Coming off a heartbreaking double-overtime loss to North Carolina, Duke will look to rebound with a matchup on the road against Virginia. The Blue Zone is here with the three keys to a Blue Devil victory Saturday:
The most potent weapon on the Cavalier offense is senior wideout Malik Washington. The speedy Northwestern transfer has recorded a whopping 1,199 yards receiving this year, and has averaged nearly 14 yards per catch. Duke gave up 342 yards through the air against North Carolina, most significantly to Tar Heel receiver Devontez Walker. While the rest of the receiving corps is on the weaker side, the visitors will need to work to improve their pass coverage and lock down Washington to keep Virginia grounded and avoid giving up big plays in important moments.
Bring the pressure
Another key player for the Cavalier offense is quarterback Anthony Colandrea. Colandrea started the year as the backup, but took over for starter Tony Muskett after Muskett went down with an injury. Now, Colandrea has likely been handed the keys to the offense. Against Louisville, he threw for 314 yards and rushed for another 89. The Blue Devils have played a number of dual-threat quarterbacks this year, and they will need to come in with a similar mindset Saturday. The team should collapse the pocket, bring pressure to the quarterback and come around the edge to prevent a shifty Colandrea from escaping to the outside and gaining significant yardage.
Duke has had a relatively good pass rush this year, led by star interior defensive lineman DeWayne Carter. Against the Cavaliers, Carter and the rest of the front seven will need to keep the pressure up throughout the game and limit the mobility of a quarterback who has turned out to be a breakout star for Virginia this season.
The ground game
With standout quarterback Riley Leonard still out for the Blue Devils, it will be up to freshman Grayson Loftis to get the job done in his third consecutive start for the visitors. Loftis has been serviceable this year, but the true strength of the Duke offense will continue to shine through the run game. It will be up to the offensive line, along with running backs Jordan Waters and Jaquez Moore, to jump start the offense Saturday. Virginia has been weak in defending the ground game, too, giving up 180.3 rushing yards per game. It will be the role of offensive play-caller Kevin Johns to dial up plays that take advantage of the strength on the line and with the rushers, avoiding the need for a weaker quarterback in Loftis to make big throws.
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