What would have been a disappointing victory turned into a devastating loss for Virginia today after a busted Duke trick play turned into a game-tying touchdown with six seconds left in regulation, and the previously winless Blue Devils then won in the second overtime, 24-17.
Virginia tailback Thomas Jones scored his second touchdown of the game on a three-yard run with 1 minute 24 seconds left in regulation, seemingly sealing the game for the Cavaliers (3-3, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference). But Duke (1-4, 1-1) marched 70 yards on six plays to tie the game off a nine-yard fumble recovery. Blue Devils quarterback Spencer Romine tossed the ball to tailback Letavious Wilks after a short rollout, and Wilks, bobbling the lateral, was hit in the left flat by Cavaliers linebacker Byron Thweatt. The ball popped out, and was picked up around the 15 by wide receiver Scottie Montgomery, who originally was supposed to take a handoff for a reverse pass play.
Montgomery threw a desperation heave across the field in the direction of Romine, who had flared out to the right after the lateral to Wilks. The ball found wide receiver Richmond Flowers at the 3-yard line, and Flowers walked the ball in for the tying touchdown.
"We screwed up every way we could but I guess four wrongs make a right," said Duke Coach Carl Franks, who was a Blue Devils tight end in 1981, the last time Duke won in Charlottesville. "It was going to be a lateral to Montgomery from Wilks and he was supposed to throw the ball to Romine. [After the fumble] Scottie just threw the ball and Richmond stepped in front of Romine to pick it off. We were very fortunate."
Then, in the first overtime, the teams traded missed field goals, with Virginia's Todd Braverman missing from 43 yards and Duke's Sims Lenhardt from 35, before Romine found freshman tight end Benjamin Watson in the end zone from seven yards out in the first half of the second overtime.
On Virginia's first play in its portion of the second overtime, quarterback Dan Ellis apparently found wide receiver Ahmad Hawkins in the corner of the end zone. Hawkins said after he leaped to make the catch, he dragged his right foot inbounds. The side judge, Watts Key, ruled Hawkins out of bounds, and two plays later Duke cornerback Lamar Grant intercepted Ellis at the 5-yard line. "I know I was in," Hawkins said. "I dragged my foot [inbounds]. I had possession, touched my foot." Said Cavaliers Coach George Welsh: "He looked in to me."
The Blue Devils had surrendered an average of 403.3 offensive yards per game in their four losses. Besides a 51-23 loss to No. 1 Florida State last week in which they gave up 509 yards, Duke had yielded more than 430 yards to Vanderbilt and East Carolina earlier in the season. Duke had scored a total of 58 points during the 0-4 start.
"There's no way they should have even been in the game," sophomore cornerback Jermaine Lauzon said. "Coach is questioning if our minds are right. I don't know. . . . We self-destructed."
Virginia entered this year as one of only four Division I-A programs with 12 consecutive seven-win seasons. But with today's loss, and top 20 programs Georgia Tech and Florida State on the horizon, that record could be in jeopardy.
After Jones put the Cavaliers up, 17-10, Romine drove the Blue Devils 70 yards without using a timeout or even going to a third down. Romine connected with Montgomery for a pair of 23-yard passes and Flowers with a 15-yarder.
After a scoreless first half in which both teams' offenses sputtered, Jones finally broke the stalemate with a 48-yard touchdown run. He finished with 185 yards on 31 carries, but fumbled the ball on Duke's 14-yard line early in the fourth quarter. The Cavaliers' punting unit botched a snap five minutes later, and punter Donnie Scott threw the ball out of the end zone instead of taking the safety, giving the Blue Devils first down at the Cavaliers 11. Wilks scored four plays later from one yard out to tie the game. Braverman and Lenhardt traded field goals, with Lenhardt's 31-yarder tying the game at 10 with 6:50 left. Ellis then calmly engineered the 12-play, 80-yard drive that led to Jones's second touchdown of the game and ninth of the year.
"It was lucky," said cornerback Dwayne Stukes, who returned after a five-week absence because of a quadriceps injury. "Who would have expected it to bounce right to the receiver?"