Barber: Virginia gets its 'swag back' in blowout of Duke – The Daily Progress

Virginia receiver Keytaon Thompson celebrates after catching a pass and running for a first down during the second quarter of the Cavaliers’ win over Duke on Saturday at Scott Stadium.
Remember early September?
Virginia had opened the football season with a pair of dominating home wins over admittedly overmatched foes, outscoring William & Mary and Illinois by a combined count of 85-14.
Saturday, the Cavaliers dispatched of Duke in a similarly decisive manner, winning 48-0 for their third straight victory.
“I think we really got our swag back,” said junior linebacker Nick Jackson.
Those two late-September blowout losses to North Carolina and Wake Forest are now a painful but distant memory, and the funky back-to-back road wins over Miami and Louisville courtesy of missed field goals effectively have been validated.
The lopsided lashing of Duke — winless in the ACC — was as likely as it was necessary. And Virginia will need a similar showing next week when Georgia Tech visits.
Of course, with a team that seems equally capable of winning or losing every remaining game on its schedule, the next five contests are essentially have-to-have-’em games for the Hoos.
“We’re in the Coastal. Every game is crucial, mission critical,” said Jackson. “You don’t know what’s going to happen in the Coastal Division. We’re trying to find our way to the ACC championship. We know we’re in the race and we’re fighting for it.”
After the Georgia Tech game, UVa has a pair of nonconference games before ending the regular season at Pittsburgh and at home against rival Virginia Tech.
“We need every win,” said senior safety Joey Blount. “No matter how funky, no matter how crazy it is. We need every win we can get. This kind of sets us on the right track.”
Virginia got on that track early Saturday.
Duke got the obligatory opponent-field-goal-miss out of the way early, coming up empty on its opening drive when backup kicker Matthew Alswanger clanged his 25-yard try off the left upright.
That wouldn’t be the final time fortune would smile upon the home team.
UVa quarterback Brennan Armstrong fumbled after being sacked on the ensuing possession but was able to recover the ball himself. Two plays later, Armstrong threw what should have been an interception to Duke defensive back Jeremiah Lewis. But Lewis let the ball deflect off his hands and up field, where Billy Kemp IV caught it for a 16-yard gain. That lucky bounce kept alive a drive that ended with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Dontayvion Wicks.
Virginia scored on all six of its first half possessions — four touchdowns and two field goals — as it amassed its highest halftime point total (34) since scoring 35 against North Carolina in 2004.
Armstrong threw for 364 yards and two scores in just three quarters of play. And though his running plays have been limited since suffering a knee injury in Game 2 against Illinois, he had runs for 8 and 25 yards in the opening quarter.
The defense snapped Duke running back Mattaeo Durant’s streak of four straight 100-yard rushing games, holding him to 82 on 17 carries, in part a product of the Cavaliers’ early lead. And Virginia recorded its first shutout against an ACC opponent since blanking Maryland 2008, its backups preserving the big zero on the scoreboard by forcing a fumble at the goal line with under 2 minutes to play.
Virginia beat Duke for the seventh straight time and registered its most lopsided conference victory since a 48-0 win over Miami in 2007.
“We’re a confident team right now,” said senior center Olu Oluwatimi. “And I think we’re playing like it.”
Mike Barber reports for the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
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Virginia receiver Keytaon Thompson celebrates after catching a pass and running for a first down during the second quarter of the Cavaliers’ win over Duke on Saturday at Scott Stadium.
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