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Game Preview: UVA has its hands full with Duke on Saturday

dukeYou don’t want to be playing Duke right now. You just don’t.

The Blue Devils (4-2, 2-1 ACC) lost to #1 Alabama 42-3 opening weekend, but even then were in the game at halftime.

The home loss to Pitt two weeks ago might be the one that keeps coach David Cutcliffe up at night in the offseason.

Duke came back from a 26-3 third-quarter deficit that Pitt had built up in part due to three first-half Blue Devil turnovers to lead 30-26 on a touchdown with 1:26 to go, then couldn’t hold it.

The other notable game on the schedule to this point: Virginia Tech.

That one was a 45-10 Duke beatdown in Lane Stadium on a Friday night.

This one, on Saturday in Scott Stadium, is between the two teams in the Coastal Division with the best shot at being the other team in Charlotte with Clemson in December.

Duke (4-2, 2-1) at Virginia (4-2, 2-1), 3:30 p.m., ACCN
Series: Virginia leads, 37-33; Last meeting: Virginia, 28-14 (2018)
ACCN: Chris Cotter (play-by-play), Mark Herzlich (analyst), Kelsey Riggs (sideline)
Line: Virginia -3.5
ESPN FPI: Virginia 58.4%

It will be another matchup between two teams with stout defenses – UVA is third in the ACC in total defense (273.7 yards per game), Duke sixth (345.8 yards per game) – and middling offenses.

Duke is 10th in the ACC in total offense (387.3 yards per game), UVA is just 13th (357.3 yards per game).

Both teams have senior quarterbacks who you would call dual-threats. Duke’s Quentin Harris patiently bided his time behind 2019 NFL first-round pick Daniel Jones and is now putting up nice numbers in his first year as a starter, leading Duke in rushing (63.3 yards per game, 5 TDs on the ground) and completing 63.5 percent of his passes for 1,183 yards and 11 TDs (with 4 INTs) in six games in 2019.

Duke is fifth in the ACC in rushing offense (182.8 yards per game). The feature back alongside Harris in the backfield is 6’0”, 215-pound junior Deon Jackson (60.2 yards per game, 3.9 yards per carry, 5 TDs in 2019).

The other name you’ll hear in the ground game is that of 6’1”, 195-pound sophomore Mataeo Durant, who gets right around 10 carries a game.

There is a bit of dink-and-dunk to the Duke passing game. The two leading receivers to this point – 5’11” freshman Jalon Calhoun and 6’4” junior tight end Noah Gray – each average less than 10 yards per catch.

Also watch out for 6’4” redshirt senior Aaron Young and 6’2” redshirt junior Scott Bracey, who are averaging 12.7 yards per catch, along with Jackson and Durant, who each had double-digit catches out of the backfield.

The offensive line is a mix of youth and experience – with a redshirt senior, a senior, three redshirt juniors and a junior alongside a redshirt sophomore, two redshirt freshmen and a true freshman.

The O-line has been good – allowing just six sacks in six games, making this one a match of strength against strength (Virginia is second nationally in sacks per game, averaging 4.5 per contest).

If there’s any weakness to this Duke team, it might be its secondary, which is ranked just ninth in the ACC in pass-defense efficiency (128.9 opponent passer rating).

Pretty young back there – the list of 11 players on the two-deep at the five secondary positions includes three true freshmen, a redshirt freshman, four redshirt freshmen, two juniors and a senior.

Story by Chris Graham

Augusta Health Augusta Free Press Kris McMackin CPA
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