Virginia's Pat Chester returned a punt 70 yards in the fourth quarter as the favored Cavaliers rallied from a 17-0 deficit to edge Duke today, 20-17.
Virginia capitalized on six turnovers in the second half to survive a surprisingly tough defensive effort by the winless Blue Devils.
Virginia fell behind midway through the second quarter, 17-0, when Duke's Ricky Brummit scored from the 12 on a fake field goal attempt.
However, the Cavaliers drove 77 yards for a touchdown, then went 53 yards in the final 1:16 before halftime for a Wayne Morrison field goal to cut Duke's lead to 17-10.
That margin shrank to four early in the third period when Duke's Dennis Tabron fumbled a punt at the Blue Devil 12. The Cavaliers couldn't move but Morrison was again on target with his second field goal.
The Blue Devils had a chance to put the contest out of reach but missed two scoring opportunities in the third period, losing a fumble at the Virginia two and an interception at the Virginia 15. That set the stage for Chester's return.
The defeat was Duke's ninth in a row. The Blue Devils are 0-3 this year. Virginia is 2-1.
"Obviously it was a game of big plays," Virginia Coach Dick Bestwick said. "Duke made them in the first half and we made them in the second half. We just made one more than they did."
The Blue Devils held Virginia's al-ACC tailback Tom Vigorito to 95 yards on 33 carries. Cavalier quarterback Todd Kirtley gained 158 yards passing.
The Blue Devils struck early behind freshman quarterback Ben Bennett.
He drove them 70 yards for a field goal by Scott McKinney. Then, following a fumble recovery at the Virginia 33, Bennett found Ron Frederick in the left corner of the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown.
The Blue Devils were unable to generate any offense after Chester's punt return. Duke alternated quarterbacks. Bennett and Brent Clinkscale in the fourth period, but both were inaccurate.
Senior Brian Shumock intercepted Bennett twice and Chester clinched the victory when he picked off a Clinkscale pass with 1:18 remaining.
"This is a classic example of a youthful team," said Duke Coach Red Wilson. "When you go with a freshman quarterback and a sophomore quarterback who did not even better last year, some things are going to happen and it takes time to adjust to this offense."