clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Wake Forest Brutalizes Duke In Wallace Wade

That was about as little fun as humanly possible on a football field.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Duke
Nov 24, 2018; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils running back Deon Jackson (25) scores a first half touchdown against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Wallace Wade Stadium.
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

You could see this coming a mile away.

Certainly, not the magnitude.

But the general outlines.

Think pancakes. Think Kansas. Think stale beer, lying around for a week.

That’s how flat was Saturday afternoon in a 59-7 loss to Wake Forest.

The Deacons came into Wallace Wade at 5-6, needing a win to become bowl eligible.

Duke was in the exact same situation last year and simply wanted, needed a win more than the Deacons.

So, Duke knew what was at stake for the visitors.

All week, Duke maintained that they were ready to match--even exceed-- Wake’s hunger for a win.

It all sounded so good.

Until the game started and exposed the chasm between talk and action. Duke looked like someone who purchased a gym membership telling themselves they’d work work out every morning only to end up sleeping in.

This may sound harsh. But Duke couldn’t run, pass, catch, block or tackle against Wake Forest.

And if there were answers to be found, Duke’s coaches certainly couldn’t find them.

After one quarter, Duke trailed 21-0. Wake Forest scored three touchdowns before Duke picked up its third first down.

“Guys weren’t juiced up,” offensive lineman Zach Harmon says. “They [Wake Forest] didn’t need a big crowd or anything to get them pumped up to play football. Today we were lacking the energy they brought.”

Wake got the ball first and went up-tempo, consistently snapping the ball while Duke’s defenders were trying to figure out where they should be.

When they did get there, they missed the tackle.

Wake’s first seven plays picked up 4, 10, 27, 1, 0, 9, 11, 7 and 5 yards, 74 yards in less than three minutes.

“That’s a testimony to them,” linebacker Koby Quansah says.” They like to go up-tempo and try to get their team team going and get the defense on their heels. And they did get us in the beginning.”

David Cutcliffe said Duke had prepared for that but cited missed tackles and assignments on third down as the culprits.

Duke thought they could run on the Deacs. But Deon Jackson fumbled the first two times he touched the ball. The first went out of bounds but Jackson lost the second at the Duke 17, leading to a Wake TD three plays later and a 14-0 deficit.

Duke actually had a shot to get back into it. After mounting an actual sustained drive, 83 yards in 14 plays, Duke trailed 21-7. Duke’s defense stabilized, Tre Hornbuckle and Tahj Rice getting sacks on third downs on consecutive drives.

Duke gained possession of the ball four times with a chance to eat into that 21-7 lead, once at midfield, after a 15-yard T.J. Rahming punt return.

Duke picked up exactly zero first downs in those four possessions.

“We just didn’t progress the ball at all,” Harmon says. “We had some dropped passes, some bad protection, some bad throws, bad reads, just an all-around bad performance. It’s hard to stick with the run, with the turnovers. Wake Forest scored quick and we were down 21-0 in the first quarter and I think we got a little ahead of ourselves getting into catch-up mode.”

The last of those four empty possessions was worse than an empty possession. Jones threw the ball into multiple coverage and Nasir Greer picked it off, skipping into the end zone from 20 yards out, making it 28-7.

Jones wryly noted “I threw it to the wrong person.”

With 2:52 left in the half, the game was basically decided.

The Deacs tacked on a short field goal at the end of the half, running out of time before they could punch it into the end zone.

It was 31-7 at that point.

They played the second half because they had to. It’s in the rules and all. If it were boxing, the referee would have stopped it around the middle of the third quarter, when Wake made it 38-7. Or when Duke punted on fourth-and-eight from midfield Or when Wake Forest made it 45-7; or 52-7; or 59-7. Just make it stop.

I can’t really tell you when the crowd started to thin out. It was never more than thin to begin with.

David Cutcliffe usually goes into coach-speak mode after games of this nature, citing execution and schemes and so forth. But he pulled no punches, saying flatly that Wake Forest “won in every area of fight and intensity. I don’t see much value in any part of this game.”

So, Duke has a bit more than a week to find out which second-tier bowl game it will be going to. The players will be in exams and Cutcliffe says he and his staff will use that time to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it.

“I’m not going to figure all this out tonight. But we had adversity early and didn’t respond to it. We have to be more mature and better than that all around. We’re not where we need to be with this team. I know we’re where we need to be with our program. This team has had a bunch of adversity. We’ve lost a lot of players. We’ve lost some leadership from time to time. But our freshmen aren’t freshmen. Our sophomores aren’t sophomores. Our juniors aren’t juniors. You’re playing your last regular-season game as a freshman--you take responsibility. You can’t run from it--you have to run to it.”

Maybe guys like Joe Giles-Harris and Ben Humphreys can get healthy by then. But having been outscored 94-13 over its final two games, Duke is going to have to do more than get healthy bodies. They’re going to need to dig deep and regain their mojo.


Remember that pick-six Leonard Johnson got late in the Baylor game, back on September 15? That was Duke’s last interception. Three for the season.

Duke hasn’t done much better on forcing fumbles. Starting with the Virginia Tech game-a stretch in which Duke went 3-5--Duke forced five turnovers, while committing 15.

During that same eight-game span, Duke has 12 sacks, while allowing 23.

Cancel that Deon-Jackson 1,000-rushing-yard vigil. Jackson rushed for 30 yards on eight carries. He has 806 yards for the season.

Wake Forest ran 80 plays, so opportunities abounded for Duke tackles. Lummie Young IV (15), Brandon Hill (13) and Quansah (10) led Duke in that department. All three are starting due to injuries to other players and all three will return next season.

If you're going to shop Amazon please start here and help DBR
| Drop us a line