Virginia, combining opportunism and a strong running game, surged to its fourth straight victory, 38-10, over Duke at Wallace Wade Stadium tonight.
The Cavaliers converted five Duke turnovers into four touchdowns in improving to 4-1 and 1-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Tailback Howard Petty had 114 yards on 17 carries, including touchdown runs of one and 24 yards. Tailback Barry Word gained 107 yards on 12 carries with one touchdown as Virginia finished with 306 yards on the ground.
"Everybody had been talking about the other backs in the ACC," Word said. "We wanted to change that."
Fullback Antonio Rice caught two passes, both for touchdowns. Rice, Virginia's leading rusher two years ago who broke his arm midway through last season, had caught one pass this year while rushing for 62 yards.
Virginia's quarterbacks, starter Kevin Ferguson and replacement Don Majkowski, threw only seven passes for 39 yards. This imbalance was new to the Cavaliers, who have gained 45 more yards passing than on the ground so far this season.
"We really didn't feel confident the way we were running the ball the first few games," Petty said. "Tonight we got to carry the ball and run more of our favorite plays."
Petty was referring to the assortment of plays that Virginia used that included off tackle runs, end-arounds and option pitches. This versatility and Virginia's talented backs began to wear down the Duke defense in the second quarter, one that allows 248 rushing yards per game.
Duke (1-3) had taken a surprising 10-0 lead 28 seconds into the second quarter on a two-yard run by Mike Peacock. Virginia did not have a first down in the first quarter.
But the lead didn't last. Virginia struck quickly with three touchdowns within nine minutes of the second quarter and held a 21-10 halftime advantage.
Virginia cornerback Ray Daly intercepted a pass from freshman quarterback Steve Slayden (13 of 25 for 108 yards, three interceptions), who was starting in place of the injured Ron Sally. Daly returned it 10 yards to the Duke 33, and after five plays, Petty dived one yard for a touchdown with 9:25 left in the half.
Virginia took over at the Duke 44 on its next possession after Duke had been pushed back to the 10. A 20-yard touchdown pass from Majkowski to Rice gave Virginia a 14-10 lead, Rice catching the ball at the four on the left sideline and hurdling three defenders at the goal line.
Duke continued to make mistakes on its next play as Slayden threw an interception to defensive end Chris McMahon at the Duke 18. On fourth and goal, Majkowski rolled out right to complete a touchdown pass to Rice with 2:32 left before intermission.
The Cavaliers made it 28-10 late in the third quarter. With Virginia's running game now dominating Duke's defense, the Cavaliers called on the big play. Word took a pitchout, cut around right end and ran down the side line untouched for a 46-yard touchdown. Virginia had not scored a point in the third quarter all season.
The touchdown was set up by an interception by Russ Swann at the Virginia 42. This interception came off Drew Walston, who replaced Slayden at the start of the second half. Slayden returned on Duke's next series.
In the fourth quarter, Virginia blocked a punt by Ken Harper, who replaced Duke's regular punter John Tolish, and recovered at the Duke 38. Ken Stadlin made a 39-yard field goal with 6:50 remaining for a 31-10 lead.
Swann got his second interception on Duke's next possession at the Duke 29. Three plays later, Petty ran 24 yards for his second touchdown, again untouched, off a pitch around left end to finish Virginia's scoring.