Virginia Football Extends Winning Streak To Three Games With Trouncing Of Duke

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Virginia is 5-2.
Noah Taylor celebrates a defensive turnover that preserved the shutout against Duke. ~ Photo by Kris Wright/

The Virginia football team apparently had had enough of watching last second field attempts decide its fate. The Hoos were dominant Saturday afternoon in Charlottesville, dealing a 48-0 shutout over ACC Coastal Division rival Duke.

With the win, UVA improves to 5-2 overall and 3-2 in conference play. Virginia is on a three-game winning streak that also includes a two-point victory at Miami and a one-point win at Louisville. The Hoos are a perfect 6-0 against the Blue Devils in the Bronco Mendenhall era and have won seven-straight overall in the series.

“The team was really well prepared and those last two games were super emotional and draining and tough and physically taxing,” said Virginia football head coach Bronco Mendenhall, whose team won on last-second field goal misses by Miami and Louisville. “You never quite know how that’s going to affect your team. The preparation this week was strong, so I didn’t see any changes that way from the last three weeks- I’m talking about from Wake Forest on. As the expectations and the demand has been increasing, they’ve been answering the bell that way. I did not see the outcome or the type of game this turned out to be coming, but I’m certainly thankful and grateful for the preparation our players put in, and how clean and how well they played collectively. I’m really proud of them.”

Redshirt junior quarterback Brennan Armstrong and the Virginia offense rolled to a 34-point first half outburst, scoring on all six offensive drives. Highlighted by a pair of Armstrong passes to sophomore receiver Dontayvion Wicks that went for 29 yards, as well as an Armstrong 25-yard run, UVA took the game’s opening drive 62 yards before settling for a Brendan Farrell 31-yard field goal.

While the Hoos went 0-1 on third-down on its first drive, Duke converted its first three third downs on the ensuing march. The Blue Devils drove down to the Cavalier 7 but failed to convert on 3rd-and-6 from the Cavalier 7, setting up a 25-yard field goal attempt by Matthew Alswanger. The left-footed kicker’s attempt banged off the left crossbar, and the scored stood 3-0.

Duke would not cross into Virginia territory again until midway through the third quarter as UVA, which honored legendary safety Anthony Poindexter for his College Football Hall of Fame induction during the game, displayed its best defensive effort since a Week 2 win over Illinois. After a solid opening drive, Duke punted twice, and quarterback Gunner Holmberg tossed interceptions on back-to-back possessions. After a field goal on its opening possession, UVA’s offense scored touchdowns – a 20-yard pass from Armstrong to Wicks, a Keytaon Thompson 1-yard touchdown run, and an Armstrong 7-yard touchdown run – on three straight possessions to take a 24-0 second quarter lead. The advantage grew to 34-0 as the Hoos turned the Holmberg interceptions into 10 points, including a 34-yard field goal from Farrell and a 7-yard touchdown pass from Armstrong to Woods.

By halftime, Virginia led by 34 points, had outgained Duke 368-142 in total offense, and totaled 21 first downs to Duke’s 7. In addition to the two giveaways by Holmberg, the Blue Devils were flagged for six penalties for 59 yards, including a roughing the punter penalty when trailing 10-0. UVA would score on this drive to take a 17-0 lead.

Star Blue Devil running back Mataeo Durant, who entered the game having rushed for 100 yards or more in five of six contests, finished with 82 yards on 17 carries. However, outside of two first quarter carries that went for 46 yards, the senior rushed 15 times for 36 yards, an average of 2.4 yards per rush. Holmberg, who was completing over 70% of his passes coming in, struggled against a Virginia defense that gained confidence as the game went on. The Duke senior signal caller finished 20-of-34 for 134 yards and the two interceptions.

Virginia won 48-0.
Devin Darrington sprints into the end zone for a UVA touchdown. ~ Photo by Kris Wright/

UVA tacked on two rushing touchdowns in the second half, including graduate transfer running back Devin Darrington’s 7-yard run and Ronnie Walker Jr.’s 2-yard plunge. Meanwhile, Duke went scoreless on seven second-half drives that ended with three punts, two turnovers on downs and two lost fumbles. Backup quarterback Riley Leonard fumbled the snap on 2nd-and-goal from the UVA 1 on Duke’s final drive, and Cavalier backup linebacker TC Harrison recovered to preserve Virginia’s second shutout the season.

Virginia defense’s four takeaways doubled the amount they had forced in the six games prior. Wreaking havoc against Duke is nothing new for the Cavaliers, who have secured 15 takeaways from the Blue Devils the last three games. Saturday afternoon, safeties De’Vante Cross and Joey Blount came down with the first-half interceptions, safety Antonio Clary recovered a fumble forced by linebacker Josh Ahern, and Harrison capped off the day with his fumble recovery. UVA linebacker Nick Jackson led all players in total tackles (11) and tackles for loss (4). Jackson, who registered his unit’s lone sack, spearheaded a strong effort from all three levels of Virginia’s defense, which limited Duke to 325 total yards. Duke was averaging 495.8 yards and 31.5 points per game prior to today’s visit to Scott Stadium.

“Coach Howell, Coach Poppinga, Coach Hunter, and Coach Sintim, as well as our GAs and Dante Wilkins and Chris Peace, who have been trained in this program, you can’t work any harder, man,” Mendenhall said of the defense, which had allowed 30 points or more in three of the previous four games.. “They’ve been working their guts out. I’m grateful for that, and our intent was to continue to build consistency and capacity, and that’s what we saw today. But we have seen it, in my opinion, each game since UNC; (it) hasn’t been perfect, nope. Have there been lapses? Yes, but I have seen that trend. I’m thankful for their work, their efforts, but really coaches can only coach. Players let themselves be coached, and our team is responding well, and I’m happy for those kids to have that kind of success today and turnovers matter, as we know, and just really pleased with a tangible result and reward for their work.”

Of the defense, Jackson said: “We’re just playing more physically, we’re playing with more passion, we’re having fun out there. We just got back to going out there and having fun, we’re celebrating, having fun, just doing our little things. It was fun out there, we’re making it fun again.”

Virginia won 48-0.
Virginia receiver Dontayvion Wicks reaches out for the touchdown catch. ~ Photo by Kris Wright/

Armstrong led another impressive outing from the Virginia offense, which finished with over 500 yards of total offense and over 300 yards passing for a sixth time this season. The lefty signal caller completed 25-of-45 passes for 364 yards and two scores and rushed eight times for 34 yards and a score. Wicks, who missed most of the Louisville game with what appeared to be a head injury, returned with a vengeance, hauling in seven catches for 125 yards and a score. Billy Kemp IV had six catches for 65 yards, tight end Jelani Woods had five catches for 58 yards and a touchdown, and Keytaon Thompson chipped in three receptions for 47 yards.

Darrington led the UVA rushing attack with 60 yards and a touchdown on five carries. True freshman quarterback Jay Woolfolk, who received playing time when the coaches rested Brennan Armstrong for the fourth quarter, orchestrated UVA’s final touchdown drive. The 5’11”, 200-pound first-year from Richmond (VA) rushed for 30 yards on the drive, which ended with Walker Jr.’s score, and finished with 38 yards rushing on five carries. The Cavaliers totaled 164 yards on the ground, averaging five yards per carry.

The Hoos stay home for one more week, taking on Georgia Tech in Scott Stadium next Saturday at 7:30 p.m., before hitting the road for an out-of-conference matchup versus Mendenhall’s former team, BYU.

“We just want to come out and work every day,” Virginia senior receiver Billy Kemp IV said of the team’s mindset. “I feel like this team has the potential to do everything; all the goals we set out for. We can be anything we want to be, it’s just going to take a lot of work.”

Box Score

– Highlights, Courtesy of Virginia Sports TV

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