DURHAM, N.C. – The Duke Blue Devils had a scrap on their hands when they faced the Wake Forest Demon Deacons on Brooks Field at Wallace Wade Stadium on Saturday.
It was a close first half, but during the final two quarters, the Blue Devils didn’t have enough to avoid suffering their first Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) loss of the season, a 24-14 final decision at the hands of the Demon Deacons.
Wake Forest (2-0, 1-0) ended a four-game losing streak to the Blue Devils (1-1, 0-1).
“This is a team that played really hard today,” head coach David Cutcliffe said of his squad’s effort.
“They played hard. We will not turn on the tape and anybody say, ‘boy, he didn’t play hard’. We played hard on offense. We played hard on defense. We played hard in the kicking game. What we didn’t do was play well.”
It was battle that was waged on both sides of the ball.
While redshirt freshman quarterback Andrew Jones finished with two rushing touchdowns and completed 31-of-48 pass attempts for 332 yards, the shine from an easy 49-6 win over N.C. Central last week was dulled and scrubbed down by a gritty Wake Forest defensive performance.
A severely limited running game, totaling 37 yards, as well as two missed field goal attempts presented additional problems to scoring against the Demon Deacons.
Defensively, linebacker Joe Giles-Harris led Duke’s effort with 15 tackles, 11 solo, while safety DeVon Edwards made 13 tackles, including two sacks.
As a team, Duke gained 369 total yards, mostly in the air, and fell 20 yards short of Wake Forest’s 389 (150 passing, 239 rushing).
Seeing that the Demon Deacons defense wouldn’t budge early on, Blue Devils running backs Jela Duncan (9 carries, 25 yards) and Shawn Wilson (2 carries, 6 yards) were limited by play-calling decisions and could do little to help their team in this one.
Quarterbacks John Wolford (3-5, 17 yards) and Kendall Hinton (6-11, 133 yards, 1 INT) led the Demon Deacons offense which set freshman running back Cade Carney up for three touchdowns (17 carries, 108 yards).
Wake Forest’s defense, led by Marquel Lee (10 tackles), Brad Watson (9 tackles), and Duke Ejiofor (7 tackles) solidified an effort that all but paralyzed the Duke run game and minimized scoring opportunities on passing completions made as Lee and Ejiofor contributed four of five sacks on Jones throughout the game.
Highlights: Wake Forest 24, Duke 14 (ACC Digital Network – TheACC.com)
Jones got Duke on the board first with a one-yard keeper that completed a 17-play, 60-yard drive.
The Wake Forest defense held off a possession that required only two yards to score, forcing fourth down-and-one to go before Duke earned its 7-0 lead with 7:07 remaining in the opening quarter.
The Blue Devils held their advantage to begin the next period as Wolford and his offense couldn’t capitalize on a tipped backward pass that was charged as a fumble to Jones.
A penalty and Edwards’ first sack on Wolford ended that drive – Wake’s closest chance to scoring up to that point.
Duke had a chance to extend its lead early in the second period, but A.J. Reed’s 30-yard field goal attempt missed and hit the right upright.
Edwards made his presence felt once more on Wake Forest’s next possession.
On third down with three to go on the Demon Deacons’ 37-yard line, Edwards sacked Wolford again and forced a fumble that Giles-Harris picked up and advanced to the 28-yard line.
Penalties mired Duke’s possession and forced a short 20-yard punt by Austin Parker.
Wake Forest didn’t relent as it got the ball back and put together a six-play, 85-yard drive led by Hinton, who took over play-calling duties from Wolford.
Carney eventually ran in seven yards for his first touchdown and ended the drive with 6:58 to go in the half as the score was even at seven apiece.
The Blue Devils soon put together a 10-play, 55-yard drive looking to take the lead, but Reed’s second field goal attempt from 48 yards missed right.
Both teams headed into the halftime break tied 7-7.
“I didn’t think we got into a rhythm quickly enough,” Cutcliffe said.
“We’d get drives started and we either turned it over, or we had lost yardage plays. In the kicking game, we missed two field goals that we should make. Those six points make a difference in the game.”
Wake’s 17-7 scoring edge in the second half made the difference and complemented its consistent defensive effort.
A fumble by Jones on his 15-yard line gave Wake Forest the ball and eventually resulted in Carney scoring again to give the Demon Deacons a 14-7 lead at the 12:04 mark.
The young Blue Devils quarterback soon made up for his early miscue as he connected with Anthony Nash on a 56-yard pass-and-run play that ended at the Wake Forest 12-yard line.
Nash led all receivers with eight catches for 112 yards on the day.
Jones eventually scored his second touchdown and a successful PAT tied the score at 14-14.
Carney had lots of energy left and used it to score his third touchdown, running 55 yards to give the Demon Deacons a 21-14 lead with 4:02 remaining in the quarter.
While Giles-Harris intercepted Hinton following a rush by Marquies Price, Jones couldn’t convert on the opportunity, throwing three incomplete passes following a first down which forced Duke to punt the ball back into Wake’s possession.
Mike Weaver’s 34-yard field goal eventually extended the Demon Deacons’ lead to 10 points, leading 24-14 with 3:50 to play.
The Wake Forest defense completed its job and held on to preserve the win.
“We have to buy all-in to the process,” Nash said.
“We can’t hang our heads on this one game. It’s one game that happened. It’s ACC football – we know that. We just gotta get back to work.”