ACC Football: Duke 28, Virginia 17
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. ó Thaddeus Lewis and his Duke teammates don’t know if opponents are starting to believe that the rumors of the Blue Devils’ vast improvement are true.
And, he said, he doesn’t care.
Lewis threw for 343 yards and hit Conner Vernon for a 42-yard touchdown with 3:45 to play Saturday as Duke rallied for its third consecutive victory, 28-17 against Virginia.
“We just know what we have,” Lewis said.
What the Blue Devils had at Virginia was a dynamic passing game led by Lewis, a four-year starter who shook off six sacks and made the big throws when his team needed them.
“That route was open all day,” Lewis said of the go-ahead TD. “Donovan (Varner) did a great job of carrying the first guy, and then I saw the window open up for Conner.”
The play gave the Blue Devils (5-3, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) an 18-17 lead. They essentially sealed it 23 seconds later when Ayanga Okpokowuruk forced Virginia quarterback Jameel Sewell to fumble and Charlie Hatcher recovered and took it 7 yards into the end zone.
“We’re having fun right now,” Okpokowuruk said. “We’re enjoying every minute of it.”
Will Snyderwine made five field goals for the Blue Devils as they won their third game in a row ó all in ACC play. It’s their first three-game winning streak since the 1994 season.
The victory also kept Duke in the thick of the ACC Coastal Division race, with a game against division leader No. 11 Georgia Tech on Nov. 14 in Durham, potentially decisive.
But Lewis said the Blue Devils don’t care to look that far ahead, either, especially not with a game against in-state rival North Carolina in Chapel Hill next Saturday.
“We’re going to let everyone talk and we’re just going to continue with the plan that we have of taking it one by one, taking it a game at a time,” Lewis said.
Virginia (3-5, 2-2) lost its second in a row as its pass defense, ranked fifth in the nation coming in, was unable to slow the Lewis-led sixth-best passing attack in the country.
“It’s something I thought we were ready for, but you have to tip your hat to them,” defensive end Nate Collins, who had 10 tackles and two of Virginia’s sacks, said. “They are good at what they do. We got to him a little bit early, but in the end it wasn’t enough.”
It was Virginia’s second consecutive loss to the Blue Devils.
Lewis finished 24 for 40, with Donovan Varner catching seven for 113 yards, Vernon catching seven for 103 yards and four other receivers catching at least two passes.