DUKE LOOK EVEN BETTER: With Navy’s 24-17 upset over No. 18 Wake forest and Northwestern’s road victory against Iowa, two teams on Duke’s schedule made the Blue Devils look even better. No one is going to mistake Duke’s opponents as anything close to SEC-caliber, but it does help that its non-conference foes are holding their own against legitimate competition.
QUOTE OF THE DAY II:When asked about the students chanting Cutcliffe’s name during the game, as they did against James Madison, too, Cutcliffe responded: “I’ve been in this business a long time, and I’ve had it chanted the other way. Add something, leave town, whatever adjective…and not that our sweet students would do that, but…”
QUOTE OF THE DAY: David Cutcliffe is an affable and gregarious coach, especially after wins. Conditioning has been the buzz word of the season, especially after wins. The combination added up to one of the best quotes we’ve ever heard, straight from Cutcliffe’s mouth: “I saw the fattest, softest football team I had ever seen in my life. I did! We had a 30, 40-minute workout and about a quarter of the way into it, I blew my whistle and stopped it, I was laughing. I said, ‘I’m sorry, guys, I gotta stop this. Y’all are the fattest, softest football team I’ve ever seen in my life. This is unbelievable.’ I hollered to the staff and I said, ‘The goose has laid the golden egg at our feet!’ We just get in shape and we’re gonna win four or five games around here!”
GAME STORY: First write-through up on The Chronicle’s website.
POSTGAME THOUGHTS: Finally back from the Yoh Football Center, where the Duke post-game interviews took about an hour. The star of the show was undoubtedly defensive lineman Clifford Respress, who even gave his own opening statement. The general theme of the players’ and Cutcliffe’s comments? Conditioning. Of course, that’s been the story all year, but perhaps none more so than today, when Duke absolutely dominated the second half…. For that matter, mea culpa on one of my statistics before. Duke forced six turnovers–four interceptions and two fumbles–not four. It does, however, further my point…. Cutcliffe said he benched Jabari Marshall after Marshall’s excessive celebration penalty because he wasn’t going to allow such behavior to go without retribution.
31-3 DUKE, FINAL: With chants of “We Are Duke” serenading the Blue Devils, the game ends with one last rush. Heading down to the locker rooms now. Back later with final thoughts as the Duke players run over to the student section, which has become somewhat of a growing tradition.
31-3 DUKE, 1:41, 4TH QUARTER: Tielor Robinson breaks the plane for his second touchdown of the year after a drive orchestrated by backup quarterback Zack Asack. That makes 28 points in the second half for the Blue Devils. What was once a close game is now a blowout. Duke has scored 31 unanswered points.
24-3 DUKE, 3:55, 4TH QUARTER: Not the best second half for Marc Verica. Glenn Williams just earned the first interception of his career, the third of the half for Duke’s defense. It has forced four turnovers on the afternoon–all after halftime–in what is turning into a verifiable rout of the simply overmatched Cavaliers.
24-3 DUKE, 6:35, 4TH QUARTER: A few notes as the Blue Devils run out the clock. This win represents their first league victory since 2004, the first time it has started the ACC season unbeaten since 1994 and the first time it did not allow a touchdown to an ACC team since 1989. If those last two years sound familiar, they should. Duke last went to a bowl in 1994, and it last won the ACC in 1989 under Steve Spurrier.
24-3 DUKE, 13:08, 4TH QUARTER: Two Marc Verica passes, two Duke interceptions. This one was tipped by a Virginia receiver into the hands of cornerback Jabari Marshall, who returned the pick 42 yards for a touchdown–Duke’s first interception return for a touchdown since November 2006. He was flagged for excessive celebration as he unnecessarily dove into the end zone, which earned a strict scolding from Cutcliffe. Stupid penalty, sure, but it’s hard for us to blame Marshall. The senior cornerback might have just clinched the first ACC win of his career.
17-3 DUKE, 14:48, 4TH QUARTER: Forget what I just said. Just when I thought Duke’s defense might break for the first time all game, Michael Tauiliili came up with his biggest play of the game–which is saying something, considering he’s been all over the field. Sitting in a zone, Tauiliili read Verica’s eyes and stepped up to intercept a pass thrown behind John Phillips. Not much of a return, but that doesn’t matter. Almost singlehandedly, Tauiliili has ended some of Virginia’s most threatening drives. He adds the interception to to his team-leading 14 tackles, eight of which are unassisted. If the game ended right now, he would have my game ball.
17-3 DUKE, END OF 3RD QUARTER: That’s the type of quarter Duke needed. The Blue Devils took control of the game with two nice touchdown drives, and the defense made Virginia look futile for most of the period. The teams head into the fourth quarter with the Cavaliers driving–they have already marched down the field in 10 plays, and now have a first down at Duke’s 26-yard line. If the Cavaliers can finally hit the end zone, or at least put points on the board for the first time since early in the first quarter, Lewis and his offense will need to put together one last drive. It seems like 24 points will win this game for Duke; I’m not so sure 17 will.
17-3 DUKE, 3:37, 3RD QUARTER: If the last drive belonged to Hollingsworth, this one finally belonged to Lewis–and, of course, his favorite target, Eron Riley. The Blue Devils gained 26 yards in the air on three short passes into Virginia’s zone, making their way down to Virginia’s 30-yard line. Lewis took a quick snap and hit Riley on a screen on the left side. Somehow, Riley was two yards into the Virginia defense when he caught it, and he streaked down the sideline, barely touched into the end zone. It was Riley’s ACC-leading sixth touchdown grab of the season and his 20th scoring grab of his career. Huge momentum push for Duke, and the home team is now firmly in control of the game. Should the defense continue to render Virginia immobile, the Blue Devils might actually be able to put up their requisite 30 points.
10-3 DUKE, 6:00, 3RD QUARTER: After a Virginia first down–its first since the first quarter–Verica underthrows a long pass and it’s picked off by Leon Wright, his first interception of the season and fifth of his career. On the positive side for Virginia, it did earn its first positive yardage in 11 plays on its last drive. Duke can break the game open, in terms of score and momentum, with a touchdown here.
10-3 DUKE, 7:25, 3RD QUARTER: True freshman tailback Jay Hollingsworth just had his coming out party. Hollingsworth carried seven times on a 10-play drive before catching a screen pass from Lewis on 2nd-and-goal, carrying it to the 2-yard line and extending the ball through the plane of the end zone to give Duke its first lead of the game. It was Hollingsworth’s first career touchdown and, after accounting for 42 of Duke’s 55 yards on the drive–including two chain-moving runs on third down–it was well-deserved.
3-3, 11:57, 3RD QUARTER: Three straight 3-and-outs to start the half. But on the bright side, Duke’s defense is swarming Marc Verica, to the point where the Cavalier offense’s net yardage total is negative one yards. Duke starts its second possession on its own 45-yard line.
HALFTIME OBSERVATIONS: Before the game, if you had told David Cutcliffe the game would be tied 3-3 at halftime, I’m not sure he would have been too happy–especially if he knew Thaddeus Lewis was 9-for-20 with only 74 yards and two interceptions, including one on the game’s first play. Indeed, it wasn’t the prettiest half for Duke’s offense, which has thrived all year, and Cutcliffe’s benchmark of 30 points seems out of the question now. There was, however, one major positive for Duke which has allowed it to stay in the game: the defense played perhaps its best half of the year, surrendering just 141 yards and three points. Led by Michael Tauiliili and Vince Oghobaase, the Blue Devils made three vital short-yardage stops on third and fourth down. So would Cutcliffe be happy with the score? No. Should he be happy with the score now? Absolutely. Given the way the suddenly meager Duke offense has performed, Virginia should be in firm control of this game.
- One sign of encouragement: Lewis seemed to find a rhythm by the end of the half by throwing short passes against Virginia’s zone after rolling out. After his horrid first quarter, which he finished 2-for-6 for 14 yards, anything is improvement.
- One piece of advice: Get Eron Riley the ball. As much as possible, and the sooner, the better.
- One player to watch: Michael Tauiliili. The stalwart middle linebacker has hindered Virginia quarterback Marc Verica’s ability to run all day, and he has gotten stronger as the game has progressed. Him and Vince Oghobaase could be the difference-makers.
- One fun fact: We’ve received various reports that Abby Waner has impressed in her first game as ESPNU’s sideline reporter. The senior shooting guard has been on camera a few times to talk about, among other topics, the women’s basketball team, Cutcliffe’s Football 101 event Wednesday, Kevin White’s e-mail to students Friday and, again, the women’s basketball team by interviewing fellow Blue Devil Karima Christmas. Seems like she’s sticking to her strengths.
3-3, HALFTIME: Lewis drives the offense down the field, converting on two 3rd-and-shorts, and the Blue Devils benefit from a defensive pass interference call inside the 5-yard line. With 13 seconds left, Lewis rolls out of the pocket to the right and, finally, has Riley open in the end zone, but throws behind him and too hard and the ball bounces off Riley’s hands. Nick Maggio comes out and nails a 19-yard field goal right through the uprights to even the score as time expires. Halftime observations in a few minutes.
3-0 VIRGINIA, 1:31, 2ND QUARTER: Never seen anything like that. Virginia runs three times, Duke almost gets the tailback for a safety all three times. The Cavaliers took over at the 1-yard line, and they’ll punt from the 1-yard line. Big-time stop for Duke, and with a timeout, only lost about a minute and a half. We’ll see if Lewis can execute a two-minute drill now. Duke takes over at the 43-yard line.
3-0 VIRGINIA, 3:10, 2ND QUARTER: Again, no dice for Duke. Jones’ punt downed at Virginia’s 1-yard line, setting up Duke for one potential drive if it gets a stop here.
3-0 VIRGINIA, 4:14, 2ND QUARTER: As bad as Duke’s offense has been, its defense has been that good. On another 3rd-and-short on the Blue Devils’ half of the field, the defensive line got a jump and hurried Marc Verica, who threw a pass behind the line of scrimmage to running back Keith Payne. The ball bounced off Payne’s back and was recovered by Tauiliili on the Cavaliers’ 44-yard line, giving Duke its best field possession of the game as the Blue Devils prepare for a drive to end the half and potentially take some points–and the lead–into halftime. And if that happens, David Cutcliffe has to be happy with the outcome, even if he’s not pleased with the performance.
3-0 VIRGINIA, 5:24, 2ND QUARTER: Well, we have an answer: not much. The Blue Devils go 3-and-out, yet again, capped off with a Clint Sintim sack of Lewis on the 3-yard line. Here’s a hint: get Eron Riley involved. The senior wide receiver doesn’t have a catch yet, and the Blue Devil offense is most explosive when he’s the go-to guy. It’s disheartening that Lewis’ two interceptions were both long passes, and neither was intended for Riley. Throw the ball up, and let your playmaker make plays.
3-0 VIRGINIA, 7:40, 2ND QUARTER: Duke defense gets a nice stop, and now the Blue Devil offense takes over at their own 8-yard line. Duke needs a drive here, or by the end of the half, especially because the Cavaliers deferred possession until the second half. We’lll see what Lewis and his offense can do now.
3-0 VIRGINIA, 8:55, 2ND QUARTER: Duke forces Virginia out on three straight plays, but then Lewis and Co. are stopped at the Cavalier 41-yard line. The Duke coaching staff makes its first special teams risk of the year, and it ends in failure. Kevin Jones fakes a punt, likely looking for a pass downfield, but with no one open, he tried the run instead and didn’t even cross the line of scrimmage. Virginia ball on its own 42-yard line. Nothing seems to be going right for Duke in this one, but, somehow, it’s still only down three points.
3-0 VIRGINIA, 13: 13, 2ND QUARTER: After the Blue Devil offense finally found its rhythm, moving from its own 19 to Virginia’s 33 with a nice mix of passing and running plays, Lewis throws his second interception of the game. This time, he was looking for Williams in the end zone. The pass was right there, and Williams was clearly bumped, but the Virginia cornerback got away with the blatant push–and caught the pass intended for the freshman for the touchback.
3-0 VIRGINIA, END OF 1ST: Virginia drove again and the Duke defense bent, but didn’t break. The Blue Devils came up with another stop on 4th-and-1 inside their red zone, and even after a generous stop, the Cavaliers were short. Lewis completes his first two passes of the quarter, including a nice 22-yard hookup with true freshman Johnny Williams on the last play of the period. After a putrid first, that might be just the momentum the Blue Devil offense needs. Overall, Virginia completely outplayed Duke in the first period, but the fact that the Blue Devils only trail 3-0 is an encouraging sign. After all, one long connection from Lewis to Eron Riley instantly reverses the score.
3-0 VIRGINIA, 4:36, 1ST QUARTER: Virginia has marched down the field at will twice, and Duke has been intercepted and stopped on three straight plays in its two drives. The Cavaliers stalled themselves on their first drive with two critical penalties that put them out of field-goal range. On their second drive, though, they were inside the red zone with a 3rd-and-2 when Vince Oghobaase and Michael Tauiliili forced the offense off the field. Yannick Reyering nails a 33-yard field goal for the first points of the game.
0-0, 1ST QUARTER: Well, that’s not a good start for Duke. Thaddeus Lewis throws an interception on the game’s first play from scrimmage, his first of the season and his first in 206 attempts, ending his streak, which was longest in the nation.
PREGAME: Duke marching band just played the national anthem, and Wallace Wade Stadium is no more than a quarter fulll. The four sections belonging to the students behind Duke’s bench are about 10 percent full. Again, it’s a noon game, so it will probably be a late-arriving crowd–after all, Virginia usually travels well, and their crowd is paltry right now, too.