A special senior day: the Deacs down the Devils 39-27
As the regular season winds down, the game between the visiting Duke Blue Devils (4-6 overall and 2-4 in the ACC) and the hosts, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (7-3 overall and 3-3 in the ACC), still carries weight and importance.
Consider the following:
1. Tonight's game is Senior Day, as 22 student-athletes from the Deacs' football team are being recognized for their contributions with it being their last regular season home game in their college careers (click HERE for player entrances via the Deacon Walk). Arguably, this is the most successful senior class ever for Wake Forest football - including this season, they have appeared in 4 consecutive bowl games and hoping for a 4th bowl win (a 2016 Military Bowl victory over 24th ranked Temple, a 2017 Belk Bowl win over top-25 ranked Texas A&M, and last year's 2018 Birmingham Bowl victory over Memphis).
2. Tonight is the 300th game played at BB&T Field (formerly Groves Stadium) since it opened September 14, 1968.
3. Duke has to win out (tonight's game against Wake and their November 30th home game/regular season finale against Miami) to become bowl eligible.
4. A win secures the vaunted Big Four title (with previous wins against fellow rivals North Carolina and NC State) for Wake; this would be the team's first such title since 2007.
Despite injuries to key players including (but not limited to) Justin Strrnad (season-ending), Sage Surratt (season ending), and Scotty Washington, the team is still averaging nearly 450 yards per game (total offense) and 32.4 points per game as they look to snap their (current) season long 2-game losing streak. Duke's Quentin Harris (quarterback) leads an offense averaging nearly 25 points per game (24.9) as they stay in contention for a possible bowl game appearance.
Clearly, both teams have a lot to play for as we get to the proverbial end of the (regular season) road.
1st half: Duke Blue Devils (4-6, 2-4) vs Wake Forest Demon Deacons (7-3, 3-3)
After the Senior Day introductions (click HERE to view), it's game-time. Wake defers receiving the ball until the 2nd half.
In the early going, the rain and slight wind plays a factor as neither team is able to get into a rhythm on offense. Late in the first quarter, Wake's running game, thanks to some key runs by Kenneth Walker, sets up their first scoring opportunity. Nick Sciba's 38 yard field goal gives the Deacs an early 3-0 lead (0:35 in the 1st quarter). However, Duke has an immediate response. Damond Philyaw-Johnson makes a key play on special teams with a 98 yard kickoff return for a touchdown, giving the Blue Devils a 7-3 lead to close out the quarter (0:24).
After Duke extends their lead to 10-3 (AJ Reed with a 30 yard field goal), the Deacs are able to put together two scoring drives. Buoyed by key receptions by Steve Claude and Kendall Hinton, quarterback Jamie Newman's 42 yard touchdown run ties the game at 10 (8:14) ad later in the quarter, Sciba's 34 yard field goal gives Wake a 13-10 advantage.
Although Wake has major advantages in total offense (239 to 115) and time of possession (20:27 to 9:33), as well as forcing 2 fumbles, the Blue Devils special teams play allows them to stay in the game.
2nd half: Duke Blue Devils vs Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Wake's offense is finally able to produce an explosive play.
At the 13:39 mark of the 3rd quarter (the team's opening possession), Newman connects with Kendall Hinton on a 62 yard strike to push Wake's lead to 20-10. After Duke responds with a scoring drive (43 yard field goal by AJ Reed) to cut the lead back to a 7 point margin (20-13), but a key interception by the Deacs' Ja'Sir Taylor and subsequent field goal by Nick Sciba (44 yards) gives Wake a 23-13 advantage.
However, Duke's uncanny ability to respond keeps them close. At the 14:55 mark of the 4th quarter, Quentin Harris' 23 yard touchdown pass to Noah Gray makes it a 23-20 game. Thanks to some solid runs by Kenneth Walker and Newman, Sciba adds another field goal to make it a 26-20 game.
And then Duke's special teams strike yet again.
Damond Philyaw-Johnson rips off another 98 yard kickoff return, and with the extra point by AJ Reed, Duke takes a 27-26 lead at the 9:34 mark.
And accordingly, Wake responds. After a Newman to Hinton connection which puts the team in Duke's red zone, a 14 yard scamper by Walker gives Wake the lead (32-27 with 8:24 left - the 2 point conversion failed). Combined with some sound play down the stretch by the defense and Cade Carney's 18 yard touchdown run (at the 3:27 mark), the Deacs are able to seal the deal for a 39-27 win.
The Deacs' offense controls the game for the most part, as they win the time of possession battle (39:33 to 20:27) and total offense (a whopping 618 total yards to Duke's 290), including 334 rushing yards. Jamie Newman's 284 passing yards (1 passing touchdown) and career high 29 carries for 161 yards and a rushing touchdown pace the Wake offense. Kenneth Walker (114 rushing yards and a touchdown) and Cade Carney (74 rushing yards and a touchdown) help direct the rushing attack, and Kendall Hinton's efforts (6 receptions for 189 yards and a touchdown) set the tone for the passing attack. The team's defense forces 3 turnovers and 5 sacks, and on special teams, Nick Sciba's 4 for 4 kicking performance, making him the NCAA record holder with consecutive field goals made (32 and counting).
For Duke, Quentin Harris (163 passing yards along with a touchdown and interception, along with 58 rushing yards), Mateo Durant (7 carries for 71 yards), and Noah Gray (7 receptions for 76 yards and and a touchdown) are keys for the Devils' offense; with a defense on the field for nearly 40 minutes, four players (Marquis Waters , Koby Quansah, Shaka Heyward, and Dylan Singleton) record a combined 47 tackles. The special teams efforts of Damond Philyaw-Johnson (251 kickoff return yards, including the pair of 98 yard returns for touchdowns) keep Duke in the hunt, but at 4-7 (2-5 in the ACC), their bowl game aspirations are virtually over as they look to conclude their season on a high note with their home and season-ending game at home against Miami (November 30th).
The Deacs are able to celebrate a Big Four win and title, a conference victory, and a celebration of both Senior Day and the 300th game at BB&T Field. At 8-3 (4-3 in the ACC), they'll focus on their regular season ending game at Syracuse (November 30th) as they look forward to their 4th bowl game in a row.
Postgame: Duke Blue Devils (4-7, 2-5) vs Wake Forest Demon Deacons (8-3, 4-3)
Coach Clawson's post-game press conference is a blend of celebration, as well as areas to focus on as the team prepares for their next game. For the complete post-game remarks, click HERE for the interview - video credit to Wake Forest Athletics).
Linebacker Ja"Cquez Williams (10 total tackles, 1 sack) provides his post-game reflections and areas of focus for their next game (view below):
Nick Sciba, the NCAA record holder for most consecutive field goals made (32 to date, including his 4-4 effort), provides insight on the team's preparation and overall focus as they get ready for their next game (view below):