Duke football dials it up in rivalry with Cavaliers

Oct. 15, 2013 @ 10:30 PM

Even with Duke football’s steady improvement over the last six seasons under coach David Cutcliffe, there aren’t many teams the Blue Devils can say they have an upper hand against.

Virginia, though, is one of the few.

Sure the Cavaliers have won 33 times to Duke’s 31 in the all-time series that dates back to 1890. But Duke has won four of the last five with Cutcliffe on its sideline, including a resounding 42-17 triumph at Wallace Wade Stadium one year ago this month.

With the Blue Devils and Cavaliers set to meet in Charlottesville, Va., in an ACC game on Saturday (3:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net South), Virginia’s players can’t enjoy being on the wrong end of the scoreboard so often against a Blue Devils program that hasn’t posted a winning record since 1994.

Duke’s players said Tuesday the Cavaliers have a habit of trash-talking on the field during games. That has led to some bad feelings.

“We don’t like Virginia and I have a suspicion they don’t like us very much,” Duke redshirt senior right tackle Perry Simmons said Tuesday.

Duke junior wide receiver Jamison Crowder went so far as to compare the game with Virginia to another game that’s always at the top of a Duke fan’s list — in any sport.

“There is an edge,” Crowder said. “It’s something that’s kind of turned into a little rivalry. A lot of people on the outside don’t really know about it. It’s something that, UVa week, we get up for it — almost like Carolina. The last couple of years we’ve been able to beat them. Hopefully this year we’ll be able to go up there and do the same thing.”

Duke All-ACC cornerback Ross Cockrell, a redshirt senior, agreed with the UNC comparison.

“It’s up there with the Carolina game,” Cockrell said. “There is a lot of back and forth between the players during the game, whether you are on offense or defense. It’s one of the more intense games we play each year.”

As for the genesis of this rivalry, Crowder pointed to the 2011 game at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, Va. The Cavaliers won that game 31-21 and Duke left with ill will.

“My freshman year UVa had a couple of players that were kind of jawing back and forth at our sideline,” Crowder said. “That got us jacked up a little bit. So last year we were able to take care of business. So hopefully this year we can go up there and do the same thing.”

Duke’s win over Navy gave it a clean sweep of its nonconference foes for the first time since 1994. Saturday’s game at Virginia starts a stretch of six consecutive games against ACC competition. Four of them will be on the road as Duke seeks two wins to ensure bowl eligibility for a second consecutive season.

“This has always been a physical game between the two of us,” Cutcliffe said of Virginia. “This is a huge challenge for us now that we are in ACC play. It’s a big game and a big challenge.”

After Duke went 3-61 in ACC play between 2000-07, the Blue Devils claimed nine league wins in Cutcliffe’s first five seasons from 2008-12. Another win over Virginia on Saturday would mean half of Duke’s ACC wins under Cutcliffe would have come against the Cavaliers.

While his players talking about extra motivation being present against Virginia, Cutcliffe wouldn’t say the string of success against Virginia is a trend.

“I don’t know that any game has any bearing on another,” Cutcliffe said. “We’ve played well against Virginia. We’ve played extremely well. I don’t know if its set a tone with the young guys. All I care about is playing well in this one coming up.”

That’s ultra-important to the Blue Devils players as well. They relish the chance to beat Virginia once again.

“Sure they can come out and talk, but it’s whatever is on the scoreboard,” Duke redshirt junior right tackle Laken Tomlinson said. “That’s what matters to us.”