WIN FOR THE AGES
Things were bleak on the Duke sideline Saturday when the Blue Devils fell behind Virginia by 22 points and trailed by 15 at halftime.
Duke coach David Cutcliffe, known for his offensive coaching prowess , sought out his veteran defensive front, the leaders of a group so maligned this season.
“They are not going to sit and take it,” Cutcliffe said. “I went down to all those older guys and said `I’m putting my money on you guys. You are the ones who are going to turn it around.’”
They did, Duke’s offense followed and the Blue Devils posted a win for the ages.
By scoring 35 unanswered points, Duke rallied to stun Virginia 35-22 before a crowd of 39,071 at Scott Stadium.
Duke’s defense saw Virginia (2-5, 0-3) score touchdowns on three of its first five possessions to build a 22-0 second quarter lead. The Blue Devils (5-2, 1-2) showed life by holding Virginia to minus-6 yards over its final two drives of the half.
After halftime, the Blue Devils clamped down even tighter. Virginia, which had 280 yards in the first half, managed only 83 yards after halftime while going scoreless.
“Walking around and seeing the younger guys dropping their heads a little bit,” Duke redshirt senior defensive end Kenny Anunike said, “we picked them up. We said we are Duke and we finish games. We come back from adversity.”
While the Blue Devil defense halted the Cavaliers, Duke quarterback Anthony Boone, with significant help from Brandon Connette, brought the Blue Devils back.
Following a horrendous start — 10 of his first 14 passes were incompletions — Boone finally found his groove. Three consecutive competions, the final a 25-yarder to tight end Braxton Deaver, moved Duke into Cavalier territory late in the second quarter.
Boone tossed a 7-yard touchdown pass to Jamison Crowder to cut Virginia’s lead to 22-7 at halftime His 26-yard pass to Jamison Crowder and an 18-yard pass to Max McCaffrey helped Duke add a field goal on its second drive of the third quarter to trail 22-10.
“We just had to find a way to get things going,” said Boone, who finished 21of 39 for 245 yards. “We ran the ball. We moved the pocket. I was a little off but Coach (Kurt) Roper did a nice job of play calls that got me into a groove.”
In the first half, with Boone struggling, Cutcliffe and Roper, Duke’s offensive coordinator, discussed removing him in favor of Brandon Connette. When Boone was out with a broken collarbone from Sept. 7 until last weekend, Connette filled in as the starting quarterback.
“It almost looked like his throwing was affected by something in the form of pain,” Cutcliffe said. “The ball wasn’t doing what I’m used to it doing. That’s not Anthony. So I questioned him.”
Finally, though, Boone returned to his usual form, which has now allowed him to win his first five career starts.
“He’s kind of a streaky shooter at times,” Roper said. “Really he just kind of found his groove. We’re fortunate that he did. He’s a heck of a competitor. He just kept battling and made some plays.”
Boone’s 42-yard pass to Crowder with 3:17 left in the third quarter kept the pressure on the increasingly vulnerable Virginia defense.
Connette entered the game and ran 6 yards for a touchdown, slicing the Cavaliers’ lead to 22-17 entering the fourth quarter.
After another Virginia punt, Boone led the Blue Devils from their own 18. A 10-yard pass to Jela Duncan on third down keep the drive going. After two 5-yard runs by Josh Snead, Boone’s 9-yard pass to Crowder moved Duke into Virginia territory at the 47.
On third and 1, Connette was stopped for no gain. Cutcliffe decided to go for the first down, the fourth time he had done so on fourth down in the second half.
Roper had just the play call. Duke lined up like it had for its previous fourth down runs. But Deaver, at tight end, slipped off the line into the right flat and was wide open.
Connette tossed him the ball and Deaver looked downfield to see a wave of Duke blockers. He wove his way for a 47-yard touchdown that put the Blue Devils ahead for good at 25-22.
“A great call by Kurt Roper,” Cutcliffe said. “We had been running, running on fourth down. He called the pass and there’s a time for it. We ran a little naked bootleg. Brandon Connette had a guy in his face. They brought a guy off the edge. (Deaver) was totally uncovered.”
Virginia put together its only effective drive of the second half in response. Duke safety Corbin McCarthy nearly had an interception, but the ball bounced off his chest and Virginia’s Kevin Parks grabbed it for a 21-yard gain on third-and-18.
Parks ran the next two plays taking the Cavaliers to the Duke 27. But Duke reserve defensive lineman A.J. Wolf stopped Parks for no gain on first down.
After a short completion, Duke’s Ross Cockrell batted away a pass in the end zone on third down.
An apparent Virginia 39-yard field goal was erased by a five-yard false start penalty. When Alec Vozenilek’s subsequent 44-yard attempt went wide left, Duke still held the lead.
The Blue Devils padded it by driving 73 yards, with Connette tossing a 24-yard touchdown pass to Deaver with 4:17 to play.
The comeback was complete and the Blue Devils, who went to a bowl last season for the first time since 1994, are one win away from repeating the feat.
“We are resilient,” Deaver said. “We are a close-knit family, a group. At halftime we said we needed to play our game. We came out and started playing our ball and it worked out for us.”
|DUKE 35, VIRGINIA 22|
UVa—Parks 1 run (Vozenilek kick), 11:31.
UVa—Parks 1 run (Vozenilek kick), :32.
UVa—Parks 13 pass from Watford (Gooch run), 5:49.
Duke—Crowder 6 pass from Boone (Martin kick), :46.
Duke—FG Martin 25, 4:43.
Duke—Connette 6 run (Martin kick), 2:29.
Duke—Deaver 47 pass from Connette (Reeves pass from Boone), 11:44.
Duke—Deaver 24 pass from Boone (Martin kick), 4:17.
Duke—FG Martin 32, 2:42.
|Time of Possession||28:27||31:33|
RUSHING—Duke, Snead 7-53, Duncan 8-42, Powell 6-38, Boone 9-25,
Thompson 4-17, Connette 8-9, Team 2-(minus 4). Virginia, Mizzell 6-52,
Parks 15-50, Vozenilek 1-10, Shepherd 3-10, Jennings 1-4,
Watford 11-(minus 6), Team 2-(minus 20).
PASSING—Duke, Boone 21-39-1-245, Connette 1-1-0-47. Virginia,
RECEIVING—Duke, Crowder 9-113, Braxton 4-35, McCaffrey 4-34,
Deaver 3-96, Duncan 1-10, Powell 1-4. Virginia, Parks 6-88, McGee 4-32,
Swanson 3-28, Shepherd 3-25, T.Smith 1-51, Johnson 1-25, Dockins 1-10,