Game Preview: Duke, Part 1

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Both Virginia and Duke enter this Saturday’s showdown with three losses already in September. Certainly, both teams would like to get out of the month without defeat No. 4. With a pair of struggling offenses, the outcome this week could hinge on defense and special teams – The Sabre takes a look at the latter in Part 1 of the weekly game preview.

Special Teams

Chris Gould has helped improve UVa’s punting game, but the kicking game is inconsistent in 2006.

This season, Virginia’s special teams have finally provided Cavalier fans with the championship caliber punting game they’ve craved. The problem is that no one wanted to trade the normally reliable kicking operation and kickoff return game for better punting. They want all three.

Punter Chris Gould is averaging 42.1 yards on his punts and the team has posted a net average of 39.1 yards per punt, good enough for second in the ACC. But even Gould had issues last week against Georgia Tech in that he could not provide key field position-changing punts the Hoos needed at critical times during Virginia’s 24-7 loss to the Jackets. Duke is last in the league in punt returns as the dangerous Chris Davis is averaging a lowly two yards per return on four attempts and certainly this is not the week to see Davis have a break out game.

Duke punter Alex Feinberg is the eighth best in the conference at 37.8 yards per punt and the Devils have a league-worst 29.4 net average. Virginia is seventh in the conference in punt returns at 7.7 yards per return. The punt return game is another aspect of special teams that needs to see improvement this weekend. Efficient punt return men find the hole quickly and attack. Andrew Pearman , if he continues to get chances after muffing a catch attempt at Georgia Tech, must do a better job of moving forward and not prancing around in the catch zone. Just run baby.

Gould and Noah Greenbaum along with Duke placement specialist Joe Surgan are struggling this season. Surgan