Virginia vs. Duke: a breakdown

The Cavaliers travel to Durham, N.C. to open ACC play


If junior quarterback Kurt Benkert plays close to as well as he did last week, Virginia could secure its first road win since 2012. 

Kiley Lovelace | Cavalier Daily

Here's a breakdown of Virginia's week 5 matchup against the Duke Blue Devils:

Three keys to a Virginia victory

Airing it out

The Kurt Benkert that Cavalier fans expected showed up for the first time on Saturday, and his play was the catalyst for Virginia’s first win of the season. If offensive coordinator Robert Anae puts Benkert in a position to succeed, the Cavaliers have an opportunity to pick up their first road win since 2012.

Take care of the ball

Against the Chippewas, Virginia limited its turnover total to one, a feat it had not achieved since week 1 against Richmond, a game no Cavaliers wish to relive. As the defense took a significant hit last weekend, losing senior cornerback Tim Harris, junior linebacker Malcolm Cook, and freshman defensive end Christian Brooks, the less time it spends on the field the better. Offensive turnovers are a sure way to tire out an undermanned defense, especially against a dynamic passing attack.

Keep Duke out of the end zone

While this may seem like an obvious goal, it is worth noting that Blue Devils freshman kicker AJ Reed is just 1-4 on field goals with the sole made kick from 19 yards out. If Virginia, once again, employs a bend-not-break defensive strategy, and emphasizes red zone stops, it may be able to hold Duke to numerous empty possessions. 

Players to Watch


Kurt Benkert

The junior quarterback displayed his resilience, toughness, and skill on Saturday, tossing five touchdowns to lead the Cavaliers to their first win of the season. Having played in just six games in his college career, it’s a distinct possibility that the best has yet to come for the transfer from East Carolina.

Taquan Mizzell

After a rocky start to the season characterized by ball security issues, it seems that the senior running back may have turned a corner, rushing for 79 yards to reach 200 on the season. He also hauled in six catches for 89 yards and a touchdown. Smoke’s big-play ability, he had a 53-yard touchdown catch and a 44-yard run to set up a touchdown, make him a threat on every down.

Quin Blanding

Clearly the defense’s captain and leader, the junior safety was all over the field on Saturday, racking up 12 tackles and one pass breakup. The Virginia Beach native was placed on the Jim Thorpe Award Watch List in the preseason for the nation’s best defensive back and his 39 tackles rank No. 2 on the team and No. 25 in the nation.


Daniel Jones

The redshirt freshman looked anything but last week against Northwestern as he led the Blue Devils to a win against Notre Dame in South Bend. Jones completed 75 percent of his passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns, taking down a team that started the season No. 10 in the country. Duke’s success hinges on the young quarterback’s ability to lead the offense.

Anthony Nash

The senior wideout put on the quite the performance in Saturday’s win against the Fighting Irish, tallying 123 yards and two touchdowns. He has now racked up 300 yards in four games, and his 75 yards per game ranks No. 7 in the ACC. With the Cavalier secondary banged up, Nash could have another big week.

Jela Duncan/Shaun Wilson

The two-headed monster is the offense’s driving force. They totaled 187 yards on 5.5 yards per carry at Notre Dame, and their five touchdowns through three games have fueled Duke to a 2-1 record and are ripe for a huge game against Virginia’s defense, which has given up the most yards in the ACC. 

2016 Statistical Leaders



Kurt Benkert (QB): 60.8 completion percentage, 1119 yards, 10 touchdowns, 5 interceptions


Albert Reid (RB): 46 carries, 274 yards, 6.0 yards per carry (YPC), 3 touchdowns

Taquan Mizzell (RB): 38 carries, 200 yards, 5.3 YPC, 2 touchdowns


Olamide Zaccheaus (WR): 22 receptions, 298 yards, 13.5 YPC, three touchdowns

Keeon Johnson (WR): 21 receptions, 218 yards, 10.4 Yards Per Catch (YPC), three touchdowns


Micah Kiser (LB): 40 tackles, 3 tackles for loss (TFL), 2 forced fumbles, 2.5 sacks

Zach Bradshaw (LB): 31 tackles, 4 TFL, 1 forced fumble, 1.5 sacks



Daniel Jones (QB): 64.3 completion percentage, 1090 yards, 5 touchdowns, 3 interceptions


Jela Duncan (RB): 56 carries, 314 yards, 5.6 Yards Per Carry (YPC), 4 touchdowns

Shaun Wilson (RB): 32 carries, 122 yards, 3.8 YPC, one touchdown


T.J. Rahming (WR): 26 receptions, 238 yards, 9.2 Yards Per Catch (YPC), 0 touchdowns

Anthony Nash (WR): 19 receptions, 300 yards, 15.8 YPC, 2 touchdowns


Joe Giles-Harris (LB): 27 tackles, 3 tackles for loss (TFL), 2 sacks, 1 interceptionBen Humphreys (LB): 25 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks.

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