Duke, trailing by 15, went for it on fourth-and-1. At its own 34. With over 13 minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Risky move? Sure, but when Blue Devil quarterback Brandon Connette plowed his way for a four-yard gain and a first down, it foreshadowed how the rest of the second half was going to play out.
The Blue Devils were prime for a comeback — and they didn’t mind gambling their way there.
Duke converted four fourth downs in a 35-22 win over UVa on Saturday at Scott Stadium.
“I liked the response of the staff and players, so I made my mind up that we would do everything we could to win this game,” said Blue Devil coach David Cutcliffe. “I felt like anything on the plus-side, fourth-and-nine and less, we were going for it.”
And they would convert.
On Duke’s second drive of the third quarter, the Blue Devils picked up a first down on a fourth-and-1 at their own 39 and a fourth-and-eight at UVa’s 34.
Duke would end the march with a 25-yard field goal to cut Virginia’s lead to 22-10.
“That’s tough,” said Cavalier defensive end Jake Snyder. “You always want to get off the field on third down, fourth down. No matter what, you want to get off the field. And the fact that they were able to pick those up and score on one of them, that always hurts.”
Surely, that was the most painful.
Virginia was still clinging to a 22-17 lead when it got Duke in a fourth-and-1 situation at the Cavalier 47 early in the fourth quarter.
Connette smoothly faked a give to a running back and hit a wide-open Braxton Deaver past the first down marker, along the sideline. Deaver easily raced past the UVa defense into the end zone to give the Blue Devils a lead they wouldn’t give back.
“They brought the house on the play,” Deaver said. “I was able to miss somebody and get out. I caught the ball and there was nobody in front of me.”
Virginia head coach Mike London said there was either a communication or coverage breakdown.
“Those are the types of plays that can’t happen,” London said. “Obviously, it was a fourth down down touchdown that changes the outcome of the game.”
Ineligible receiver strikes again
Against Ball State, an ineligible receiver downfield penalty took away a 79-yard touchdown from David Watford to Tim Smith.
Against Duke, an ineligible receiver downfield penalty took away a first down pass to Keeon Johnson in the fourth quarter.
UVa still managed a field attempt on the drive, but Alec Vozenilek’s 44-yarder missed wide left, ending the Cavs’ last scoring chance.
Virginia was penalized six times for 35 yards.
Virginia’s Taquan “Smoke” Mizzell entered Saturday with a season-long run of nine yards.
It had been hardly the start many expected for the ballyhooed freshman. After all, Mizzell was the first Rivals.com five-star UVa signee in the London era.
Against the Blue Devils, he finally flashed his potential.
On his first carry of the afternoon, Mizzell gained 10 yards — and recovered his own fumble. In the second quarter, he stormed up the right sideline for a 36-yard gain.
Mizzell finished with 52 yards on six carries. He also caught a pass for four yards.
With Brent Urban sidelined with a lower extremity injury, Virginia replaced its star defensive tackle with variety.
The Cavaliers started by pushing end Jake Snyder to the inside next to freshman Donte Wilkins, making Mike Moore the end opposite Eli Harold.
They also rotated in David Dean at tackle and pushed Snyder back to end.
Urban entered Saturday as the nation’s leader in passes defended among defensive linemen with eight. In his absence, the Cavs didn’t have a pass deflection from their line.
Senior Rijo Walker won the starting free safety battle over Brandon Phelps, but both played. Walker, playing in mostly run situations, made three tackles.