In a display of utter dominance, the Virginia Cavaliers embarrassed the Duke Blue Devils in a 48-0 blowout win. Now on a three game win streak and sitting at 5-2 overall and 3-2 in the ACC, the ‘Hoos are hitting their stride in mid-October with a favorable midseason schedule that has allowed them to regroup from disappointing performances early in the season.
The first drive of the game was indicative of what would follow as Brennan Armstrong and the Wahoo offense marched down to the Blue Devil 13-yard line in just six plays. A 25-yard run from Armstrong and a 22-yard reception from Dontayvion Wicks got the Virginia attack cooking. Although the Duke defense held its ground in the red-zone and forced a 31-yard field goal from Brendan Farrell, the ease with which the offense got down field was a sign of more to come.
Duke responded with one of just a few possessions where the Blue Devils breached Wahoo territory. After driving down the field in 12 plays, they couldn’t pick up a first down once they reached the red-zone and — like the Virginia offense before them — had to settle for a field goal. But, unlike the sure-footed Brendan Farrell, Duke’s kicker Matt Alswanger couldn’t convert the 25-yard look and ruined what turned out to be Duke’s best chance at putting points on the board.
From then on, Virginia took complete control of the game on both sides of the ball. The subsequent 10-play, 80-yard drive that culminated in a beautiful connection between Armstrong and Wicks in the back corner of the end-zone would make the score 10-0. That was essentially the ball game.
As the Blue Devils only gained 24 yards on their next two drives and had to punt twice, the ‘Hoos tacked on two more touchdowns.
First, Virginia started its possession near midfield and progressed down to the Duke one-yard line off of a pair of 19-yard completions, with one to Malachi Fields and the second to Keytaon Thompson. After UVA’s football player caught his first pass of the day, he finished off the drive with a one-yard touchdown run to extend the Wahoo lead to 17 points.
Secondly, Armstrong consistently found receivers down the field for chunk plays to bring the ‘Hoos back down to the red-zone. With a 16-yard throw to Jelani Woods, a 13-yarder to Wicks, and a 17-yarder to Thompson, Armstrong threw dart after dart between escaping the pocket and diving for the end-zone on a seven-yard touchdown run which put Virginia up 24-0 with 7:52 remaining in the first half.
As the offense was firing on all cylinders, the UVA defense really got going after that with a pair of interceptions on the next two Blue Devil possessions. First, it was De’Vante Cross who picked off Duke quarterback Gunner Holmberg at the Virginia 32-yard line which set up the Cavalier offense for an 11-play, 52-yard drive which culminated in a 34-yard make from Farrell, putting the score at 27-0.
A Joey Blount interception at the Wahoo 49-yard on the ensuing drive only made things worse for Duke as the Blue Devils were incapable of stringing together successful plays and continued to make mistakes that the Virginia defense capitalized on.
With only 50 seconds remaining in the half when Armstrong and the offense took the field, the Virginia quarterback tuned into his late game heroics against Louisville from last week as he found Wicks for a 21-yard gain, ran for 10 yards to the Duke 20-yard line, hit Woods for a 13-yard completion, and then found Woods again in the end zone with just five seconds remaining in the half to make the deficit an unassailable 34 points.
UVA’s barrage of scoring would slow down in the second half, but Duke was still unable to put points on the board as the Blue Devils got desperate offensively.
The Blue Devils picked up right where they left off in the first half with a disappointing six play, 11-yard drive as the Virginia front-seven remained stout against the run and brought the Duke punt team out on the field yet again.
In a rare unsuccessful drive, the Wahoo offense had to send Jacob Finn out to punt for the first time all game on the next drive after Armstrong threw back to back incompletions on second and third down.
Duke’s next drive of the half was more of the same as the ‘Hoos brought down running back Matteo Durant for a seven-yard loss on a screen pass and then Nick Jackson sacked Holmberg on third down to force a punt.
Yet, Virginia’s offense remained stale in the early parts of the third quarter as Armstrong couldn’t pick up the first down with his legs on 3rd-and-three.
The Blue Devils finally drove their way into the red-zone and threatened to score. But, with 4th-and-five from the UVA 19-yard line, David Cutcliffe elected to go for it considering the 34-point deficit. That decision proved costly as a Holmberg incompletion turned the ball back over to the Cavaliers following Duke’s most successful drive since the first of the game.
Armstrong and company got back on track after that and strung together a six play, 81-yard drive highlighted by a 27-yard completion to Wicks and a lovely 34-yard run from Devin Darrington. Darrington would follow up his long run with a seven yard rush into the end-zone for his first touchdown as a Wahoo.
With the score at 41-0 and the third quarter about to come to a close, the game had been over for a while at that point.
A fumble from Duke’s Jalon Calhoun and recovered by Virginia’s Antonio Clary following a 19-yard catch added insult to injury for the Blue Devils as they continued to be absolutely hopeless on offense.
As Brennan Armstrong remained on the bench for the next Virginia drive, Jay Woolfolk took the reins of the offense. On three combined plays, UVA’s backup quarterback ran for 30 yards to bring the ball down to the Duke two-yard line before Ronnie Walker Jr. punched it into the end zone for his first touchdown this season.
After that, a punt and a fumble from each team along with another turnover on downs from Duke in Virginia territory put an end to a ridiculously lopsided football game as Virginia continued to build momentum with three straight conference wins. This was exactly the type of performance the Wahoos needed in this game as Duke never had a chance to keep pace.
Now, the ‘Hoos can start preparing to play another likely inferior opponent at home as Georgia Tech comes to town in a week, giving UVA a chance to advance to an impressive 6-2 overall record and a 4-2 standing in conference play.