- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 5, 2002

DURHAM, N.C. Duke and Virginia were filled in first on many Atlantic Coast Conference preseason polls back in July at the bottom of the ballot.
There was good reason. The Blue Devils owned a 23-game losing streak and had just one returning senior, while the Cavaliers were coming off a losing season and were the youngest team in the league.
Well, two of the ACC's biggest surprises meet today in Wallace Wade Stadium.
Duke has used a bruising ground attack to start 2-3 and Virginia can secure its first four-game winning streak since 1998 with a win over the Blue Devils after starting 0-2.
One of coach Al Groh's toughest tasks this week in practice may have been convincing his guys this isn't the same Duke team that once owned the nation's longest losing streak before beating East Carolina in the season opener.
"Duke is a very high motor team," Groh said. "They've got a lot of guys who are very impressive in terms of how aggressive and how intensely they play."
The Blue Devils will try to run the ball, while the Cavaliers have turned into one of the ACC's top passing teams.
Duke features 260-pound fullback Alex Wade, who has four 100-yard games, and a now-healthy Chris Douglas, who last season was one of the nation's best all-purpose backs.
"We're preparing for the runs, regardless of who's got them," Groh said. "From what I've seen so far the offensive play-calling is pretty consistent with whoever is in the game, but the players have to be mindful of which tailback is in the game because their styles are a little bit different.
"It's a very tough, strong-minded and physical offense. We would be foolish not to put a priority on any back who has gained 100 yards four out of five games this year. I'm very alert to Wade and I'm very impressed with him."
Matt Schaub has been equally impressive as Virginia's quarterback, throwing 14 TDs in the last four games after being benched at times in the season-opening loss to Colorado State.
Duke's defense, the worst in ACC history a season ago, is allowing 110 yards less a game in 2002. However, the Blue Devils' pass defense is ranked seventh in the league.
"What is going to be tough is their ability to throw the football," Duke coach Carl Franks said. "We haven't defended the pass very well.
"We've got to make sure we're playing our assignments correctly, that we can get a pass rush and give them some different looks. We'll need to try to confuse him."
Schaub was masterful in the second half last weekend, leading a comeback against Wake Forest after the Cavaliers trailed 27-10 at the break.
"We're similar to Wake Forest in that our corners aren't the biggest guys in the world," Franks said.
Duke's secondary will have to contend with 6-foot-4 all-ACC receiver Billy McMullen, who is averaging 17.2 yards a catch this year and has four career TDs against the Blue Devils.
"Sometimes people are big and tall and that's all," Franks said. "But when you've got the ability to jump, the ability to control your body and catch the ball, adjust to the ball, it makes it tough. He's got all those qualities that make him very dangerous. We just can't leave one guy on him all by himself all the time. If we do we better get to the quarterback."
There were some bitter times in this rivalry dating to 1989, but things have settled down somewhat recently.
"It's hard for our guys to put themselves in the place of years ago," Franks said. "I don't think it's been that big of a rivalry in terms of trash-talking on the field the last few years. But there was some animosity for a while back in the late '80s."

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide