CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — It took Virginia four scheduled opponents to actually get to start their season, and four quarters to hit their stride in a 38-20 victory against Dukes on Saturday night.
Brennan Armstrong and Lavel Davis Jr. teamed up on a pair of early fourth-quarter touchdown passes and Virginia forced seven turnovers and pulled away.
“We kind of had a feeling we were going to win,” linebacker Zane Zandier, who led the Cavaliers with 15 tackles, said. “We just needed to make those plays to pull away.”
Armstrong and Davis got it started. The redshirt sophomore quarterback, in his first career start, hit Davis, a freshman, on an 18-yard fade route in the left corner of the end zone to give the Cavaliers (1-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) a 24-20 lead. After Joey Blount's interception, Armstrong hit Davis for 26 yards, with Davis pulling away from two Duke defenders about eight yards from the end zone and powering his way in. “Lavel's going to be a big key. Big plays, momentum swingers,” Armstrong said.
The Blue Devils (0-3, 0-3), whose games have all come in the season debut of their opponent, led 20-17 entering the fourth quarter before falling apart. “We took a lead in the second half after being down at halftime and couldn’t finish the work,” coach David Cutcliffe said. “... Without question, we’ve got to evaluate what we’re doing on offense, how we’re doing it and what’s happening.”
The Blue Devils' start is their worst since the 2010 team lost its first six games. Wayne Taulapapa ran for a pair of touchdown for the Cavaliers, including a 10-yard burst with about 5 minutes left that put the game away. It came after Duke backup quarterback Gunnar Holmberg fumbled on a fourth-and-1 play from the Blue Devils' 29.
Armstrong finished 24 for 45 for 269 yards in his first career start with two interceptions. Taulapapa gained 95 yards, a career-high, on 16 carries. The Cavaliers have now won six straight in the series.