Duke will have two weeks to prepare for its next home game against Virginia, Sat. 27 at noon. The Cavaliers are 1-2, they are coming off a 45-10 trouncing by Connecticut and head coach Al Groh’s job is in the air. And now, to make matters worse, starting quarterback Peter Lalich was released from the team for admitting he broke his alcohol probation.
We like to stick to Duke-centric news here on The Sports Blog and, whenever we can, in The Chronicle, and this certainly has tangential relevance. The Cavaliers looked simply horrendous in their last game without Lalich, when new quarterback Marc Verica threw for only 158 yards. Virginia was, at one point, down 45-3 to the Huskies—a solid squad under head coach Randy Edsall, but not exactly the class of the Big East.
If they weren’t before, the Blue Devils are now the clear favorites. They’re riding high on momentum, invigorated by a few wins and a new attitude and they’re at home. We’ve talked a lot about “must-win” games, and we’ll be first to admit we’re slightly overenthusiastic in applying the term to most games. James Madison was a must-win to build on the momentum of the preseason. Navy was a must-win to revitalize fan interest after a disheartening loss to Northwestern. Duke won both games. Now, this game against Virginia is must-win, because, most of all, David Cutcliffe’s group is a better team than the visitors. This ACC win, Duke’s first since 2004, would give the Blue Devils a 3-1 record and, more than that, would give the players the right to boast that they can consistently win the games they’re supposed to win.
—by Ben Cohen