CHARLOTTESVILLE — All it took was a look at Virginia’s upcoming football schedule to see that the Cavaliers were at a crossroads with Duke coming to town Saturday.
The Blue Devils’ visit to Scott Stadium followed road games at Notre Dame and Miami and preceded road games with Louisville and North Carolina.
Because of what happened in the previous two contests, Virginia needed to beat Duke or the possibility of a five-game losing streak remained on the table.
Most UVa fears were alleviated when the Blue Devils managed one first down in the first quarter and went on to lose 48-14.
The Cavs have owned the Blue Devils in recent years but UVa wasn’t a big favorite based on oddmakers, who installed Duke as a 3 ½-point underdog.
It’s hard to see what the ACC schedule makers had in mind when they gave Virginia a three-game homestand in September and a three-game November homestand against Georgia Tech, Liberty and Virginia Tech.
By my count, Virginia hadn’t played four road games in a five-game span since 1988 under the late George Welsh, who must have been pretty grouchy at the sight of that slate.
Current UVa coach Bronco Mendenhall has to like the idea of ending the regular season with a three-game homestand, with an open date between a Nov. 9 meeting with Georgia Tech and a Nov. 23 visit from Liberty.
Virginia Tech travels to Charlottesville for the regular-season finale but there will be plenty of time to discuss that grudge match at a later date.
For the time being, Louisville (4-3, 2-2 ACC) has the Cavaliers’ attention. Louisville was a 45-10 home loser Saturday to reigning national champion Clemson, which dropped a spot to No. 4 in the AP Poll following what was a 10-3 game before Clemson scored with five seconds left in the first half.
Before that, first-year head coach Scott Satterfield had led the Cardinals to consecutive victories over Boston College, 41-39 at home, and Wake Forest, 62-59 on the road.
They’ll be facing a UVa team that went seven quarters without scoring a touchdown before ending that skid in the second quarter Saturday against Duke.
The game wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. After extending their lead to 48-7 on a 9-yard Wayne Taulapapa touchdown run with 14:54 left in the fourth quarter, the Cavaliers played reserves down the stretch.
Remarkably, UVa finished the day with a paltry 307 yards in total offense. That came eight days after a 318-yard night in a 17-9 loss to Miami, where all of the Cavaliers’ scoring came on field goals.
The Cavaliers rank 104th out of 130 FBS teams in total offense with 350.1 yards per games.
Fortunately for them, they’re 51st in scoring offense with 31.1 points per game. Better yet, they’re tied for 24th in scoring defense with a yield of 19.7 points per game.
In Louisville, UVa will face a team outside the FBS top 100 in several of the most important defensive categories. To beat the Cardinals, Virginia can’t be satisfied with field goals.
Dynamic return specialist Joe Reed is a big part of the equation but, ultimately, the offensive line will need to protect its quarterback and open running lanes for the likes of Taulapapa, who basically gets all the carries that don’t go to multi-dimensional quarterback Bryce Perkins.