Duke at Virginia Game Preview

Duke QB Anthony Boone threw for 4 TDs against UVA in 2012 - BDN Photo
Duke QB Anthony Boone threw for 4 TDs against UVA in 2012 - BDN Photo

Duke at Virginia
3:30 PM ET
Saturday, October 19
Scott Stadium
Charlottesville, VA
TV: Regional Sports Network
Radio: Blue Devil IMG Sports Network

Duke in 2013: 4-2 (Defeated Navy 35-7 last week)
UVA in 2013: 2-4 (Lost at Maryland 26-27 last week)


PROBABLE – QB Brandon Connette, DT AJ Wolf
QUESTIONABLE – WR Johnell Barnes
OUT – CB Jared Boyd, LB Kyler Brown, QB Thomas Sirk
OUT FOR SEASON – OT Tanner Stone, DT Jamal Wallace


PROBABLE – LB Daquan Romero, TB Khalek Shepherd
OUT – K Ian Frye, CB Demetrious Nicholson, DT Brent Urban
OUT FOR SEASON – OG George Adeosun, TE Mario Nixon, S Wilfred Wahee


Anthony Boone made his first start a year ago against these same Virginia Cavaliers, and if the Blue Devils hope to escape Charlottesville with a win, they will need another big day from Boone. Without their starting DT and CB, the Blue Devils will look to exploit specific matchups against an aggressive Cavalier defense. Expect Duke to look early and often to find Jamison Crowder, Issac Blakeney, and Braxton Deaver in space. Duke's offense has been steadied this year by a strong ground game that averages nearly 184 yards per game. Against a freshman DT, Duke will look to run Juwan Thompson and Jela Duncan between the tackles to balance their offensive attack. Positive plays on first and second down will be key to bring up manageable 3rd down opportunities against a Virginia defense that ranks 2nd in the country in opponent 3 and outs.

Defensively, Duke will look to build off last week's success against Navy. A successful Blue Devil defensive effort will force Virginia QB David Watford into poor decisions, leading to turnovers. The Cavaliers' quarterback has already thrown for 7 interceptions through the first 6 games, and CB Ross Cockrell and company will look to be opportunistic. The key matchup for the Blue Devils will be Virginia TE Jake McGee, who leads his team in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving TDs. Jim Knowles will likely try out a number of Blue Devil defenders on the Cavaliers' big weapon. UVA is coming off their best offensive line performance of the season against Maryland, but will have their hands full against Duke's veteran defensive front led by Kenny Anunike and Justin Foxx. The Duke defense will be helped out by their special teams unit, which will force the Wahoos to take the long way down the field.


The Cavaliers will look to build upon their improved performance a week ago against Maryland on both sides of the ball. Offensively, they will look to establish Kevin Parks and their backs early to ease pressure on Watford. A successful ground game will open things up for Watford through the air against a suspect Duke secondary. Virginia has enough weapons in the receiving game to put up explosive plays against the young Duke defensive backs. Ball security will be paramount for Virginia, a team struggling to find its confidence and momentum.

Anthony Boone threw four 4 TDs a year ago against Virginia, and the Cavaliers will be desperate for a win this weekend. Expect them to try and get to Boone early and often, testing out his freshly-healed clavicle. Containing the Duke running game, along with stuffing the fan-favorite screen pass, will force Duke into 3rd and long situations, a strength of this Cavalier team. Winning 3rd down is essential for a Cavalier victory.


Coach Cutcliffe is 4-1 against Virginia since arriving in Durham, and will look to improve to 5-1 on Saturday behind a balanced effort in all 3 phases. Anthony Boone and the Duke offense have found their stride, and will find creative ways to move the ball against a tough Cavalier defense. The Blue Devils have too many offensive weapons for the young Wahoos, and will utilize offensive mismatches for explosive plays. An early Blue Devil lead will leave the Cavaliers scrambling for answers offensively, placing pressure on the inconsistent arm of Watford. Look for an opportunistic turnover to help put the Blue Devils up for good.

Duke 27, Virginia 21

Know the opponent: Virginia Cavaliers

The Blue Devils look to improve to 5-2 with a win against Virginia on Saturday.
The Blue Devils look to improve to 5-2 with a win against Virginia on Saturday.

This week, we are honored to have back Jerry Ratcliffe of The Daily Progress in Charlottesville to provide our opponent scouting report. Known to many as simply “Hootie,” Ratcliffe came to The Daily Progress in 1982 as sports editor and columnist. He has served as the sports editor of six daily newspapers during his career. His work has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors Association, the College Football Writers Association, the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and the Virginia Press Association as well as the Middle Atlantic PGA (recipient of the Earle Hellen Award in 2007). Ratcliffe has won more than 55 writing awards and has served as president of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association. He has penned one book: The University of Virginia Football Vault, a history of the Cavaliers program. He has been named the state of Virginia “Sportswriter of the Year” on four occasions by the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.

Not only an outstanding journalist and editor, Jerry is one of the top authorities on Virginia football. We are so glad to have his help again this week!

After an opening win against a good BYU team, Virginia has dropped 4 of their last 5 games. What went right in the opener and what has gone wrong since?

The Cavaliers caught BYU at the right time and perhaps in the right conditions. BYU had an entirely new offensive staff (although so did UVa) and BYU's QB, Hill, showed a little rust. I think Virginia's new attacking defensive style disrupted BYU's timing just enough to matter and the Cougars committed a crucial turnover late in the game, which iced the upset for Virginia. Later, BYU's new offensive coordinator admitted he gambled late when he shouldn't have, resulting in the turnover.

Also, I think a lengthy storm delay helped Virginia. Being the home team, the Cavaliers were better prepared to handle the delay and intelligently went to great lengths to make sure their players were replenished during the storm. They say rain is the great equalizer and even though they returned to the field after the lightning delay, the teams played the remainder of the game in mostly heavy rain.
I'm not sure that Virginia could beat BYU if the game was played now rather than the season opener.

Since that time, several of UVa's warts have been exposed, a lack of depth in several spots on both sides of the ball, the youth of the club (the Cavaliers have only 7 seniors and only 4 are regular starters). The offensive line has been suspect and looks like it is only now starting to come together after moving the pieces around. Quarterback David Watford has a lot of potential, but he's essentially a first-year starter even though he has been in the program for three years, and has come along perhaps a little slower than expected.

Youth is certainly being served on this Virginia team, with 35 underclassmen on the depth chart. Redshirt-sophomore David Watford has taken over the Cavalier offense after the departures of Michael Rocco and Phillip Sims, and the Wahoos also brought in highly-touted RB recruit Taquan Mizzell. Even with those new additions, Virginia ranks 100th in the nation in scoring; what has been the source of their offensive struggles?

My personal belief is that if Rocco's father had not been so impatient and that Rocco had remained at UVa, the Cavaliers would be no worse than 4-2 right now as opposed to 2-4.

Perhaps it's just the entire "newness" on the offensive side with a new offensive coordinator, new running backs coach, an influence by associate head coach for offense in Tom O'Brien, a new quarterback.

Watford appears to be progressing week-by-week. He played with the most confidence yet in last week's one-point loss at Maryland. He had more zip on the ball and seemed to be reading defenses better, making better decisions. It was his first game this season without a turnover.

The offensive line, which has been a problem in the program for the past couple of years, had difficulty opening lanes for running backs early and had problems protecting Watford. If Watford's inexperience wasn't enough of a challenge for him to overcome, the fact that he was running for his life and forcing throws, making bad decisions because of the lack of protection, complicated the issue even more.
Combine those issues with the fact that Virginia's receiving corps has been a failure thus far, and it's easy to see why the Cavaliers have struggled to score touchdowns in the Red Zone. Last week at Maryland, UVa was 6-for-6 in the Red Zone, but four of those were field goals.
Virginia fans have been frustrated by the conservative offense, particularly in the Red Zone, but we're not sure if part of that is because the only reliable receiver that has emerged has been tight end Jake McGee. Or, that new OC Steve Fairchild is slowly spoon-feeding Watford more parts of the offense as the young QB can show that he can be trusted with certain things.

Still, the fact that there are three former head coaches on the offensive staff and the team continues to struggle to score TDs, has been very frustrating amongst the fan base and with the players themselves.

Coach London's teams have been known for their physical defense. This year's unit is no exception and has been solid on third down. Who are the key playmakers for this defense?

This is the most aggressive defense Virginia has put on the field in three decades. Jon Tenuta's squad has followed suit in three-and-outs and third down defense just as former defensive coordinator Jim Reid's unit was a year ago. Tenuta was brought on board to create more havoc and put more heat on opposing quarterbacks. That has been the case, forcing nine turnovers (as compared to only 12 all of last season), and already equaling last year's entire QB sacks total of 17. However, with such an aggressive, gambling defense, the Cavaliers have also given up too many big plays.

One of UVa's top playmakers on defense is out for the Duke game, senior defensive tackle Brent Urban, who was injured at Maryland. Urban leads the nation's defensive linemen in passes defended, and is No. 2 in the nation in passes defended by a non-defensive back. Urban has batted down eight passes at the line of scrimmage. He will be replaced with promising true freshman Donte Wilkins.
The Cavaliers' front four has earned the praise of most opponents this season. Jake Snyder and Eli Harold (pass rushing end) anchor the 4-3 alignment with David Dean and now Wilkins in the middle. Both middle linebacker Henry Coley and weakside backer Daquan Romero have started to elevate their games over the past couple of weeks.

Three-year starter at corner, Demetrius Nicholson, is also out for the Duke game, leaving freshman Tim Harris at his spot. Harris looks like a lockdown corner but he's a true freshman who lacks experience. Strong safety Anthony Harris is solid, but there are questions about corners DreQuan Hoskey and free safety Brandon Phelps.

The Blue Devils have stolen 4 of the last 5 against UVA. How important is this game for the Cavaliers' season, and what do you expect to be the key match-up?

Virginia is desperate for a win. Many Cavalier fans believe this is UVa's last chance to get into the win column this season, and with many of them screaming for Mike London's job, there's pressure to deliver. In order for that to happen, Virginia will have to be successful with its running game and have to avoid getting burned on big plays, which has been critical in all the losses this season. So, the two key matchups would be UVa's offensive line vs. Duke's front seven; and the Cavaliers' secondary against the Blue Devils' passing game.

Friday Night Lights: Latest Update on Future Blue Devils

SONY DSCDuke received verbal commitment number 16 this week when Easley, South Carolina defensive tackle Quaven Ferguson (6'2" 300) announced his decision for the Blue Devils. The Easley Green Wave are 3-4 on the season and defeated Westside 30-17 last Friday night.

Shaun Wilson recorded 164 yards rushing and 115 yards receiving to power West Mecklenburg to a 35-10 win over South Mecklenberg. He scored four touchdowns in the victory. West Mecklenburg is the number eight 4A team in North Carolina.

Despite four touchdown passes from Johnathan Lloyd, Southern Alamance fell to Greensboro Grimsley 55-40. Lloyd also rushed for a touchdown. Southern Alamance is now 5-2 on the season and host undefeated Greensboro Dudley this coming Friday evening. Dudley is the number three 4A team in North Carolina.

Sycamore (Tinashe Bere) fell to 5-2 on the season with a 40-22 loss to undefeated Colerain.

Coral Reef (Nico Pierre) defeated previously unbeaten North Miami 17-16 to improve to 5-2 on the season.

Alonzo Saxton scored two touchdowns, one on offense and one on defense as Hartley defeated Luers 49-27.

Hart (Davis Koppenhaver) improved to 6-0 on the season with a 38-24 win over West Ranch.

St. Paul's defeated Faith Academy 35-9. Here is a nice video clip from local television discussing Zavier Carmichael's aspirations to become an orthopedic surgeon.

Cornerback Zach Muniz has four interceptions this season for 6-1 Christian Brothers. CBC is ranked the number five team in St. Louis in the Large School category and defeated De Smet 14-11 in their most recent game.