Saturday Lookback: Duke v UVa

Reviewing the Blue Devils' win over the Cavaliers and looking forward to next week's matchup with the Boston College Eagles.

The Blue Devils know they must produce offensively to be successful, and they're adamant about giving their offense as many opportunities as possible.

They've been involved in two of the three highest-scoring games in ACC history, with both those games coming this year. The latest one was a 55-48 victory against Virginia, so that felt better than the 54-48 loss at Wake Forest nearly two months ago.

"I think we're back in gear a little bit," coach David Cutcliffe said of the offense.

Duke was so intent on gaining as many possessions as possible that despite leading 24-21 at halftime, the Blue Devils successfully tried an onside kick to start the second half.

The Blue Devils added a rushing element to their latest outing, picking up 230 yards on the ground to go with 259 in the air in the victory against Virginia.

Duke's offense suddenly has more life, and it will need that in its next game against a Boston College team that is heavy on the defensive side.

--Duke has outscored its last two opponents in the first quarter by a combined 24-7. That's a sharp contrast to the first seven games, when the Blue Devils were outscored by a combined 66-44 in the opening 15 minutes.

--Duke has its first three-game winning streak in the series with Virginia since a five-game streak from 1974-78. Duke coach David Cutcliffe improved to 1-1 in games against Virginia coach Mike London, who directed Richmond to a 2009 victory at Duke.

GAME BALL GOES TO: RB Desmond Scott -- Scott scored the game-winning points on a 35-yard run with 40 seconds remaining. That helped make up for a fourth-quarter fumble that set up Virginia for a potential comeback victory. He finished with a team-high 97 rushing yards.

KEEP AN EYE ON: CB Ross Cockrell had endured some rough stretches this season, but he came up with two interceptions against Virginia. Teams continue to direct passes toward the redshirt freshman, but he's starting to make more plays. He had another breakup in the end zone against Virginia when it appeared he might have another pick.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "There's no doubt, that was a lot of fun. In two-minute (offense), we usually do our best." -- QB Sean Renfree, who directed Duke's final drive against Virginia and that included a completion on a fourth-and-20 play that kept the possession alive.


LOOKING GOOD: TE Cooper Helfet racked up 122 receiving yards on seven catches in the game against Virginia. The junior college transfer has emerged as one of the best playmakers on the team, and his presence helped make up for the departure of WR Conner Vernon, the ACC's leading receiver who left with a third-quarter injury and made only one catch in the game.

STILL NEEDS WORK: The rushing defense was shredded at times, and ineffective tackling was one of the major problems. Virginia put up 226 rushing yards on the Blue Devils, who yielded 5.4 yards per carry. And Duke's next game comes against Boston College, which has the ACC's leading rusher in Montel Harris.

--WR Connor Vernon has been the ACC's top receiver (receptions per game and yards per game), and the Blue Devils have expanded his role. He has become a designated kick returner, and he handled the first four returns against Virginia after making only two returns all season entering the game. On the fourth return, he was clobbered with a hard hit and didn't return to the game. He had one reception for 2 yards in the game.

--QB Sean Renfree showed a level of toughness against Virginia. He was recipient of a late hit out of bounds on the team's first possession against Virginia. Two plays after the penalty was marched off, Renfree threw a touchdown pass.

--WR Austin Kelly wasn't in uniform for the Virginia game because of a head injury. It marked only the second time in the senior's career that he missed a game. He has been a starter in 24 of 43 career games.

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