WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – It seemed that the Duke Blue Devils football team did exactly what coach David Cutcliffe said was necessary to beat the Wake Forest Demon Deacons 28-21 at BB&T Field on Saturday.
During his portion of the weekly Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) coaches teleconference held on Wednesday, Cutlcilffe stated it simply.
“Defensively you got to defend, you got to tackle well,” he said.
“You can’t give up big plays. Regardless of what Wake Forest runs, the emphasis has to be on Duke playing very, very good team defensive football.”
Well, his team didn’t exactly do that for the first half of play as the Blue Devils fell behind 14-0 early on.
It was the Demon Deacons defense that took advantage of a Duke fumble by wide receiver Issac Blakeney that resulted in a 59-yard pickup and touchdown with 5:02 remaining in the first quarter.
Shortly afterwards, Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price (12-27, 124 yards,1 TD, 1 INT), led a 10-play, 47-yard drive to extend the Demon Deacons’ lead to two touchdowns.
With their backs against the wall, the Blue Devils began to play better defense.
After forcing the Demon Deacons to consecutive three-down-and-out series of possessions, Duke’s starting quarterback Anthony Boone (24-29, 256 yards, 3 TD’s) found wide receiver Jamison Crowder (10 catches 121 yards, 2 TD’s) for the first of two touchdowns he would score on the day.
Duke didn’t wait much longer to even the score as Boone, along with backup and short yardage specialist quarterback Brandon Connette (1-3, 1 yard/4 rushes 4 yards, 1 TD), connected with Max McCaffrey (2 catches, 21 yards) with 1:11 remaining in the half.
With the game tied 14-14 to begin the third quarter, the Blue Devils defense still had intermittent trouble containing Price as he moved the chains forward until he used the option to run the ball across the goal line himself to give Wake Forest the lead again at the 10:50 mark.
Not to be outdone, Boone needed only a few snaps until he found Crowder again on a 58-yard passing play that tied the game once more just under a minute later.
After the Demon Deacons tried to advance the ball with a first down, Duke’s defense tightened up its pressure and tackling led by linebackers David Helton (9 tackles), Kelby Brown (6 tackles), and safety Jeremy Cash (5 tackles) among others.
As the Blue Devils got possession of the ball back, Boone put together a 70-yard drive that Connette finished with a three-yard run to score the go-ahead and eventual game-winning touchdown.
With ample time to tie the game, Wake Forest’s offense struggled against the Blue Devils defense as it forced a fumble which Brown came up with.
Even as place kicker Ross Martin missed a 48-yard field goal attempt to put the game away, a subsequent interception by Ross Cockrell (1 tackle, 1 INT, 1 PBU) during the Demon Deacons’ next offensive series allowed Duke to preserve the win.
After giving up big plays early on, Duke utilized its hard-working and tenacious defensive style of game to earn its ninth win of the season, matching a school record last achieved in 1941, and extending its current win streak to seven games.