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Duke bedevils ailing Cavaliers


Last year, Virginia fell victim to Duke's first ACC victory since 2004. The Cavaliers again ended a dubious Blue Devil streak Saturday: Duke's 28-17 victory at Scott Stadium marks the first time since 1998-89 that the Blue Devils have defeated an ACC opponent in consecutive years.

For Virginia, the loss is the squad's second straight in the ACC since starting off its conference slate 2-0, and further diminishes the team's chances of reaching a bowl game.

Duke (5-3, 3-1) came into the game ranked sixth in passing offense in the country, and - despite strong showings from Virginia's front four and safety Chase Minnifield - the Blue Devils succeeded in moving the ball through the air.

"We played very well for a long time on defense against a team that's pretty proficient offensively," Virginia coach Al Groh said. "But then however many there were - there don't need to be that many - of the plays that cause teams to lose tilted it in the wrong direction."

Despite Virginia tallying six sacks and creating constant pressure in the backfield, Duke's senior quarterback Thaddeus Lewis had a strong day and went 24-40. By the end of the game, Lewis had racked up 343 yards and thrown the Blue Devil's only offensive touchdown.

"Our defensive line - we had some real good push early," Groh said. I was "very pleased with the way they responded to [Duke's offense]."

Duke averaged a strong 5.3 yards per play, a statistic which was significantly boosted by three passing plays of more than 30 yards.

Virginia gave away "just too many gift points," Groh said. "Ten points [were] directly attributable to turnovers. That brings the margin down. A couple of mental errors that resulted in two long plays, and there we go."

Virginia's defense played the beginning of the game following a 'bend but don't break' mantra. During the Blue Devils' first two drives, the Cavaliers allowed their opponents to drive 60 and 76 yards, respectively. The defense, however, was able to hold Duke to three points each time.

The defense made another impressive stop at the beginning of the second quarter when it held Duke to a field goal though the Blue Devils started the drive on Virginia's 21-yard line following an interception.

By keeping the game close early on, Virginia was able to take a slim 10-9 lead after scoring a touchdown at the beginning of the third quarter. During the next two drives, Virginia and Duke again traded points. Virginia scored a second touchdown after a Duke field goal, and the Cavaliers found themselves ahead 17-12.

The next drive proved a pivotal one. The Blue Devils began on their own 23 and meticulously advanced the ball to 1st-and-goal on Virginia's 3-yard line. A run for a loss and an incompletion brought up third down from Virginia's 7.

Lewis threw across the middle into the back of the end zone, but safety Chase Minnifield intercepted the ball for a touchback, preserving the Cavaliers' lead.

"There's a lot of kids that really played their heart out today to make it a lot closer than it was at the end," Groh said.

The defensive play of Virginia notwithstanding, the Cavalier offense failed to put Duke away. Virginia went three and out on the ensuing possession, giving the ball right back to the Blue Devils, who subsequently scored a touchdown to go up 18-17, a lead Duke would not relinquish.

On Virginia's very next drive, down one point with 3:45 left to play, Sewell lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. The Blue Devils tacked on a field goal and won easily, 28-17.

"Right now everyone wants to point fingers," senior defensive lineman Nate Collins said. "Everyone wants to know who's to blame. [But] we play as a team. We lost together, we win together."\nGroh also was not ready to place the blame on an offense that produced only 196 yards.

"Clearly I don't critique my coaches in front of the public," Groh said.

With the loss, Virginia finds itself in the middle of the tumultuous ACC Atlantic Division standings. The Cavaliers (3-5, 2-2) will begin the most difficult portion of their schedule Saturday, when they face Miami at noon.


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