Takeaways: Duke 20, Virginia 13

Homecoming pitted the Blue Devils against the Virginia Cavaliers in an ACC Coastal Division battle for first place. A win would assure Duke first place in the division due to owning a tie breaker with Georgia Tech, who helped even further by losing to North Carolina on Saturday evening.

For the first time in 20 years Duke is bowl eligible after only seven regular season games. The team will also be participating in the post-season for the third consecutive season, and while you’d expect celebration and focus on that point from a program where success is still relatively new, that wasn’t the mood in the post-game locker room.

Instead the players simply acknowledged the accomplishment as if it was just another mile-marker on the way towards something bigger. Which, it may be.

“We’re not stopping with getting to a bowl,” said cornerback Breon Borders. “Our ultimate goal is to get an ACC Championship.”

“It’s something that’s expected at Duke and by Duke Football now,” said Jamison Crowder of the post season berth.

The expectation talk was something that’s been bantered around Durham for quite a while now, but senior David Helton took it a step further when he suggested that this kind of winning and success is, remarkably, now somewhat routine.

“It doesn’t feel like it used to,” said Helton. “Maybe in my sophomore year when we were 6-7 and it was a big time deal. It’s really awesome to be on this side of a culture change, a program change.”

So, how did the Blue Devils secure the bowl eligibility against the Cavaliers? The turning point came in the fourth quarter during a nine-play, 65-yard drive. Running back Shaquille Powell powered the drive by rushing for 32 of his 68 yards for the day. The drive was completed with a Thomas Sirk pass to tight end David Reeves for three yards into the end zone. Sirk completed a similar play earlier in the year against Troy and the result was another David Reeves touchdown.

The first quarter and most of the first half was good for quarterback Anthony Boone. Boone completed 10 of his first 12 passes and would finish the half 16 for 21 with 175 yards and a touchdown to Erich Schneider. He had what Coach Cutcliffe called a “lull” in the third quarter where his accuracy left for a time, but it returned enough in the 4th quarter on the scoring drive to help Duke to its 6th win.

The other side of the ball was just as important as the continually improving Blue Devil defensive unit once again held an opponent to less than 15 points, and now ranks sixth in the nation in scoring defense. Deondre Singleton and Breon Borders contributed three pass break ups each. As a group, the Duke secondary had 10 break ups on the day. Borders credited his position coach, Derek Jones for helping him with his technique against the opposition. Duke would win the turnover battle as Jeremy Cash forced another fumble.

On the flip side, Duke did not turn the ball over to a team that had caused 19 turnovers heading into the game.

Coach Cutcliffe said that the game may not have appeared to be a pretty win from the outside looking in. He explained that the game was made to look like a beautiful team effort by not giving up a sack, not turning the ball over, and not surrendering a tackle for a loss. “A big W,” is how he viewed the result.

When questioned after the game what the biggest takeaway from the game was for the Duke head coach replied…

“We’ve played two really good football teams back-to-back in our league and won. I don’t ever want to take for granted back to back wins in the ACC. You’ve got to retool your team. We all realize that we have an open date and then we have to play five of these in a row. Win or lose, you have got to be at your best that week. You’re not going to win many ACC football games if you don’t play at a high level every week.”

Looking Ahead

Up next for Duke is its second bye week of the season. This time they don’t have to prepare for the option offense of Georgia Tech. Cutcliffe said Sunday afternoon that he hoped to get some players back that have been sidelined due to injury. He mentioned the possibility of DT Jamal Wallace and possibly TE Dan Beilinson returning to play.

Additioanlly, Cut is also hoping to get some of the younger players at every position more reps and more playing time. He said this would develop the depth needed for their post season run and would help the growth of the program.

Senior Anthony Boone said that they needed to “get healthy, and go back to the drawing board and make sure where we’re crisp. We have to prepare for a good Pitt team that just came off a good win against Virginia Tech. We have to find a way to end up in Charlotte again.”

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