With no preseason and several cancelled season openers, some sloppy play was expected as the Virginia Cavaliers began their football season Saturday afternoon against the Duke Blue Devils. That expectation immediately came to fruition as Virginia fumbled the opening kickoff. The sloppy play continued throughout the game as the teams combined for ten turnovers, but Virginia prevailed and defeated Duke by a score of 38-20.
Duke gained possession in the red zone following the fumbled kickoff, but the UVA defense held them to just a field goal. The UVA offense also got off to a slow start, with 3 punts and 1 turnover on downs to begin the game. Meanwhile, Duke’s quarterback Chase Brice threw a 55-yard touchdown pass to Jake Marwede, making the score 10-0 Duke.
It took until the end of the first quarter for UVA to put together a scoring drive that consisted of 10 plays for 75 yards and ended with a 4-yard run by UVA’s quarterback Brennan Armstrong. In his first career start, Armstrong had big shoes to fill after the departure of Bryce Perkins, and he finished the day going 24/45 with 269 passing yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, and rushing for 47 yards and 1 touchdown. Despite the 2 interceptions and a few other errant throws, he showed a lot of promise as the new leader for the Hoos, especially while he was running the ball.
UVA scored again with 8:55 remaining in the first half on a 1-yard run by Wayne Taulapapa. After Duke failed to complete a 4th and 13, UVA scored again with a 32-yard field goal by Brian Delaney, ending a run of 17 unanswered points for the Hoos in the second quarter after Duke led 10-0 after the first. In the final few minutes of the half, both Chase Brice and Brennan Armstrong threw interceptions while trying to close out the half, so the score remained 17-10 UVA at halftime.
At the start of the second half, Duke once again came out strong. Chase Brice, a transfer from Clemson, led the team to a field goal on the first drive of the half and then a touchdown two drives later, so Duke surged ahead 20-17.
However, that was all the points the Blue Devils would score. The UVA defense locked in and forced an impressive 7 total turnovers (5 interceptions and 2 fumbles). Brenton Nelson had 2 picks and Joey Blount, D’Angelo Amos, and Nick Grant had 1 apiece. This was the difference maker in the game, as these 7 turnovers often gave the Hoos good field position and helped them score 21 points in the 4th quarter to run away with the game.
An offensive standout for UVA was freshman Lavel Davis Jr, making his college football debut. At 6’7”, he made many athletic catches and scored touchdowns on two consecutive drives. He finished with 4 receptions for 101 yards. Wayne Taulapapa also had an impressive game, with 16 carries for 95 yards and 2 touchdowns, he showed incredible grit while fighting through many tackles. On his second touchdown of the night which made the score 38-20, he pushed his way through several tacklers and across the goal line with the help of the offensive line.
After a Duke fumble and then a turnover on downs, UVA was able to seal the deal for its first win of the year and 9th consecutive home victory The first and third quarters were not pretty for the Hoos, but the dominance of the second and fourth quarters shows the potential that this team has. UVA’s offensive and defensive lines were stellar, and the team pulled together a nice win with many solid performances.
Virginia is on the road next Saturday to take on the top-ranked Clemson Tigers at 8:00pm.
Article recap by Kathleen Boyce