CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.—Before the third quarter started, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe sought out his senior defensive linemen, guys like Kenny Anunike, Justin Foxx and Sydney Sarmiento.
“I went down to all those older guys and I said, ‘I’m putting my money on you guys,’” Cutcliffe said. “‘You’re the one that’s going to turn it around in the second half. Offense, I’m not worried about, I’m putting my money right up front on defense.’” They grinned, and I meant it. I feel really good about those guys.
Cutcliffe’s faith was rewarded. Virginia (2-5, 0-3 in the ACC) was shut out in the second half of Duke’s 35-22 win, which featured 35 unanswered points by the Blue Devils. After Virginia scored its third touchdown to go ahead 22-0 with 3:16 left in the second quarter, it took six series, until there was under 10 minutes left in the game, for the Cavaliers to get another first down.
In quite the role reversal, it was the defense that was carrying the offense.
“I was walking over there telling (offensive lineman) Dave Harding and (quarterback Anthony) Boone, we need one, we need you guys to make that, and they definitely responded,” Anunike said.
Behind the front seven, the secondary featured different personnel than normal: an injury to safety Dwayne Norman (who Cutcliffe expects to miss some time), moved Ross Cockrell over to safety, along with Jeremy Cash and Corbin McCarthy. Freshman Bryon Fields and senior Garrett Patterson handled the corner positions, and when Fields was injured, freshman Breon Borders took his place.
The defense was effective in the second half, holding UVA to just 83 yards of total offense in the second half.
“Whatever happened, happed. It got ugly fast,” virginia senior offensive lineman Luke Bowanko said. “We’re not proud of the product we put out there in the second half, but obviously Duke played a heck of a second half and all credit to them.”
There wasn’t any magic potion. It was just a matter of executing better (and having Virginia shoot itself in the foot a few times).
“What was it, 22-0?” Cockrell asked about the deficit (yes, it was. “Being down 22-0, I don’t know if a Duke team has come back from that deficit in a long time. We came together, we grew stronger as a family, and that’s what our goal is.”
It may sound corny, but it’s true: the Blue Devils are a close group that doesn’t rattle. Not even when starting a 22-0 road deficit in the face.
Keeley: 919-829-4556; Twitter: @laurakeeley
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