clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Duke Falls To Virginia At Home, 34-20.

Turnovers killed Duke in this one.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Virginia v Duke
DURHAM, NC - OCTOBER 01: Quin Blanding #3 of the Virginia Cavaliers tackles Daniel Jones #17 of the Duke Blue Devils at Wallace Wade Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina.
Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

Duke’s one-step forward, one-step backwards 2016 football season took a giant step in the wrong direction Saturday afternoon, dropping a 34-20 decision to Virginia amidst a tsunami of turnovers.

I’ve always been an advocate of the proposition that the quarterback gets too much credit when things are going well and too much blame when they aren’t. But there’s no way to gloss over Daniel Jones’ six turnovers, five interceptions and a fumble in the end zone.

Jones did lots of things well for the Duke offense, completing 33 of 54 passes for 324 yards. Duke had more yards than Virginia, more first downs, ran more plays.

But oh, those turnovers. “I don’t know if there’s a single reason,” Jones said. “That falls on me and I’ve got to be better than that. A lot of them were poor decisions, bad balls. I had a pretty good idea when I threw them. We were prepared going in. We need to execute at a higher level. I’ve had rough games before but I can’t remember having one that bad.”

His coach and teammates tried to have his back. A visibly angered David Cutcliffe said after the game that Duke was “out-every-thinged, across the board,” and that covers a lot of ground.

Duke linebacker Ben Humphreys had a career game, 13 tackles and a potentially huge fourth-quarter interception that turned to naught.

“It doesn’t matter where they start their possessions,” Humphrey said “They shouldn’t move the ball at all. It’s on the defense. They shouldn’t gain any yards.”

As with Duke’s last home game, against Wake Forest, the Blue Devils jumped on top early, going 76 yards on their second possession, Jones hitting T.J. Rahming for 23 yards and the touchdown.

But also like the Wake Forest game, Duke failed to build on that early lead, squandering several opportunities. Up 7-0, Duke drove to the Virginia 46, where Jones threw an interception, trying to force the ball into coverage.

It was an ominous sign. Virginia scored right before the end of the first quarter, failing to tie the game when a two-point conversion failed.

Duke drove to the Virginia 35 early in the second quarter but an interception ended the threat. The next drove stalled at the Virginia 20 but A.J. Reed extended the lead to 10-6 with an encouraging 38-yard field goal.

Duke got a three-and-out but Virginia’s Nick Conte—he had a great game—pinned Duke back to their one with a 65-yard punt. The Devils drove to their 39 but Jones threw a jump ball down the left sideline that resulted in interception number three.

It took the Cavaliers five plays to march 39 yards and take a 13-10 lead that they never relinquished.

Interception number four came with two minutes left in the half, setting up another Virginia touchdown drive and it was 20-10 at the half.

Duke continued to waste opportunities in the second half. A six-minute, 70-yard drive resulted in only three points, when it stalled at the 3.

Virginia answered with a touchdown, Kurt Benkert hitting five of six passes, calmly side-stepping Duke’s pass rush and dissecting a shaky secondary.

“We didn’t really get to the quarterback as much as we could have and should have,” A.J. Wolf said. “They made some plays. A few times he got out there and we didn’t contain.”

Duke’s defense stiffened after that, with Humphreys performing double duty as linebacker and cheerleader.

“That’s something that I take as leadership. I lit a fire under our defense and they responded. That’s what we’re here to do, to defend this program and do everything we can to win.”

Duke forced three incompletions and Jones marched the team 70 yards in three plays, most on a spectacular 43-yard catch by converted quarter back Quay Chambers. Joe Ajeigbe finished the drive with his first career rushing touchdown—he had a special teams touchdown earlier in his career—and Duke was down only 27-20, with 11:26 left.

It was the Virginia defense’s game after that. Duke took over at the Virginia 43 after an inexplicable Virginia fake punt and then at the Virginia 39 after a Humphreys interception. Duke picked up one combined first down in these two drives, losing the ball on downs both times.

Duke got the ball back one more time down 27-20 but at their 2-yard line following another great Conte punt. Jones was leveled on a pass and fumbled, recovered by Eli Hanback for the score.

A final Duke drive ended with a final turnover.

“By the time tomorrow afternoon comes around and I’ve gotten in front of them at 4:00 p.m., there will be a laundry list of things people are going to get better at,” Cutcliffe said after the game. “I’m going to handle this. I’m not going to hang my head; I’m not going to run from anything. I don’t expect anybody in this program to do that.”


Several Duke players had career games. Tight end Davis Koppenhaver had five catches, for 30 yards. He came into the game with three career receptions.

Joe Ajeigbe had his best rushing game in two years, 27 yards on seven carries. Quay Chambers equaled his career-high with five receptions, with a career-best 90 yards.

Jones has 1,414 yards in five games. Duke’s freshman record is 2,134 yards, set by Thad Lewis in 2006. Humphreys’ 13 tackle is a career high. Joe Giles-Harris added 12.