Great Scott! Duke wins thriller|Scott’s late score lifts Devils over Cavs

Published 4:13 am Sunday, November 7, 2010

By By Associated Press
DURHAM — Duke had protected the ball all day until Desmond Scott lost it at a critical moment.
He quickly made amends.
Scott ran for a 35-yard touchdown with 40 seconds remaining to help Duke defeat Virginia 55-48 on Saturday in the second-highest scoring game in Atlantic Coast Conference history.
The Blue Devils (3-6, 1-4 ACC) snapped an eight-game losing streak in conference play dating to a victory at Virginia last season. They also ended a 20-game losing streak in the month of November going back to 2004, handing the Cavaliers (4-5, 1-4) their 11th consecutive November defeat.
‘‘There were so many plays to talk about that I’m almost in shock and don’t know what to talk about,’’ Duke coach David Cutcliffe said.
The game-winning run was a good place to start. Scott took a toss to the left on a play Duke installed earlier in the week, raced down the sideline and dived into the end zone.
Scott lost a fumble on Duke’s previous possession, allowing Virginia to take a 48-47 lead on Keith Payne’s 6-yard touchdown run with 2:26 remaining.
‘‘If it is to be, it’s up to me,’’ Scott said. ‘‘I’m glad they put me back in. I lost the ball, and they gave me the ball back.’’
Quarterbacks Sean Renfree and Brandon Connette rushed for two touchdowns apiece for the Blue Devils, who beat the Cavaliers for the third consecutive year. Renfree made the key throw in Duke’s game-winning drive, completing a 32-yard pass to Donovan Varner on fourth and 20 with 1:09 remaining.
‘‘It’s disheartening and it’s discouraging that one play gets you off the field and you can’t capitalize on that,’’ Virginia coach Mike London said. ‘‘Guys are hurting in that locker room.’’
Marc Verica passed for four touchdowns and a school-record 417 yards for the Cavaliers. But he also threw three interceptions that Duke converted into two touchdowns and a field goal.
The Blue Devils, who entered the game with the second-worst turnover margin of 120 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision, finished plus-2 in that category against the Cavaliers.
Dontrelle Inman caught 10 passes for 239 yards and a touchdown for Virginia, which lost despite outgaining Duke 643-489. Payne rushed for 122 yards and scored three touchdowns, one on a reception.
The Cavaliers got to the Duke 39 on their final possession, but Verica’s final three passes fell incomplete. His last pass landed out the back of the end zone as time expired.
‘‘It’s a tough pill to swallow,’’ Verica said. ‘‘To not come away with a win, considering how much we produced, it’s disappointing.’’
The Blue Devils, meanwhile, kept their slim bowl hopes alive with their second victory in a row.
‘‘That’s all we’re thinking about,’’ Varner said. ‘‘God works in mysterious ways, and we’re going to keep fighting and keep pushing.’’
The teams combined for 41 points in a wild fourth quarter.
Renfree scrambled for a 37-yard touchdown on third and 9 with 6:08 remaining to put the Blue Devils ahead 47-35, but they couldn’t hold the lead. Inman scored on a 10-yard pass with 4:40 remaining, and Scott fumbled two plays later to help Virginia take its first lead after trailing by double digits on five separate occasions.
A week after a 24-19 victory over Miami that ended their nine-game losing streak in ACC play, the Cavaliers got off to a slow start. Virginia kept alive Duke’s initial drive with a penalty for a late hit out of bounds after a third-down stop, and the Blue Devils cashed in with a 30-yard touchdown catch by Cooper Helfet.
The Cavaliers committed another personal foul on the ensuing kickoff, pushing their starting position back to their own 10. Verica threw an interception that Ross Cockrell returned to the 2-yard line, and Connette scored on the next play to give the Blue Devils a 14-0 lead.
Virginia cut Duke’s lead to 24-21 by halftime, benefiting from a fake field goal in which kicker Robert Randolph caught a blind pitch and ran 20 yards for a touchdown.