Entering its first ACC matchup of 2012, Duke is halfway to its first bowl bid since 1994. If the Blue Devils wish to break their bowl drought, they will likely need to snap another infamous streak this weekend.
Duke (3-1, 0-0 in the ACC) will venture away from home for its first conference test as it takes on Wake Forest (3-1, 1-1) Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem, N.C. The Demon Deacons, fresh off a 49-37 win against Army last Saturday, have had Duke’s number in recent years—the Blue Devils have lost 12 straight contests against Wake Forest dating back to Nov. 13, 1999. Duke head coach David Cutcliffe has not shied away from this daunting streak in an effort to make his players aware of the history between these two schools, which have played a number of close matchups in recent years, including a 24-23 contest at Wallace Wade Stadium last season.
“We’ve had a lot of guys that have played in a lot of games versus Wake Forest,” Cutcliffe said. “In conference play it’s fun to know something about your opponents. This is real football, and they know that and they’re excited about that challenge.”
Led by quarterback Tanner Price, Wake Forest boasts a dangerous aerial attack. Although the junior signal-caller has completed just 58.9 percent of his throws this season, he has excelled in his ball control, throwing just two interceptions in the first four contests.
Price’s top target is redshirt junior wide receiver Michael Campanaro, who has amassed a conference-best 36 receptions for 421 yards and three touchdowns this season. No other Wake Forest receiver has recorded more than seven receptions in 2012. As a dual threat, the Demon Deacons have used Campanaro out of the backfield as well this season. The junior has carried the ball nine times for 54 yards and one additional score on the ground.
“He’s strong, he’s physical, he’s got great speed and loves to compete. He’s got great hands,” Cutcliffe said. “He’s a dangerous guy, and when he catches a screen or a ball across the middle, he’s such a good runner with the ball that he can turn something ordinary into something special. You better tackle well if you’re going to tackle him in space.”
Facing a dangerous Demon Deacon passing attack, the Blue Devil secondary appears to be the healthiest it has been all season. Despite losing safety Chris Tavarez to a torn left meniscus this week, Duke will welcome August Campbell back to the lineup. Campbell will join Walt Canty, Brandon Braxton and Jordon Byas in the safety rotation for Duke, which has yet to play a game in 2012 with all four of these players on the active roster. The Blue Devil secondary also dodged another bullet when cornerback Lee Butler, who left last week’s 38-14 win against Memphis with an injury, was listed as probable for Saturday’s game and will likely start.
Although Wake Forest’s passing offense has been a point of emphasis for Duke, one of the biggest differences for this year’s Demon Deacons is their success running the football. Running backs Josh Harris and Deandre Martin each topped 100 yards and found the end zone twice in Wake Forest’s victory against Army last weekend. The pair have combined for more than 450 rushing yards and seven touchdowns this season. They will face a Duke run defense coming off a dominating performance against Memphis, in which the Blue Devils allowed just 71 rushing yards on 28 attempts.
After failing to force a turnover for the first time this season in last week’s win against Memphis, Duke will face a Wake Forest team that takes excellent care of the football. In addition to Price’s two interceptions this season, the Demon Deacons have only fumbled the ball three times and have recovered all three. After surrendering four turnovers to the Tigers last weekend, Duke hopes to find itself on the right side of the turnover margin this weekend against Wake Forest.