With the revival of vinyl in recent years I can use the expression “broken record” again without having to explain it.
Yes, it was a broken record for Duke Saturday in Charlottesville. Wasted red-zone opportunities, head-scratching play calls, bad penalties, a defense on the field too long, an occasional dropped pass, a more-than-occasional poorly-thrown pass. Or poorly-run routes. Hard to tell from this distance.
And the turnovers. Oh, the turnovers. Seven turnovers.
Yes, it wasn’t the blow-out many expected, not until the end. Yes, Duke did some good things. Yes, Duke had a chance to win well into the fourth quarter.
But the scoreboard is pretty binary. You either win or you lose.
Duke lost. Virginia 38 Duke 20
The loss was Duke’s sixth straight against the Cavaliers, Duke’s eighth loss in nine games going back to last season and Duke’s third loss of a season rapidly running out of time to be turned around.
There’s no question Virginia’s program is way ahead of Duke’s right now. Duke needed something close to a pristine performance to pull off the upset and Duke got nothing close to that.
It actually got off to a good start. Virginia’s Tavares Kelly fumbled the opening kickoff and it was a forced fumble, a lot of Blue Devils prying the ball lose.
True freshman linebacker Christian Hood got credit for the fumble and the recovery.
But Duke turned a first-and-goal at the three, a third-and-goal at the one into a Charlie Ham field goal.
Virginia was playing its first game of the season and Brennan Armstrong was making his first start at quarterback. There was some rust and Duke extended its lead to 10-0 when Chase Brice hit backup tight end Jake Marwede for a 55-yard touchdown.
It was Marwede’s second career reception.
Virginia found their mojo and dominated the second period. Ten plays for 75 yards and a touchdown, seven plays and 53 yards and a touchdown, a 10-play, 55-yard field goal drive. On the other end of the field Duke had a punt, a loss of downs at the Virginia 31 and an interception.
Duke dominated the third period even more than they dominated the first. Chase Brice found his timing, Duke started getting some productive runs. A field goal, a Rocky Shelton interception and a Chase Brice-to-Noah Gray touchdown pass and Duke took a 20-17 lead into the fourth quarter.
Then Duke absolutely collapsed. Maybe it was fatigue-David Cutcliffe suggested as much-maybe it was depth, maybe Duke just lost its mojo.
But it was ugly.
The key stretch of the game—perhaps the season, if Duke doesn’t turn this around, came around the third quarter/fourth quarter switch. Duke was up 20-17 and had a first down at the Virginia 22, a chance to actually get some late separation.
Cutcliffe went to his bag of tricks. Jalon Calhoun was a prep quarterback, so in theory a pass from him makes sense.
But theory didn’t cooperate. Calhoun bobbled the pitch from Brice and the play blew up. It ended with Calhoun’s pass being picked off at the Virginia six.
Duke’s defense forced a turnover earlier in the quarter in that situation, that interception by Shelton that led to a touchdown. But Virginia pounded it out to the Duke 48 early in the fourth. Victor Dimukeje and Drew Jordan combined for a sack and Virginia faced a second-and-19.
Brennan Armstrong hit Lavel Davis for 39 yards and then 18 yards for the score and a 24-20 lead.
“You have to give credit to them,” Chris Rumph II said. “This is high-level competition. Teams are going to make plays. We have to respond better. He got the ball out quick.”
Those two plays turned a second-and-19 into a Virginia touchdown and 24-20 lead and whatever resources Duke needed to answer that, well they didn’t have them.
It was 31-20 90 seconds later—another interception and a four play, 49-yard drive. Then a fumble and a 10-yard TD drive and it was 38-20.
Rumph is the kind of guy who says things like “we enjoy going on the field. Anytime we get to play football with our brothers on the defensive side, it’s a blast. We have fun out there” and sound like he means it.
But asking your defense to keep going back on the field time after time after time in those circumstances is a big ask and Duke’s defense isn’t that good.
Where does Duke go from here?
If there are any big fixes, we’ll find out. Rumph says “we’ll wake up tomorrow, the sun’s going to rise and we’ll get back to work.”
Cutcliffe said pretty much what you’d expect. It’s pretty hard to ignore seven turnovers, the ultimate elephant in the room.
“The bigger concern is taking care of the ball on offense. Twelve turnovers now in two games gives you no chance to win. We had our moments . . . . but couldn’t finish the work. We have to evaluate our kicking game, we’ve got to evaluate our defense but without question we have to evaluate what we’re doing on offense, how we’re doing it and what’s happening there.”
I don’t think he’ll get much argument from anyone.
Duke again lost the time-of-possession battle, 34:35 to 25:25. Cutcliffe says Duke is still playing catch-up in conditioning. That’s a bad recipe for a thin defense absent key players due to injuries and opt-outs.
Back-up quarterbacks Gunnar Holmberg and Chris Katrenick both saw action late. Cutcliffe said it was way too early to commit to a starting quarterback for next week’s game against Virginia Tech. But Duke hasn’t had a full-fledged quarterback controversy in some time and they can get nasty.
Duke rushed for 56 yards on 38 carries. That includes sacks and Duke three quarterback combined for minus 35 yards rushing, aided by some sloppy ball-handling. Deon Jackson had a 17-yard run and Mataeo Durant a 17-yard run. But neither had much success other than those two plays.
Duke did have 10 different receivers catch passes. Dennis Smith had his second consecutive three-catch game, while Jarrett Garner had his first two career catches. Duke hit five passes of 28 yards or longer. So, Duke is having some success taking shots down field. But unless those explosives result in an immediate touchdown they seem to be leading to turnovers, not points.
- NO BRICE: Duke football embarrassed at Virginia as Chase Brice tosses 4 interceptions
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- Duke football has a turnover-fest at Virginia, and Blue Devils fans don’t like it
- For first time under coach David Cutcliffe, Duke starts 0-3 after loss at Virginia
- Virginia football team surges past Duke to win season opener