The Hoos continue to exorcise their demons. Last week they snapped a 13-game losing streak in November with a 31-13 win at Maryland. And today, UVA made it a 2-game winning streak and beat Duke for the first time since 2007, turning in a 31-21 victory at Scott Stadium. The Hoos didn't play their best game but outplayed an inferior Blue Devil team, making big plays when there were needed. Here are some quick thoughts.
Limiting Mistakes: Before the game, I said that we would have no problem winning...as long as we didn't make costly errors, specifically turnovers. While it wasn't perfect, we managed to avoid disaster for the most part. Virginia got off to an inauspicious start in this realm, when a Duke punt started bouncing toward Dominique Terrell. He ran toward the ball, as if to stop it rolling, then realized this wasn't a great idea; however, the ball hit him as it slipped through his legs and was picked up by Duke. Punt returns continue to be a problem for this team, as does punt coverage (we allowed a 31 yarder late in the game that almost swung momentum back toward Duke). By not throwing an interception or picking up a costly penalty of note, UVA kept the game under control.
More of the Same from the Defense: Week after week, the same themes hold true for the defense. The unit is a strength, specifically their play up front; the Duke rushing attack was a non-factor, picking up 34 yards on 29 attempts. Of specific note is a sequence just after halftime: Duke had 1st and goal from the 2, then 2nd and goal inches from the end zone. It took misdirection on 4th down to convert the touchdown, but the defense had made their point.
While the passing defense is generally strong, it continues to be vulnerable to big plays. Sean Renfree is a good QB, but he shouldn't be consistently finding receivers open 40 yards downfield, and it could have been worse if it weren't for numerous dropped passes by his receivers. Chase Minnifield didn't have his best overall game; it seemed like he had a few communication problems with his safety help that led to completions. However, his interception return for a touchdown just after halftime was probably the play of the game. Overall, a very good job by the defense against one of the ACC's better passing games.