DURHAM, N.C. (AP) Duke took control of its divisional race – and made itself bowl eligible once again – by finding yet another way to beat the team it seemingly can’t lose to.
The Blue Devils beat Virginia for the sixth time in seven years on Saturday, topping the Cavaliers 20-13 after backup quarterback Thomas Sirk threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to David Reeves with 7:23 left.
Anthony Boone was 22 of 37 for 176 yards with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Erich Schneider – his seventh career TD pass against the Cavaliers, his most against any opponent.
The victory made the Blue Devils (6-1, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) eligible for a bowl for the third straight year and gave them the upper hand in the Coastal Division.
”It’s a big ol’ W,” coach David Cutcliffe said. ”A capital W.”
Matt Johns was 21 of 44 for a career-high 306 yards with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Khalek Shepherd. Miles Gooch had six catches for a personal-best 129 yards for Virginia (4-3, 2-1).
”Very productive in a lot of aspects, but not productive enough to (result in) points,” coach Mike London said.
Virginia outgained Duke 465-334, but a Cavaliers defense that entered with an ACC-best 19 takeaways forced no turnovers and generated no sacks or tackles for a loss.
Duke’s offense still sputtered at times – the Blue Devils had three three-and-outs that lasted 65 seconds or less – but got things rolling when it counted most.
Shaq Powell carried four times for 32 yards on the decisive drive and Boone took a zone-read keeper 23 yards to the Virginia 7.
”The offense was struggling, definitely, and coach was talking about how we need playmakers to step up and make plays,” Powell said. ”I think a lot of us took that personally.”
Sirk – who regularly replaces Boone in short-yardage situations – then faked a quarterback draw and hit a wide-open Reeves with a jump pass in the end zone.
”Obviously, it was a breakdown, and we didn’t cover the guy,” London said.
Johns and the Cavaliers had two chances after that to tie it up.
On Virginia’s next drive, Johns hit Gooch for 19 yards on a second-and-14, bringing the ball to the Duke 38. But he wasn’t close with his deep throw to Canaan Severin on a fourth-and-12 pass three plays later with 2:14 left.
Virginia forced a punt and took over at its own 15 with 23 seconds left. Johns found Darius Jennings in stride for a 26-yard gain and Johns spiked the ball with 8 seconds left.
Johns then hit Doni Dowling across the middle but Jeremy Cash brought him down near midfield after the clock expired to seal the Blue Devils’ third straight win in the series.
Duke twice drove inside the Virginia 10 but had to settle for short field goals from Ross Martin, who converted from 19 and 25 yards.
Virginia’s Ian Frye tied it twice with field goals, from 21 and 30 yards. The second of those made it 13-all with 7:11 left in the third.
Boone – who threw four touchdowns against Virginia two years ago, then added two more in a come-from-way-behind win in 2013 – helped Duke take a 10-0 lead, capping the opening drive with his short touchdown pass to Schneider. Martin added a 19-yard field goal early in the second quarter.
Johns and the Cavaliers responded by going 75 yards in nine plays, capped with his short scoring pass to Shepherd with 9:11 before halftime. They made it 10-all at the half on Frye’s 21-yard kick on the final play.
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