NCAAF: First-year coaches clash when Duke hosts Virginia


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Duke will try to snap a seven-game losing streak to Virginia in an Atlantic Coast Conference contest on Saturday night in Durham, N.C.

The Cavaliers (2-2, 0-1 ACC) have not lost to the Blue Devils (3-1, 0-0) since 2014 and won last season’s meeting 48-0 behind 528 yards of offense and four takeaways.

Duke limped to a 3-9 finish last season, but is off to a much better start this season under first-year coach Mike Elko. The Blue Devils are coming off their first loss of the season though, a 35-27 setback at unbeaten Kansas last Saturday.

Virginia has alternated wins and losses so far, including last Friday’s 22-20 defeat at Syracuse.

The programs are led by first-year head coaches with experience in the ACC. Elko was the defensive coordinator at Wake Forest from 2014-16, while UVA’s Tony Elliott coached the Clemson offense from 2015-21.

“We have crossed paths a lot over the years,” Elko said. “… They are an exceptionally talented offense. I know it hasn’t completely clicked for them like they would like yet, but they have a lot of weapons.”

Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong has more interceptions (four) than touchdown passes (three) this season after throwing 31 TDs and 10 picks last season. Perris Jones has rushed for 273 yards (5.5 per carry) and Keytaon Thompson has 26 catches for 290 yards.

“Defensively, I think (Duke is) one of the most improved defenses in the country,” Elko said. “They are doing a really good job with their scheme … and the kids are playing really fast and physical.”

Linebacker Nick Jackson, the Cavaliers’ leading tackler, will miss the first half Saturday after a targeting penalty against Syracuse.

Without him, Virginia will have its hands full with Duke quarterback Riley Leonard. He leads the ACC in completion percentage (71.3), ranks second in passing yards (1,047) and is one of three Blue Devils with more than 200 yards on the ground.

The Cavaliers hurt themselves with 12 penalties and two missed field goals against Syracuse.

“We’ve got to make sure that we’re putting precision and technique with the effort and we’re not just going out there trying to have sweat equity,” Elliott said. “We’ve got to have achievement and not just activity.”

–Field Level Media


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