MAKING HISTORY: DUKE WINS 9TH!
It clearly takes more than a second-half deficit, a well-prepped opponent or the weight of history to stop Duke football this season.
For the fourth time in their last five games on Saturday, the Blue Devils fell behind after halftime.
For the seventh game in a row, Duke posted a win and impressively continued one of the finest seasons in the school’s 101-year history in the sport, clinching at least a share of the ACC's Coastal Division title.
No. 25 Duke scored two third-quarter touchdowns to climb out of a seven-point hole and defeat Wake Forest 28-21 in ACC football at BB&T Field.
The win gives the Blue Devils (9-2, 5-2 in the ACC) their first nine-win season since 1941, when Franklin Roosevelt was in the White House and Pearl Harbor was about to issue the U.S. into World War II.
“I’m just a little bit almost at a loss for words because the emotions are pretty strong for what those guys accomplished,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “Nine wins. 72 years is a long time. 1941. That’s pretty significant.”
Even more important is the fact that Duke has a chance to play in its first ACC Championship Game. If the Blue Devils can defeat rival North Carolina next Saturday at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, Duke will win the Coastal Division and face No. 2 Florida State for the ACC title on Dec. 7 in Charlotte.
Considering Duke hadn’t posted a winning season since 1994 and has never won 10 games in a season, this year’s accomplishments continue to amaze.
“We are (in the) home stretch and it feels great to be where we’re at,” Duke linebacker Kelby Brown said. “It’s a real blessing.”
The majority of the wins during Duke’s seven-game winning streak have involved late rallies. It started with a 35-22 win over Virginia on Oct. 19 when Duke scored the game’s final 35 points. The Blue Devils have also been behind in the second half against N.C. State and Miami before winning in the last two weeks.
On Saturday, Wake Forest scored the game’s first 14 points and took a 21-14 lead when quarterback Tanner Price scrambled 12 yards for a score on its first drive of the second half.
The Demon Deacons (4-7, 2-6) aren’t having a strong season. But they entered Saturday’s game coming off a bye week. Coach Jim Grobe’s game plan made them a threat.
Thomas Brown’s 59-yard return of an Isaac Blakeney fumble for a touchdown gave Wake Forest the game’s first score. Spencer Bishop’s 6-yard touchdown catch from Price early in the second quarter put Wake Forest up 14-0.
But on Duke’s sideline, the deficit didn’t faze anyone.
“The talk was just to wake up,” Duke senior cornerback Ross Cockrell said. “You just have to continue to push. Continue to fight. We have a strong brotherhood on this team and it came together.”
The Blue Devils struggled offensively on their first five drives, punting four times and losing the fumble.
But quarterback Anthony Boone finally found a groove in the second quarter. He completed three passes on a short touchdown drive, including a 10-yard strike to Jamison Crowder that sliced Wake’s lead in half.
After Duke’s defense forced a punt, Boone was at it again. He threw a 17-yard pass to Max McCaffrey and one play later a 12-yard pass to Crowder that moved Duke to the Wake 31.
He and McCaffrey hooked up on a 4-yard touchdown pass to the corner of the end zone with 1:11 left in the half to tie the score at 14.
“A lot of times we just get off to a slow start,” said Crowder, who caught 10 passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns. “We know once we get our offense going it’s hard to defend.”
Wake Forest drove for a score on Price’s touchdown run to start the second half. But the opportunistic play and resiliency that has marked Duke’s breakout season was on display shortly thereafter.
On Duke’s second play of the second half, an innocent looking 4-yard pass from Boone to Crowder, Wake Forest cornerback Merrill Noel suffered an ankle injury that would end his day.
After he left the field, with Allen Ramsey replacing him, Duke called a play to test the replacement.
On a play-action pass, Boone saw Crowder in single coverage with Ramsey. The result was a 58-yard touchdown pass that tied the game at 14.
“(We) took advantage of an opportunity,” Cutcliffe said. “We called the deep ball. We had a reason. You don’t know how happy I am that it worked.”
Duke’s defense would only allow Wake Forest to gain 68 yards on its final four possessions. Two ended with turnovers, a Brown fumble recovery and a Cockrell interception.
Duke took the lead for good when Boone, who completed 24 of 29 passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns, engineered another march down the field. Boone completed his first four passes on what would be a 70-yard touchdown drive.
After reaching the Wake 23, he scrambled 20 yards to give Duke a first-and-goal. Brandon Connette’s 3-yard touchdown run with 3:21 left in the third quarter put Duke up 28-21.
That’s all the Blue Devils defense needed as it pitched a fourth-quarter shutout. Duke has allowed only 34 fourth-quarter points this season.
“We react to things,” said Duke senior defensive end Kenny Anunike, whose back-to-back sacks killed one Wake second-half drive. “You might get us 1, 2 or 3 times, but we’re on the sidelines. You’ve got (defensive) coach (Jim) Knowles with that whiteboard, drawing things up in the dirt. It’s all reaction. We were fine.”
Duke has proven to be more than simply fine this season and know the Blue Devils are one win away from playing for an ACC championship.
|No. 25 DUKE 28, WAKE FOREST 21|
Wake_Brown 59 fumble return (Hedlund kick), 5:02.
Wake_Bishop 6 pass from Price (Hedlund kick), 14:20.
Duke_Crowder 10 pass from Boone (Martin kick), 7:09.
Duke_McCaffrey 4 pass from Boone (Martin kick), 1:11.
Wake_Price 12 run (Hedlund kick), 10:50.
Duke_Crowder 58 pass from Boone (Martin kick), 9:52.
Duke_Connette 3 run (Martin kick), 3:21.
|Time of Possession||29:17||30:43|
RUSHING_Duke, Boone 7-57, Duncan 8-36, Powell 6-21, Crowder 1-9,
Connette 4-4, Snead 5-2, Team 4-(minus 8). Wake Forest, J.Harris 19-67,
Price 18-45, Gibson 2-7, Ragland 1-5.
PASSING_Duke, Boone 24-29-0-256, Connette 1-3-0-1. Wake Forest,
RECEIVING_Duke, Crowder 10-121, Barnes 3-33, Duncan 3-26,
Deaver 2-34, McCaffrey 2-21, Powell 2-14, Braxton 2-5, Blakeney 1-3.
Wake Forest, Ragland 4-27, J.Harris 2-35, Tyr.Harris 2-23, Bishop 2-14,
Crump 1-20, Garside 1-5.