Pack your umbrellas, the Hoos are headed to Durham! It’s week five and the 2-2 Cavaliers will face the 3-1 Blue Devils on the road on Saturday. UVA and Duke are Coastal Division Rivals and while temperatures cool down, the Cavs’ anticipation is heating up. This year’s Virginia vs. Duke matchup kicks off at 7:30 PM EST at Wallace Wade Stadium.
Hoos Checking the Forecast?
We’re a few days out but right now forecasts are calling for heavy rain on Saturday night in Durham. Some players are here for it, others don’t love the prospect, but Coach Elliott is coming in prepared.
On Tuesday Coach Elliott told reporters the team had started practicing with a wet ball. To the reporters at John Paul Jones arena Elliott said, “We started practicing with a wet ball today making sure that the guys get used to catching the ball. The receivers have got to be comfortable with taking the shields off to make sure they can see, being prepared when their gloves get wet to take those off and catch the ball.” And Coach Elliott isn’t the only one with ball security on the brain.
Quarterback Brennan Armstrong said, “The main thing is just securing that ball, all game long, this coming week because that’s honestly going to be the tale of who probably wins: who can secure the ball, because it’s just going to be probably a mess out there, so we’ve just got to make sure we do that.”
Coach Elliott confirmed that the Cavs have developed plans for different weather scenarios. Rain, shine, drizzle or monsoon-the Cavs are coming to play.
Virginia vs. Duke: Hoos on Defense?
Senior linebacker and leading tackler for the Cavs Nick Jackson will be sidelined for the first half of Saturday’s game after a targeting call last week at Syracuse. Virginia’s top options to fill in for Jackson are Josh Ahern, D’Sean Perry, James Jackson, and Hunter Stewart.
Last week, it was Stewart who replaced Jackson after his third quarter ejection. Stewart was involved in the play that turned last week’s game in favor of the Orange. But this week, he isn’t dwelling on it. When asked if he’s watched the play on repeat this week Stewart said, “No. You watch it once, you get corrections on it, and you just gotta move forward.”
Virginia vs. Duke: The Offense
If you’ve watched Virginia’s games this season you know the passing game needs work. The teams they’re facing know this, too. But no one knows it better than the Cavs, and they’re working on it.
A lot of the questions this season have simply been, what happened? Between last season and now, what happened to the Cavs offense and specifically to Brennan Armstrong? Per Coach Elliott, “It is a transition. It’s a change. We’re challenging Brennan to throw on rhythm, which is a little bit different than what he’s used to.”
This is Coach Elliott’s first season with the Cavs, along with new OC Des Kitchings. And even for a talented quarterback and team of receivers, growing pains are inevitable. Armstrong and the offense are being challenged to a different style of play. And, if they can commit to the vision, it can work.
When asked his thoughts on the process, tailback Mike Hollins said, “Every day is a learning process. There’s new things and new tweaks and new things that we have to implement to become better, new schemes. I know that’s everywhere, but with a new offense, you have to take it with a different approach, because it’s not just adding on something that you’ve known or been running for years. It’s adding on to a concept that you just learned this season. So just learning how to adjust to that has been one of the biggest challenges, but it also has been fun to learn something new and execute it on the weekend.”
The team and the coaching staff are being challenged this season but last weekend was a step in the right direction. This weekend, the Cavs hope to take it a step further and notch their first road win of the season.
Guess Hoos Back
This week, Cavs WR and No.1 punt returner Billy Kemp IV is back in action. After missing the past two games due to illness, Elliott and the Cavs are excited to have Kemp back as they take on the Blue Devils.
While safety Coen King remains sidelined with a knee injury, there is hope the Cavs will regain safety Antonio Clary for this game. Clary started Virginia’s first two games this season but has missed the last two with a stinger.
Virginia vs. Duke Preview: The Numbers
Virginia and Duke have played each other every year since 1963. This is their first meetup in Durham since 2018. And though Vegas is viewing this game through royal blue tinted glasses, the Cavs have defeated the Blue Devils in their last seven faceoffs.
Right now, Duke is 3-1. Virginia is 2-2. Both teams are under the direction of a new head coach, and both defenses have forced seven fumbles this year. Like Syracuse before them, Duke will enter this contest with no fumbles but that may not mean much. Last week, the Cavs forced three fumbles and an interception which means the Orange logged their first four turnovers of the year in a single game.
Duke is heading into Saturday with an average of 5.86 yards per rush, the highest in the ACC. But, Virginia held both Old Dominion and Syracuse to under 100 rushing yards and an average of 2.34 yards per carry. Virginia’s offense hasn’t quite hit its stride, but its defense is a Cinderella story. As a team, the Cavs are averaging 3.50 sacks per game which is the most in the ACC and the fifth most in the country.
Per FanDuel Sportsbook, the Blue Devils are favored to win this matchup.
The spread for Virginia right now is +3.5. The moneyline is +149. The Duke moneyline is -162. The O/U is 49.5.
However, this game has a history. Both teams have a new head coach. And, the weather forecast will make for a nasty night. Given these factors, I’d say this one is anyone’s guess. I’m gonna roll the dice this week and bet Virginia on the spread. They haven’t done well on the road so far and they’re the underdog again this week but they almost had Syracuse last week. I think Syracuse is a better team than Duke, and I’m hoping the Cavs are better prepared for playing in the rain. It’s a gamble I’m willing to take!
For More Great Football Content
Follow us on Twitter at @GridironHeroics for more great content. We appreciate you taking time to read our articles. To interact more with our community and keep up to date on the latest in Football news, JOIN OUR FREE FACEBOOK GROUP by CLICKING HERE
Pingback: UVA Vs. Louisville: Can The Cavs Achieve Victory At Home In Week 6? - Gridiron Heroics