Last weekend, Duke’s undersized defensive line struggled against Miami’s extremely physical offensive line, allowing Hurricanes’ star running back Lamar Miller to exploit holes en-route to 147 rushing yards and two touchdowns. The Blue Devils run defense, which allowed the Hurricanes to accumulate 265 total yards on the ground, will be tested again this weekend against Virginia and their own star running back, junior Perry Jones.
Jones has been the linchpin of the Cavaliers’ offensive attack this season, rushing for 782 yards and four touchdowns while averaging 5.2 yards per carry. In the process, he is bidding to become the first Virginia player to rush for 1000 yards since 2004, and has performed brilliantly in several of the Cavaliers’ (6-3) most impressive performances this season.
In Virginia’s 24-21 upset victory over then No. 12 ranked Georgia Tech, Jones rushed for 149 yards on just 18 carries, and added three catches for 37 yards. Just two weeks ago in the Cavaliers 28-21 victory over Miami, he rushed for 67 yards on just 12 carries, but more impressively turned a short screen pass from Virginia quarterback Michael Rocco into a 78-yard touchdown reception. The play was representative of Jones’ athleticism and versatility, attributes that the Duke defense will contend with on Saturday. And the 5-foot-8 back is coming off a career-best performance against Maryland, having spearheaded the Cavaliers’ 31-13 rout of the Terrapins. Jones rushed 22 times for 139 yards and two touchdowns as Virginia secured its sixth victory, becoming bowl-eligible for the first time since 2007.
Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, Jones is just one prominent cog in the Cavaliers’ balanced, multi-weapon rushing attack. Freshman Kevin Parks has made a surprisingly quick impact, totaling 538 rushing yards and a team-high seven rushing touchdowns. Freshman Clifton Richardson has also contributed in his limited opportunities, running for 290 yards and two touchdowns on just 56 carries.
The Blue Devils defense, ranked second-to-last in rushing defense in the ACC, had difficulty containing Virginia’s backs last season, when they ceded 226 rushing yards in a 55-48 victory. Given Duke’s offensive inconsistency this season, they will almost certainly need to do a better job of containing Jones and Co. to pick up a victory in Charlottesville.