Virginia looks to halt losing skid against Duke

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — This has been a season of breaking streaks for Virginia, and another opportunity presents itself Saturday.

Highlights so far include the Cavaliers’ first ACC road victory in two years (against Miami) and snapping a 13-game November losing streak last week against Maryland.

Today is an opportunity to get rid of one of the worst — a three-game losing streak to Duke. The Cavaliers seniors haven’t beaten the lowly Blue Devils during their time at U.Va.

For linebacker Aaron Taliaferro, beating Duke would help the Cavs disassociate themselves from the ACC cellar.

“I feel like Duke, to me, has always been that team, kind of like how we’re seen now,” he said. “U.Va. is in kind of the same boat, but now we’re playing better.”

Wide receivers coach Shawn Moore, who was around in the Wahoos’ glory days, has taken the recent losses hard.

“It totally bothers me,” he said. “Really, I hope these guys realize that having lost to them three years in a row now, what this game means. Each week we say it, but this is really the biggest game on the schedule right now.”

Last year’s game ended with a 55-48 Blue Devils victory as the U.Va. offense kept producing, but Duke answered each touchdown with one of its own.

The Blue Devils are traditionally a passing team, but on that day, they ran and passed with equal success against the Wahoo defense.

Linebackers Taliaferro, LaRoy Reynolds and Steve Greer have the day’s toughest job, moving forward to help the run when needed, but also working in coverage to contain the passing attack.

During a loss to Southern Miss earlier this season, the linebackers struggled in man-to-man coverage.

“They throw in a lot of windows,” Greer said of Duke’s tendencies. “We’re going to have to tighten up our coverages a lot.”

Freshman defensive back Tra Nicholson also will be called on to turn in a big performance.

Coach Mike London has lauded Nicholson’s exploits this season, saying that he deserves a spot on the freshman All-ACC team.

Perhaps Nicholson’s best attribute is that he wasn’t around for the previous losses to Duke, and comes in with a fresh slate.

That’s how London wants his team to approach this game, and he’s had some practice delivering the message.

“It was the same issue we had with Maryland and the November deal,” he said. “It’s out there, and we understand it.”

He added that in the ACC, “you can’t take anyone lightly.”

Read Michael Phillips’ University of Virginia blog at TimesDispatch.com

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