DURHAM, N.C. (AP)- Virginia has much less in the playbook - and is doing so much more. With a defensive game plan that first-year coach Bronco Mendenhall called ''the simplest plan we had yet,'' the Cavaliers intercepted five passes and forced six turnovers in a 34-20 victory over Duke on Saturday.
The five interceptions tied the program record, last accomplished against Miami in 2010. ''The execution, it matches the current level of our players' understanding of the playbook,'' Mendenhall said. ''I'm still getting to learn them. They're still getting to know me.'' Kurt Benkert threw for 336 yards and three touchdowns, finishing 23 of 41 with touchdowns covering 28 yards to David Eldridge, 12 yards to Olamide Zaccheaus and 3 yards to Richard Burney.
Albert Reid also had a short TD run to help the Cavaliers (2-3, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) snap their 17-game road losing streak. ''The execution appears, I think, to all of us to be improving, and the culture as we all know, was the emphasis to begin,'' Mendenhall said. ''It's starting. ... But it's fun to see the players happy. It's fun to see the players see that it's coming.''
Joseph Ajeigbe's 4-yard touchdown run with 11:34 left pulled Duke to 27-20, and the Blue Devils had the ball inside Virginia territory twice after that but were stopped on downs both times. Daniel Jones threw five interceptions for Duke (2-3, 0-2), and fumbled in his own end zone with 4:24 left after a hard hit from Jordan Mack. Eli Hamback recovered for the touchdown that put the Cavaliers back up by two touchdowns.
This time, they did it with defense. After failing to force a turnover in its first two games, Virginia now has nine takeaways in the last three weeks. Juan Thornhill and Bryce Hall had two interceptions apiece. With this loss, it's fair to wonder if Duke - which still faces road games at No. 3 Louisville, No. 14 Miami and Pittsburgh - will find the four more wins it needs to qualify for its fifth straight bowl game.