By HANK KURZ Jr.
AP Sports Writer
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) – Kurt Benkert recovered from a terrible start with three touchdown passes and Virginia beat Duke 28-21 on Saturday.
The Cavaliers (4-1, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) won their third straight, continuing their best start since the 2007 team started 7-1.
Daniel Jones had his second consecutive brutal effort against the Cavaliers for Duke (4-2, 0-2). The quarterback, who threw five interceptions and fumbled once in a 34-20 loss last year, completed 14 of 42 passes for 124 yards and two more interceptions. Quin Blanding returned the first, off a deflection, 58 yards for a touchdown.
Benkert also threw an interception that Jeremy McDuffie returned 42 yards to tie the game at 7-7, but then settled down. He hit Olamide Zaccheaus for an 11-yard score 45 seconds before halftime to make it 14-14, and gave the Cavaliers a 28-14 lead with touchdown passes of 5 and 17 yards to Doni Dowling.
Benkert finished 24 for 43 for 182 yards. Jordan Ellis added 96 yards on 25 carries.
The Blue Devils drove into Virginia territory in their final possession with Jones completing four consecutive passes, but sacks by Chris Peace early in the drive and freshman linebacker Chris Snowden after Duke got to the Cavaliers 34 slowed the drive, and two incomplete passes turned the ball back to Virginia.
Duke: The Blue Devils’ defensive front gave Virginia’s line fits all day, and the defensive backs generally ran right with the Cavaliers on deep passes. The line seemed to wear down as Virginia went with a short passing game. The Blue Devils started the day sharing the ACC lead in sacks, but managed just one on the day.
Virginia: With a running game that hasn’t yet proven reliable, Benkert’s accuracy becomes critical. He was way off early in the game, throwing two interceptions and fumbling once as both teams struggled, but once the short passing game started working, his confidence seemed to return and he carried the day.
Duke returns home and plays Florida State.
Virginia goes on the road for just the second time and plays at North Carolina.