It certainly started off like Duke may have been looking past Wake Forest, but fortunately for the Blue Devils, they showed the same resiliency they have all year and pulled out a 28 to 21 victory over the Demon Deacons.
The victory moves the Blue Devils to 9-2 (5-2 ACC) Duke’s first nine-win season in 72 years and guarantees Duke at least a share of the ACC’s Coastal Division Title. The 9 victories ties that season for the most in Duke Football history.
“I’d like to thank our players for their commitment, their tremendous commitment to our program. Its all the way from our seniors to our freshman,” coach David Cutcliffe said. “Seventy-two years is a long time, 1941 is pretty significant. I hope they can savor this tonight. The thing that has pleased me obviously is every time we win a game the challenge gets bigger and this will be our greatest challenge of the year coming forward.”
The Demon Deacons opened up the scoring on an Issac Blakeney fumble that was returned 59 yards for a touchdown. The turnover was questionable and it appeared upon further review that Blakeney was down. However, the review officials confirmed the fumble and the score. Wake added another touchdown just a few minutes later as they took a 14-0 lead and looked like they may be in control of the game.
Duke, as they have all season, fought their way back on the arm of quarterback Anthony Boone. Boone finished the day 24 of 29 for 256 yards and 3 touchdown passes, his best performance since Duke’s victory over Navy. At one point Boone completed 15 straight passes falling short of the Duke school record for consecutive completed passes.
The running game which amassed 358 yards for the Blue Devils last week was stifled against the Wake Forest defensive front who limited them to just 121 yards for the game.
Wake had its chances but a late fumble on a monster hit by Sydney Sarmiento gave the Blue Devils the ball back in good field position. Duke still couldn’t capitalize and Wake got the ball back with just over 4 minutes and a chance to tie. However, a late Ross Cockrell interception sealed the deal for the Blue Devils.
Once again, the Duke defense held an opponent to no fourth quarter points. That defensive effort will be required next week against North Carolina who put up 80 points Saturday against Old Dominion. Sixth-year senior defensive end Kenny Anunike talked about the importance of that, as well as the accomplishments of this year’s team.
“Its huge first of all, its UNC that’s our biggest rival of the year. That is why they save that game for the last game of the season,” Anunike said. “There has never been a point where we say we’re good. We’re 9 and 2 now, best record in the state. It just keeps getting better.”
Besides being a rivalry game, Duke-UNC next week will be the Blue Devils chance of winning the ACC Coastal Division Title for the first time ever. Consequently the last time Duke won the ACC Championship they ended the season by defeating the Tar Heels 41-0 in Chapel Hill back in 1989.