Previewing Duke v. Virginia

Previewing the Blue Devils and Cavaliers who will kick off this weekend

The Blue Devils aren't in a position to be thinking anything will come easily, so don't expect the Blue Devils to be resting on their laurels after snapping a six-game losing streak. Virginia will bring enough elements to keep the Blue Devils focused.

One of those factors is coach Mike London, who directed a team to a victory the last time he visited Duke's Wallace Wade Stadium.

"I'm familiar with Mike London and the job he did at Richmond," Duke coach David Cutcliffe said.

He should be aware of London's deeds because in the 2009 opener, the Blue Devils lost to a London-coached Richmond team by a 24-16 score.

Even though Duke's last home game resulted in a loss to Miami, which was defeated by Virginia last week, the Blue Devils can be encouraged that they felt they played with Miami in many aspects. Duke was burnt by a couple of momentum-shifting plays, but it prevented the game from getting out of hand.

Duke hasn't won consecutive games since last October 2009, and Virginia was the last victim in Duke's three-game winning streak back then.

--The Blue Devils have three home games remaining, and each of those future opponents posted victories last weekend. Duke's next two opponents are Virginia and Boston College, and both of those teams picked up their first ACC victories of the season in their last games. That leaves Duke as the only team without a conference win.

--Duke coach David Cutcliffe said assessments that Navy, which was coming off a victory against Notre Dame, was listless in the game against the Blue Devils weren't fair to this team. "Our execution in all three phases (was) what we thought it would be," Cutcliffe said.

SERIES HISTORY: Virginia leads Duke 32-29 (last meeting, 2009, Duke 28-17). Duke has won the last two meetings after Virginia rattled off eight in a row in the series.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Blue Devils keep going to the passing attack because that's what they know best, and it certainly paid off against Navy. But Virginia's defense should be more capable of limiting the Blue Devils in that area, and Duke has yet to show it has an effective rushing attack that can be counted on. QB Sean Renfree has been involving lots of pass-catchers into the offense, though WR Conner Vernon is a favorite target.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Blue Devils have shown regular improvement on defense, though some of that didn't come shining through after the Navy game because of the 24 points surrendered in the fourth quarter. It's the big plays that have been hurtful for the Blue Devils, and those have taken the shine off some of the progress made. Virginia will offer a different kind of scheme to defend, but coach David Cutcliffe of Duke said his team has made enough strides that it should be able to adjust on defense.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Should have kept the hammer down a little bit longer." -- Duke coach David Cutcliffe, on turning too conservative after building a 24-point lead against Navy. The Blue Devils have defeated Navy in the last two meetings, and Duke also has a two-game winning streak against Virginia, which is the next opponent.


THIS WEEK'S GAME: Virginia at Duke, Nov. 6 -- These teams figured to be near the bottom of the ACC's Atlantic Division standings. This marks only the third road trip of the season for Virginia, and the other two ventures ended in defeats. Duke has allowed more than 36 points per game in ACC outings, but Virginia might not have the type of offense that can approach that number.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Duke can be a tough matchup for teams when its passing game is clicking. The Blue Devils carry some momentum into the game after defeating Navy, but Virginia is coming off an upset of nationally ranked Miami. The Blue Devils are concerned about Virginia's ability to be physical with some opponents, and the Cavaliers likely will be intent on pressuring Duke QB Sean Renfree.

QB Sean Renfree -- He'll try to follow his outstanding performance against Navy with another stellar outing. This is a chance for Renfree to show that his development is back on path after a few midseason detours. He threw multiple completions to six teammates in the Navy game.

TE Cooper Helfet -- He's starting to round into the type of play-maker that the coaching staff envisioned after some uneven early performances that were hindered by an injury. His athleticism sets him apart at times for a tight end.

LB Kelby Brown -- He shows up around the football and has been particularly solid in making plays against the run. He's a true freshman who has enough strength to play at this level.

--DE Patrick Egboh recorded 1.5 sacks against Navy for his first sacks of the season. That pushed the senior's career sack total to four. He figures to have more chances to against Virginia, which might be prone to attempt more passes than Navy.

--RB Josh Snead's shoulder injury might keep him out of action for longer than the Blue Devils had hoped. If he's absent from the lineup, it impacts the team's kickoff return options as well.

--QB Brandon Connette is a role player, but by scoring his fourth rushing touchdown of the season in the last game against Navy, he's showing up on the school's record lists. He ranks fourth on the Blue Devils' single-season list for rushing touchdowns among freshmen.

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