One of the few things that enlivened Virginia's inexorable defeat of Duke, which took up most of this evening, was the fun of seeing in just how many ways the Cavaliers could score.
Virginia got three first-half touchdowns on the ground from tailbacks Barry Word and Howard Petty and quarterback Don Majkowski; Kenny Stadlin kicked field goals of 25, 42 and 32 yards, and, just to keep the Scott Stadium crowd of 41,500 from nodding off, the Cavaliers even decided to throw a pass. It happened to be for a touchdown to tight end Shawn Lewis with 1:43 remaining, and that ended the scoring as Virginia devastated the Blue Devils, 37-14, in the Atlantic Coast Conference game.
Duke (2-2, 0-1 in the ACC) was not quite as bad as the score indicated. But the Blue Devils got only two scores: quarterback Steve Slayden's 12-yard touchdown run to open the second quarter and Slayden's four-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jason Cooper with seven minutes left in the game.
Virginia (3-1, 2-0) has a talented backfield with seemingly limitless depth. The Cavaliers pushed Duke all over the field and in the process may have disproved the notion that the Blue Devils have a great defense.
Duke was ranked eighth in the nation defensively and 10th against the run, limiting teams to an average of 79 rushing yards a game. But Virginia's backs combined for 301 of the team's 450 total yards.
Duke held Virginia's tailbacks somewhat in check as Word was limited to under 100 yards for the first time this season. But Duke was not nearly as successful in stopping fullback Kevin Morgan. A redshirt freshman, Morgan gained 128 yards on 18 carries and possibly emerged as a new star. Initially a tailback, he was moved to fullback when starter Antonio Rice dislocated a shoulder in preseason.
The rest of the backs simply nickled-and-dimed the Blue Devils. Rice, alternating with Morgan, gained 45 yards on 10 carries. Word gained 47 yards on 14 carries. Petty gained 48 yards on 13 carries. Majkowski, meanwhile, pitched in with 31 yards on seven carries.
"Offensively, that's the best anyone has done against us," Duke Coach Steve Sloan said. "They did an excellent job in the first half, moved the ball at will, had some excellent drives and made some big plays. They pretty much dominated the game."
Virginia's defense, which had been suspect all season with only four starters returning, responded well tonight. The Cavaliers held the Blue Devils to 284 yards offense, including only 76 yards rushing. Slayden (18 of 33 for 208 yards) was sacked six times for minus-21 yards.
Virginia picked up 27 first downs to Duke's 18 as Majkowski also had a fair night passing, completing 11 of 22 for 149 yards. It was an indication that the Cavaliers are finally starting to find the offensive balance they have been seeking, and the team seemed unaffected by last week's 17-13 upset loss to Navy.
"I think the intensity level was up," Virginia Coach George Welsh said. "I think we responded in the right way from that loss."
Virginia took a 24-7 lead at the half with an offense that did whatever it pleased. The Cavaliers totaled 17 first downs and 288 yards in the half. Everyone had some fun: Word scored on a one-yard run, set up by Russ Swann's interception off Slayden on Duke's second offensive play; Majkowski scored on a dive at the goal line, Petty scored on a four-yard run and Stadlin added a 25-yard field goal with 35 seconds left.
Duke's only first-half score came on Slayden's 12-yard option run to open the second quarter. It took the Blue Devils only four plays and 96 seconds to score and kept them in the game for the moment.
Slayden completed a 44-yard bomb to split end Doug Green on first and 10 at his own 44. Green beat cornerback Ryan Jackson deep down the middle to get to the Virginia 12. On first down, Slayden slipped around end to score and Kenneth Harper's extra point made it 14-7 with 13:27 left in the half.
But Duke's hopes of making a comeback were short-lived, because Virginia immediately drove 76 yards in eight plays. Morgan keyed the drive with runs of 13 and 17 yards. Petty broke three tackles and wrestled his way into the end zone from three yards out with 2:20 remaining.
Duke's only other score came with seven minutes remaining on a seven-play, 65-yard drive, culminating in Slayden's four-yard pass to tight end Cooper. In the drive, Slayden completed passes of 13 and 17 yards to Green, found tailback Eric Sanders for 10 yards and flanker Chuck Herring for 13 more for a first down on the seven. Fullback Stanley Monk gained three yards before Slayden threw to Cooper.
Duke attempted an onside kick, but Virginia recovered at the Blue Devils' 47 with 6:58 remaining. The Cavaliers ran down the clock, taking five minutes to move to the Duke one, where they bogged down and faced fourth and goal. But Majkowski rolled out and threw back across the field to tight end Lewis with 1:43 remaining.
Although Virginia and Duke entered the game with identical 2-1 overall records, the Cavaliers were considered heavy favorites. Virginia's victories came over Virginia Military and Georgia Tech, before last week's loss to Navy. Duke had beaten Northwestern and Ohio University, losing to West Virginia.
The Cavaliers have won five of the last seven meetings and the last three in a row, including a 38-10 blowout last year at Duke. Next week, Virginia goes to Clemson to attempt its first win ever against the Tigers, who own the series, 24-0. Duke travels to South Carolina.