The Blue Devils went to Winston Salem needing a victory to become bowl eligible. They emerged victorious despite falling behind 17-3 midway through the second quarter.
The offense found a groove after a slow start and the Duke defense buckled down and forced a couple turnovers as Duke took control of the game in the second half, putting the game away with Mark Gilbert’s second interception of the day with just over two minutes remaining with Wake near midfield, needing a touchdown and two point conversion.
The outcome seemed unlikely from the start, with Daniel Jones throwing an interception on the first possession of the game and Wake scoring easily four plays later. Duke would punt on their next two possessions and give up a field goal before Austin Parker put them on the board in the last minute of the fourth quarter. Duke went three and out following Wake’s score to go up 17-3, but after the defense forced a three and out the offense finally woke up, going 82 yards on 6 plays in under 2 minutes, ending with an 18 yard touchdown pass to Daniel Helm.
David Cutcliffe came out if halftime upbeat, essentially calling his shot and guaranteeing a victory in his post halftime interview. The team followed his lead and kept their focus even after another Daniel Jones interception and Wake Forest field goal. The Blue Devils would score touchdowns on the next three possessions, converting four third downs and two fourth downs in the process.
Daniel Jones had a great game despite his 3 interceptions, one on an unbelievably flukey play at the end if the first half. He finished with 346 passing yards and two touchdowns and 37 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown. Duke’s receivers came through, overcoming several first half drops. Nine different players caught a pass, led by TJ Rahming who finished with 90 yards on 8 catches. Wake held the Duke rushing attack in check, but the staff stuck with the gameplay. Shaun Wilson and Brittain Brown combined for 25 carries and 2 touchdowns.
Duke’s wins over Georgia Tech and Wake Forest to close the regular season, make their six straight losses all the more puzzling. But at this point, with bowl eligibility achieved, Duke should enjoy the turnaround. The season felt over weeks ago, but now the seniors have one more game and the underclassmen have something to build on.
Bowl matchups will be announced following the playoff selections on Sunday, December 4th. The most likely destinations for the Blue Devils are either the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit, MI against a Big Ten opponent or a trip to Shreveport, LA against a SEC team in the Independence Bowl.