DURHAM, N.C., SEPT. 22 -- If this really was the title bout to crown the 1989 ACC champion, then No. 10 Virginia won by the most impressive of early knockouts today, pummeling the Blue Devils, 59-0, and seemingly validating the hotly disputed championship of a year ago.
The teams shared the 1989 title with 6-1 marks in the conference, but today's game was little indication of the unlikely rivalry that has developed the last three years.
"This proves who the real ACC champion was," said Virginia defensive end Chris Slade. "We proved today that last year wasn't a fluke. Now we're the undisputed champs."
Quarterback Dave Brown threw three interceptions for Duke (1-2, 0-1 ACC), which also lost four fumbles.
"They were as good as they were billed," Duke Coach Barry Wilson said. "You can't give a top 10 football team the ball seven times and expect to beat them."
Virginia (4-0, 2-0) rolled up 543 yards offensively and registered its first shutout in three years. "I didn't think we were especially sharp," Virginia Coach George Welsh said. "They didn't want to tackle us -- I can't control that. . . . I hope we don't think we think we can just show up and win."
Virginia scored more than 56 points for the third time in four games. The Blue Devils helped hasten their own demise with turnovers on five consecutive first-half possessions, four of which the Cavaliers turned into touchdowns.
Virginia defeated Duke, 49-28, in Charlottesville last season. The ACC has no tiebreaker, but the Citrus Bowl served as unofficial judge, inviting the Cavs by virtue of the win and a higher ranking. The Blue Devils still claimed superiority, with then-coach Stever Spurrier insisting Virginia couldn't claim the title until it defeated defending champion Clemson.
"We let the past lie," Cavaliers cornerback Tony Covington said. "They were holding on to the memory of last year, but we wanted to erase any doubt."
Virginia defeated Clemson two weeks ago, and Duke was the first of eight teams remaining on Virginia's schedule that lost to the Cavaliers a year ago, giving rise to talk of a possible undefeated season and a national championship.
"It dawned on us last night that this was the 1989 game all over again," said Cavs quarterback Shawn Moore, who passed for three touchdowns and rushed for one. "We weren't really clicking on all cylinders today. You look at the score and you would think it's a blowout, but there's still room for improvement. You want to be perfect."
Virginia could not have more dominating. Moore's first touchdown pass -- a 45-yarder to Terrence Tomlin -- gave the Cavaliers a 10-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
Duke moved 42 yards to the Virginia 48 before Brown threw his first interception. Keith McMeans hauled in the mistake, tying Pat Chester's Virginia record of 16 while moving within one of the ACC mark.
The Cavaliers' drive stalled after three plays, but Blue Devils tailback Leroy Gallman fumbled the ball right back. Rickie Peete recovered at the Duke 44, and Nikki Fisher later bulled in from the 2 to close the first quarter with Virginia ahead, 17-0.
The Blue Devils held the ball for five plays on their next possession, driving 51 yards to the Cavs 20 before tailback Randy Cuthbert fumbled. Gene Toliver recovered for Virginia at the 13, stuffing Duke's best scoring opportunity. Six plays later, Terry Kirby -- who rushed for 112 yards, his first career 100-yard performance -- raced 37 yards to run the score to 24-0.
Cornerback Jason Wallace intercepted Brown on third and five, and Virginia took over on the Duke 20. The touchdown seemed inevitable, apparently even to side judge Sterling Allen, who signaled for a score when Derek Dooley caught a 21-yard pass from Moore at the 4. Two plays later, Moore dove in from the 1 for his fourth rushing touchdown this season.
The Blue Devils' turnover streak ended when they punted after three plays, setting up the afternoon's funniest series. Cavs wide receiver Herman Moore lost his bearings after receiving a screen pass from Shawn Moore, and momentarily started running the wrong direction. He quickly reversed, stumbling over defenders and navigating a full body turn in the process, culminating in a 20-yard stagger and a backflop into the end zone. "Certain plays, we just happened to score," he said. "We weren't trying to run up the score."
Shawn Moore made his third early exit this season -- midway through the third quarter after a second touchdown pass to Herman Moore and a four-yard run by Fisher made it 52-0. He completed 11 of 17 passes for 181 yards and rushed seven times for 35.
Virginia's offense has averaged 535 yards and 46 points a game and its first-string defense has allowed only one touchdown.