Five Key Defensive Plays in Duke’s Comeback Victory

SONY DSCDuke shutout Virginia for the last 35 minutes and 49 seconds of their 35-22 victory after spotting the Cavaliers a 22 point lead. The defense dug in and shutdown Virginia allowing the offense the opportunity to methodically chip away at the lead. Along the way there were some significant accomplishments with the following five standing out:

1. After Duke scored their first touchdown to cut the lead to 22-7, Virginia took possession with 46 seconds left in the 1st half looking to respond rather than run out the clock. Quarterback David Watford threw incompletions on 1st and 2nd down, setting up a 3rd and 10 at the Virginia 35 yard line. Watford dropped back to pass once again, but defensive end Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo sacked him for a seven yard loss to ensure Duke went into the half with the momentum achieved by Duke's touchdown drive still intact.

2. On Virginia's second possession of the 2nd half, with the Cavaliers facing a 3rd and nine at the Virginia 31 yard line, Corbin McCarthy sacked David Watford, for an 11 yard loss, on a safety blitz forcing the Cavaliers to once again punt the ball back to Duke. McCarthy's sack was instrumental in Duke starting their next possession with great field position at the Duke 47 yard line. The Blue Devils executed a three play 53 yard touchdown drive culminated by Brandon Connette's six yard run to reduce the deficit to 22-17.

3. The interior defensive line shutdown Virginia's running game. The Cavaliers rushed for 93 yards in the 1st half, but only seven yards in the second half. There are multiple plays which could be selected to illustrate this point with the following one standing out. With Duke leading 25-22, Virginia facing a 2nd down and 10 at their own 35 yard line called Kevin Parks number on a running play but Justin Foxx and Kenny Anunike teamed up for a 3 yard Tackle For Loss. Virginia's run game was completely ineffective in the 2nd half due to multiple plays like this one.

4. With Duke leading 32-22, Virginia started a drive with 4:17 left in the game desperate to score. On 3rd and 12, at the Virginia 24 yard line, Kenny Anunike sacked David Watford for a five yard loss, which forced the Cavaliers to go for it on 4th down deep in their own territory. After an incomplete pass, Duke took over on downs, ran the ball three times, before Ross Martin kicked his second field goal of the afternoon for the final points of the ball game.

5. Virginia started moving the ball attempting to score and set-up an onsides kick situation. QB David Watford completed a pass for nine yards, rushed for 11 yards and six yards on consecutive plays, completed another pass for five yards and suddenly Virginia had a 1st and 10 at the Duke 44 yard line. Watford dropped back to pass once again but this time he was picked off by Breon Borders who returned the ball 16 yards securing the victory for the Blue Devils.

There are solid indications this defense is maturing into a solid unit able to exert their will upon the opponent. In the early going, Virginia successfully ran the ball plus they really took it to the Blue Devils with the short passing game. Adjustments were made and Duke ramped up the pressure on quarterback David Watford resulting in a complete shift in the tone of the game.

This Duke team is a team that might get down, but an opponent can never count them out! For the last 35 minutes yesterday, Duke dominated Virginia on both sides of the ball.