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Virginia crushes Duke in ACC Coastal showdown, 48-14

Resurgent Cavaliers rout the Blue Devils in their return to Scott Stadium

<p>Senior wide receiver Joe Reed returned his fifth kickoff for a touchdown against Duke with his 95-yard score in the third quarter.</p>

Senior wide receiver Joe Reed returned his fifth kickoff for a touchdown against Duke with his 95-yard score in the third quarter.

After two consecutive losses on the road, Virginia football rebounded at home with a big 48-14 win over Duke. The Cavaliers (5-2, 3-1 ACC) dominated the Blue Devils (4-3, 2-2 ACC) on both sides of the ball. Virginia scored six touchdowns and limited Duke to just 250 total yards.

“[I’m] really proud of my staff, our players and the response from a week ago,” Coach Bronco Mendenhall said.

With the win, Virginia now has sole possession of first place in the ACC Coastal division.

After senior wide receiver Joe Reed returned the opening kickoff 43 yards, Virginia started the game with great field position. While the Cavaliers were able to drive the ball to the Duke 11-yard line, senior quarterback Bryce Perkins threw an interception in the endzone as Virginia’s red zone woes continued.

After five straight punts, Virginia returned to the red zone early in the second quarter as Perkins capped off a long drive with a one-yard touchdown run. With the score, the Cavaliers ended a touchdown drought of seven quarters and led 7-0.

Shortly after, Duke senior quarterback Quentin Harris threw an interception in Blue Devil territory to junior safety Brenton Nelson. Virginia capitalized on the turnover with a field goal from junior kicker Brian Delaney.

On the very next Duke drive, a big fourth-down stop gave Virginia the ball again in Duke territory. Perkins powered in his second rushing touchdown of the day as the Cavaliers took a 17-0 lead late in the first half. 

After not scoring on its first three possessions, Virginia put points on the board on three consecutive drives to take a commanding lead. 

The Virginia defense continued its strong performance in the second half, recovering a Duke fumble on the very first play of the third quarter. The turnover led to another Delaney field goal. Sophomore running back Wayne Taulapapa extended the Cavaliers’ lead to 27-0 with his first touchdown in nearly a month.

With minutes left in the third quarter, Duke scored its first points of the game with a 36-yard touchdown pass. Virginia responded promptly through a 95-yard kickoff return from Reed, yet another rushing touchdown from Perkins and a touchdown from Taulapapa as well. Early in the final quarter, the Cavaliers’ lead had ballooned to 48-7.

Duke scored again in garbage time to bring the final scoreline to 48-14 in favor of Virginia.

After a disappointing game against Miami, Perkins bounced back with 141 yards through the air and another 62 yards and three scores on the ground against Duke. Taulapapa added 77 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns after recording just 58 yards and no touchdowns in the previous two games combined.

“[I’m] really happy with some of the progress I saw with our offensive front and the protection of our quarterback and improvement in our run game,” Mendenhall said. “I thought our [red zone] scoring was also improved.”

While the Cavaliers’ offense was rolling, the Virginia defense was also playing at an elite level. The Cavaliers limited Duke — a team that scored at least 40 points in four of its last five games — to just 14 points. The defense recorded five total turnovers — two interceptions and three recovered fumbles — never allowing the Blue Devils to get comfortable and often giving the offense a short field. 

"I credit our defensive staff especially for the turnovers,” Mendenhall said. “Simply the field position and the number of opportunities we had were too great for the opponent to overcome … I don't think it was luck, and I don't think it was random."

Virginia next heads to Louisville Saturday, Oct. 26, for another ACC showdown. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.