If Mike London loses his job at the end of this season, you can look no further than his record against North Carolina, Virginia Tech, and Duke as one of the main reasons why. He will have a chance to improve on that 1-15 record as Virginia hosts both Duke and Virginia Tech to close out the season. Duke is coming off three straight losses and are hardly the team we thought they were a month ago. This is a completely winnable game, but which ones haven't been? Here are the key's to a Wahoo victory, From the Upper Deck.
1) Sound the Smoke Alarm - Sorry for the bad pun, but we're 11 weeks into the season and it's hard saying the same things over and over again, right Tiki? With all that has gone wrong this season, Taquan Mizzell has quietly put up one of the best seasons in recent history for a dual threat running back. His 577 rushing yards and 628 receiving yards leave him 123 and 72 yards respectively from reaching 700/700. Doing so would make him the first FBS player to do so since Percy Harvin in 2007. But more importantly than individual accolades, his ability to make plays in open space is what keeps this offense running. It seems as if any time the Hoos have needed a big pick up, it's been Smoke to get the job done.
2) Play 40 Minutes - During Mike London's tenure Duke and Virginia have played some really quality football games...in the first half. Combined Virginia has outscored the Blue Devils by 18 points through the game's first twenty minutes (only once have the Hoos trailed). The second half however, is a much different story as Duke has outscored Virginia 104-47 enroute to a 4-1 record overall. Duke coach David Cutcliffe has proven time after time that he can get his team prepared and make adjustments required to win. For Virginia to win on Saturday, they'll have to figure out a way to play and coach for a complete game.
3) Make Duke Throw It - Normally, this is not an advisable strategy against a David Cutcliffe coached team, but this year's version has made their identity on the ground. Averaging 188.5 yards per game rushing, the Blue Devils sport a bevy of weapons in the backfield that includes quarterback Thomas Sirk. Sirk actually leads the team in rushing, followed closely by RBs Shaquille Powell, Shaun Wilson, and Jela Duncan. While it's not the same as stopping the Georgia Tech triple option (Duke has a much better passing game), if the Hoos can bottle up the rushing attack and make the Blue Devils somewhat one dimensional, they can key on the Duke receivers and make Duke earn every yard. Speaking of Duke receivers, they will be a bit shorthanded as Coach Cutcliffe dismissed starter Johnell Holmes earlier this week. Holmes was second on the team in both receptions and yards.
Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. If you can't be at Scott Stadium, join us in the game thread. And as always, Go Hoos.