BDN’s Duke at Virginia Preview

Center Morgan and QB Lewis hope to exend their ACC winning streak vs UVA - BDN Phoo

Center Morgan and QB Lewis hope to exend their ACC winning streak vs UVA - BDN Phoo

DUKE

Last time out
Duke defeated Maryland in a wet Wallace Wade Stadium, 17-13. Thad Lewis completed 30/43 passes for 371 yards and 2 touchdowns, connecting with six different receivers. The outstanding trio of Kelly, Varner, and Vernon led the way for the receiving corps, with a combined 22 receptions for 289 yards. Sophomore Donovan Varner led all receivers with 120 yards on eight catches, including a 25-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter, which put Duke up 7-0. Freshman standout Conner Vernon also eclipsed the 100-yard plateau with five catches, making him the first receiver in Duke history to post multiple 100-yard receiving games in his freshman season. The Duke rushing attack was limited again, posting 34 yards on 24 carries.

The Duke defense held the Maryland offense to 249 total yards, 67 of which came on a single pass with blown coverage. Maryland’s rushing attack was never able to gather momentum, finishing with 67 yards on 31 attempts. Chris Turner completed 16/23 passes for 182 yards; however, with an opportunity to take the lead in the 4th quarter, Turner’s pass was intercepted by Vinnie Rey at the Maryland 36-yard line. Special teams sealed the win for Duke with Brandon King’s recovery of a fumbled punt return late in the 4th quarter.

SCOUTING THE CAVALIERS

Last time out
Virginia lost to Georgia Tech at home last Saturday, 34-9. The game was more competitive than the final score indicates, as Virginia trailed only 13-6 at halftime.  The Virginia offense managed only 3 field goals (49, 19, and 30 yards) against the resurgent Yellow Jacket defense; meanwhile, the Virginia defense could not get Josh Nesbitt and the Georgia Tech offense off the field. The Yellow Jackets rushed for 362 yards on 71 attempts, resulting in 20 first downs and 4 touchdowns. Paul Johnson’s option offense kept the Virginia defense on the field for over 42 minutes, finally putting the game away with two 4th quarter touchdowns.

Season
After an 0-3 start, Virginia used their September 26 off week to simplify their approach on both sides of the ball. The changes resulted in an upset win in Chapel Hill and a three game winning streak, heading into last week’s matchup with Georgia Tech. During the three game win streak, Virginia’s defense shined, holding UNC, Indiana, and Maryland to under 10 points each (19 points, combined). On the season, however, Virginia’s defense has been on the field a lot, as the Wahoos rank last in offensive time of possession in the ACC.

Jameel Sewell, Virginia’s senior quarterback, has won the starting job after beginning the season as part of a committee, which also included Marc Verica and Vic Hall. The committee resulted in 7 turnovers in an embarrassing 26-14 opening loss to William & Mary, and Sewell has started every game since. At his best, Sewell can be a dual threat quarterback, as evidenced by his 300+ yard passing efforts against Southern Mississippi and Indiana to go along with 4 rushing touchdowns this season. At his worst, Sewell can drag down the entire offense, as he did in week one with 3 interceptions on only 9/17 passing. This inconsistency is part of the reason that Virginia ranks last in the ACC in total offense with 289 yards per game. Pass protection has been a major concern, as the Virginia offensive line also ranks last in the ACC, having allowed 26 sacks through their first 7 games.

INJURIES

Duke is expected to be without senior RB Re’quan Boyette and LB Abraham Kromah again. CB Lee Butler is also expected to miss Saturday’s game.

Virginia has a few injuries on the defensive side of the ball, thought most are expected to play on Saturday. DE Matt Conrath and LB Aaron Clark are both expected to miss Saturday’s game. Safeties Corey Mosley and Brandon Woods both have been out with shoulder injuries, but are expected to play.

TRENDS & NUMBERS

Both Duke and Virginia enter this Saturday’s matchup at 2-1 in the ACC and have both won 3 of their last 4 games.

Thad Lewis has thrown for over 300 yards in 3 straight games.
Duke won back-to-back ACC games for the first time since 1994. The last time Duke won back-to-back ACC road games was also in 1994, the season of Duke’s last bowl game.

Duke defeated Virginia 31-3 in Wallace Wade Stadium last season, giving David Cutcliffe his first ACC win. Duke’s last win in Charlottesville was in 1999.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Though few would have expected it at the start of the year, this weekend’s matchup is an intriguing one, pitting the ACC’s top passing offense against the conference’s top pass defense. Duke averages nearly 3 touchdowns per game through the air, while Virginia has allowed only 3 all season. With Boyette out again, expect Duke to stick to what it does best, moving the ball through the air. If the Blue Devils can match the intensity of a Virginia team hungry for revenge for four quarters, they have the talent to leave Charlottesville with their third straight win.

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