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Duke Football Falls To Deacs 24-14

Duke looked and played like a tentative and inexperienced team Saturday against Wake Forest.

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Wake Forest v Duke
DURHAM, NC - SEPTEMBER 10: Brad Watson #25 of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons breaks up a pass intended for Anthony Nash #83 of the Duke Blue Devils during their game at Wallace Wade Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina.
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Call it a wake-up call, call it growing pains, call it confirmation that this really is a rebuilding season for Duke football. But the bottom line is that Wake Forest dominated Duke over the final 20 minutes in a convincing 24-14 win over Duke.

The Blue Devils certainly had their chances, leading most of the first half and squandering three opportunities to take a lead into intermission, instead of a 7-7 draw.

Duke looked unstoppable early, taking their first possession 60 yards in 17 time-consuming plays, Daniel Jones completing his first five passes and scoring from a yard out to give Duke a 7-0 lead eight minutes into the game.

The Deacons, on the other hand, went three-and-out on its first four possessions and turned it over on the fifth.

Duke couldn’t capitalize, coming up empty after a 59-yard Jones to Chris Tayor pass when freshman A.J. Reed missed his first college field-goal, from 30-yards out.

David Cutcliffe said Reed “aimed” the kick.

Duke got it right back, Joe Giles-Harris recovering a fumble at the Wake 28. A false start and a delay-of-game penalty led to a punt.

Wake ditched their two-quarterback system in the second quarter and sophomore Kendall Hinton—he’s a Durham native-got their offense going. Hinton’s 32-yard run and a 37-yard pass set up a score and it was tied.

Cutcliffe referenced Duke’s inability to stop “explosives,” as Wake had five plays of at least 29 yards.

Jones struggled through much of this time but led a late drive to the Wake Forest 25 before Reed missed a 42-yarder on the final play of the first half.

The second half could hardly have started off worse for Duke. Jones was sacked on the first two plays from scrimmage, losing a fumble at the Duke 14 on the second.

Duke’s defense dug down, forcing Wake to use six running plays to pick up those 14 yards.

But pick them up they did and Duke trailed for the first time this season.

The Blue Devils responded, marching 75 yards in six plays, 56 of them coming on a pass-catch by Anthony Nash, who had a career game, with 112 yards on eight receptions.

That was pretty much it for the guys in blue. Freshman Cade Carney exploded 55 yards on third-and-one to put the Deacons back on top and they added a field goal with four minutes left, ending the scoring.

It was brutally hot and the visitors seemed fresher down the stretch. Cutcliffe commented that the Duke program was at a point where it should be able to play more people and that Duke seemed tired at times.

Duke also abandoned its running game in the second half. Jela Duncan had one rush in the second half, Shaun Wilson zero.

This wasn’t an accident. Wake coach Dave Clawson said “We had to take away the run and make them one-dimensional. . . . It was a standard plan that we wanted to take away the run, make them throw it and hopefully get them off schedule a little bit.”

Cutcliffe acknowledged that Wake’s run defense forced Duke into a short passing game. “It was obvious early that we couldn’t run on them. . . We have to look at what we’re doing to run the ball and how we can possibly run it better.”

Wake’s commitment to stopping the run did give Duke some opportunities in the air and Jones passed for 332 yards, the sixth most by a freshman in school history. But it did force a lot of responsibility onto the shoulders of a youngster in his second college game. Jones attempted 48 passes and rushed 19 times, including five sacks. Jones made some bigtime plays but also held onto the ball too long, threw into multiple coverage too often and turned it over three times.

What one would expect from a redshirt freshman in his first conference game.

Duke goes on the road, two games in the heartland, with some questions that need to be answered.

“I told our team ‘some of you, I see faces, well, I wish I were playing,’ Cutcliffe said. “ Well, the reason you’re not is because of what you’re putting on tape in practice. I’m responsible for us not playing well. You’re responsible for your attitudes as you leave here and what you’re going to do with this. We need more people. We need to build depth.”


Duke ended with 37 yards rushing. Some of that was lost yardage on sacks. But Duncan ended the game with 25 yards on nine carries, Wilson six yards on two rushes.

Duke only had one tight-end reception, a 21-yarder by Daniel Helm. Wide receivers Nash (9), T.J. Rahming (8) and Johnathan Lloyd (8) provided most of the offense, along with Taylor’s only catch that 59-yarder that was wasted.

Redshirt freshman linebacker Joe Giles-Harris finished with 15 tackles, his first career interception and a fumble recovery; DeVon Edwards forced the fumble.