UVA tops Duke in ACC opener, 28-21
The UVA offense was as slow to get into the game as the thousands of fans struggling to pass through the new security policy at Scott Stadium, but the ‘Hoos found an offensive rhythm in the second half and beat the visiting Duke Blue Devils 28-21, on Saturday.
After trading two pick-sixes in the first quarter, both offenses started to find an identity in the second quarter. In Duke’s opening offensive possession, a tipped ball landed in the streaking hands of All-American safety Quin Blanding, who ran 58 yards for the first score of the game.
UVA (4-1, 1-0 ACC) returned the favor, however, when Kurt Benkert, under duress from Duke’s front four, scrambled late in the first quarter and threw an ill-advised pass on the run where Blue Devil safety Jeremy McDuffie cut in front of the receiver for an interception and a 42 yard TD.
Duke’s offense finally awoke with a 15-play, 88-yard scoring drive that took nearly seven minutes off the clock, capped by a 7 yard TD pass from Daniel Jones to Davis Koppenhaver. Before the half ended, however, UVA found its offensive groove with an assist from Duke’s secondary that was flagged for three pass interference penalties.
The Cavs moved the ball 69 yards in a little over two minutes, finishing with an 11-yard TD pass to Olamide Zaccheaus and tying the score 14-14.
Coach Bronco Mendenhall and his staff made some critical adjustments in the second half as the offense looked much more fluid, taking the opening drive 10 plays for 79 yards, capped by a TD pass from Benkert to Doni Dowling, to take a 21-14 lead and momentum away from the Blue Devils.
As the fourth quarter opened, UVA lost the ball on downs at the Duke 33 yard line, but the defense continued to hold and force Duke to punt. In one of the most critical drives in recent Virginia football history, Benkert lead a 13-play, 80-yard drive highlighted by multiple third-down conversions, the largest a 17-yard throw and scamper to Dowling.
The drive ate up over six minutes of fourth quarter clock gi,ving the ‘Hoos their largest lead of the afternoon, 28-14.
As the clouds started to provide some comfort for the sunburnt crowd, Duke’s Shaun Wilson answered with a 76-yard kickoff return, giving the Blue Devils (4-2, 1-2 ACC) their best starting field position of the day at the Wahoo 12, and inside a minute the Blue Devils had gotten the score back to a touchdown after a Quenton Harris 4-yard run with 6:14 left.
The announced crowd of 38,968 rose to its feet and the UVA defense held firm in the final minutes with two sacks on Duke’s final drive.
Benkert threw for 182 yards and three touchdowns, with two passes intercepted, completing 24 of his 42 pass attempts. Virginia gained 310 yards of total offense, including 128 yards on the ground.
Jordan Ellis ran for 95 yards on 25 carries.
Zaacheaus had 69 yards on eight catches and one touchdown. Dowling had five catches and 52 yards and two TDs.
The defense limited Duke to 295 yards, and Jones was just 14-for-42 passing for 142 yards with a touchdown and two INTs.
Story by Jeff Fife