Malik Washington’s offensive production was undeniably essential for the Cavaliers’ victory in Scott Stadium. As a recent transfer, he has proven to be a dominant force on the field and has established himself as one of the best receivers in the ACC this season. Within moments of taking the field, he broke both Virginia’s single-season receiving yards and reception records. The 5-foot-8 powerhouse’s explosive plays resulted in two touchdowns, establishing and extending a significant lead against the Blue Devils.    

Three key stats

1. 278 receiving yards

While Duke’s offense wasn’t as efficient as it needed to be to secure a win against the Cavaliers, it still utilized its passing game to create strong plays. At times, receivers were able to separate from the crowd and gain yardage after the catch. Team-leading receivers Jordan Moore and Jalon Calhoun were consistent in helping to gain significant yardage to drive the Blue Devils down the field. Duke finished the matchup with an average 10.7 yards per reception.       

2. Nine tackles for loss

Although the Blue Devils’ defense struggled to contain Virginia’s efficient offense, Duke put up an impressive nine tackles for loss. Graduate safety Jeremiah Lewis showed immense defensive leadership on the field contributing to the total with two tackles for loss — a team high. Senior Aeneas Peebles and graduate student Anthony Nelson also played a crucial role in stopping the momentum of otherwise strong rushes by the Cavaliers with 1.5 tackles for loss each. 

3. 58-yard rush

Among their offensive efforts, the Blue Devils managed to collect 167 rushing yards, with Jaquez Moore leading the pack. When scoring was limited, Moore managed to navigate through Virginia’s defense and rush for a season-high 58 yards, resulting in a touchdown for Duke. This run by the Live Oak, Fla., native brought the Blue Devils within a one-touchdown scoring range during the fourth quarter. 

Looking ahead

Next Saturday, Duke welcomes Pittsburgh to Wallace Wade Stadium to close out its regular season. After their fourth loss in five games, the Blue Devils look to secure a much-needed win. The Panthers have struggled to gain solid footing throughout their season, but Duke would be naive to take such weaknesses for granted. 


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