Virginia rides seven Duke turnovers to victory

Duke quarterback Chase Brice throws the ball during Saturday’s 38=20 loss at Virginia. (Erin Edgerton / The Daily Progress via AP)

For the sixth time in a row, Virginia had Duke’s number as the Cavaliers rolled to a 38-20 win over the Blue Devils in Charlottesville’s Scott Stadium.

Duke had some bright spots early. Chase Brice connected with tight end Jake Marwede for his first touchdown as a Blue Devil, and Duke built a 10-0 lead, its biggest over UVA since a 12-point win in 2013. The Cavaliers responded, however, gashing the Duke defense with runs up the middle early and deep passes late. UVA receiver Lavel Davis Jr. finished with 101 yards and two touchdowns.

Virginia also took advantage of six Blue Devil turnovers, including four interceptions by Brice, who has been responsible for seven turnovers in the last two games.

Three thoughts

1. Duke was unable to protect the quarterback for most of the day. UVA sacked Duke passers five times and had 11 tackles for loss.  Brice seemed to struggle with the pressure, overthrowing receivers much of the day and attempting high-risk passes into traffic.

2. On the flip side, Duke’s pass rush — which has been a strength of the team this year — struggled, managing just one sack on the day. Part of the problem was Duke’s secondary, which lost two starters — Mark Gilbert and Josh Blackwell — to surgeries earlier in the week. The pressure had been amplified by Duke’s solid coverage in earlier games.

3. Duke’s running game also failed the Blue Devils. Duke averaged just 1.5 yards per carry. Despite getting stuffed on early attempts, the Blue Devils stuck with the run, rushing the ball 38 times to 40 pass plays.

Number to Know

34-0 — The fourth quarter scoring for Duke’s three games. Opponents have scored 34 points, including 21 by UVA on Saturday, while Duke has yet to score a point. Duke has also been outscored 57-17 in second halves this year.

They Said It

“There’s nothing about being 0-3 that this team dreamed it would be.”

— Duke coach David Cutcliffe

Player of the Game

Leonard Johnson and Jeremiah Lewis, Duke cornerbacks — Thrust into the starting lineup — in Johnson’s case back into the starting lineup — after both of Duke’s corners suffered major injuries earlier in the week, Johnson and Lewis held up under pressure for much of the day. Lewis finished with eight tackles, third most on the team. Johnson had three tackles, a pass breakup and a leaping interception on the sideline as Virginia was approaching the red zone.

Critical thinking

Brice beat out last year’s backup Chris Katrenick and Gunnar Holmberg for the starting job in fall camp, with coach David Cutcliffe saying ball security was the primary factor in his decision. If so, it might be time to rethink it. Of course, Holmberg came in during garbage time and immediately fumbled to set up a UVA touchdown, so there may not be a better option.