DURHAM, NC – Riley Leonard ran for two touchdowns and threw for another and Duke snapped a 13-game Atlantic Coast Conference losing streak in beating Virginia 38-17 on Saturday night.
Duke (4-1, 1-0 ACC) scored three touchdowns during an 11-minute span of the first half. The Blue Devils didn’t win an ACC game last year as part of a conference drought that lasted nearly two full calendar years.
“Excited to get ACC win No. 1,” first-year coach Mike Elko said. “But I just told (the players) the expectations around here are changing.”
Leonard completed 18 of 24 passes for 129 yards and added 59 rushing yards. Jaylen Coleman picked up 97 rushing yards on 19 carries.
“That was one of the most dominant O-line performances that I’ve seen,” Leonard said.
Duke’s ground attack produced 248 yards. Elko said that alleviated pressure on Leonard
“It wasn’t going to be just about him,” Elko said. “We were going to have to run the ball. For us to play the game we wanted, we had to run the football and we did.”
Brennan Armstrong threw for a touchdown and scrambled for a touchdown for Virginia (2-3, 0-2), which has lost all three road games this season and five in a row dating to last season.
“Go back to work,” Virginia coach Tony Elliott said. “That’s what we’re going to do. We can’t blame anybody else. You tip your hat to Duke, but we got to own what we just put on film.”
The Blue Devils scored on their first possession of the second half when Leonard ran in from 1 yard out. They stretched the lead to 35-10 on Jaquez Moore’s 59-yard run in the first minute of the fourth quarter.
In the first half, Leonard’s 19-yard pass to Jalon Calhoun opened the scoring. Leonard ran 2 yards and Jordan Waters scored on a 1-yard plunge into the end zone to boost the lead to 21-0 with 10:25 to play in the second quarter.
Virginia got on the board with Armstrong’s 11-yard pass to Perris Jones with 1:12 to go in the first half.
Duke snapped a seven-game losing streak in the series, avenging last year’s 48-0 loss.
KEEP THE BALL
The Blue Devils had two takeaways from their defense without committing a turnover on offense even amid a game played in some rain.
For the season, Duke has been the recipient of 10 turnovers while giving the ball away just twice.
“They coach me up to be a protect-the-ball-first quarterback,” Leonard said.
Elko said Leonard has received the proper message to avoid turnovers.
“I think he’s scared to come (to) the sideline and see me if he does,” Elko said.
Virginia was assessed 87 yards on penalties on six infractions.
“I was irate,” Elliott said, pointing to a lack of discipline. “If I continue to see it, I’m just not going to play guys.”
Virginia: The Cavaliers are putting too much pressure on their defense given that they’ve scored two first-half touchdowns in the last four games combined. By game’s end, they had just 295 yards of total offense.
Duke: This was another notable step for the Blue Devils, who eclipsed their 2021 win total. Duke found the right formula by having three players with more than 50 rushing yards and holding Virginia to less than 100 yards on the ground.