O-line production and backs blocking: Helping Boone get established was the offensive line which blocked well and kept him vertical for most of the day. When the Cavalier blitzers got into the backfield, the running backs - particularly Juwan Thompson - made plays and crucial blocks. It's a continued success story for a unit that was long considered a weakness for the Blue Devil program. On the season Duke has allowed just four sacks in six games.
Special teams - best in the ACC?: For a pair of freshmen, Duke has gotten upperclassman production out of Ross Martin and Will Monday. Martin didn't have too much to do on Saturday other than make extra points, but he's been as good as any kicker in the conference and country on the year. Meanwhile, before Monday was forced to start focusing on directional punts as Duke moved to eat up the clock around midfield, the freshman kicked eight times and averaged 49 yards per kick. That's only half of it, though, as the coverage teams - Issac Blakeney in particular - were down field fast and sure handed. Winning the special teams aspect of the game is something Duke hasn't done for years, and by doing it this year the Blue Devils are finding unusual success.
Third down issues: For all the positives, Duke struggled to convert third downs on the afternoon. The Blue Devils finished just 3-of-13 on the afternoon. It was something Coach Cutcliffe said at halftime: "We have to get much better on third down". He's right. If Duke is to pull off a victory against Virginia Tech in a week, the third down conversions have to improve.
Belief: In short the biggest difference on the field in Durham is that the players, fans, and everyone associated with the program truly believe in what is happening. You can see it by the number of big plays that are being made (a good example is Walt Canty's darting through the lines to make big 4th down stops), the number of times Duke has bounced back from a slow start, and the general energy the team is playing with. In years past adversity seemed to snowball in Durham and the team was unable to rebound. This year, however, the program and team are learning how to win and doing it very well. And, as Cutcliffe noted, this team is doing this without a number of key players.
"I can't say enough about my team," said Cutcliffe after the game. "This is a beat up group. What our defense did without seven starters - to get a shutout in the second half against a good Virginia team - I can't be more proud of a group of football players."