Thoughts on the AP Poll: Week 13

With the college football regular season coming to a close, Saturday's action cleared up the college football playoff picture heading into the final week of action. 

Duke downs Wake Forest to finish with winning-record 

The Blue Devils snapped a four-game losing streak with a 27-21 victory against the Demon Deacons in the teams' regular-season finale. Quarterback Thomas Sirk threw a pair of touchdown passes to wide receiver Max McCaffrey and helped Duke jump out to a 24-7 lead. Although Wake Forest rallied in the fourth quarter to make the game close, the Blue Devil special teams made a stop on the final play of the game to secure the victory. Sirk finished 26-of-39 for 275 yards and led the team to its third consecutive winning season. 

Michigan State awaits Iowa in Big Ten Championship game  Read more »

HALFTIME: Duke 38, Utah State 27

Luke Kennard's shooting woes appear to be a thing of the past.

The freshman poured in 12 points on an efficient 4-of-5 shooting to lead Duke to a 38-27 lead at halftime against Utah State Sunday at Cameron Indoor Stadium. After struggling with his shot in his first few games, Kennard drilled his first two attempts from downtown against the Aggies, which appeared to give him a boost of confidence for the rest of the half.

Amile Jefferson was aggressive early on for the Blue Devils. The senior picked up Duke's first points of the afternoon by following up a missed Grayson Allen spin move and converted two nice spinning post moves for six fast points heading into the first media timeout and went to the break with 10 points and five rebounds.

Utah State has done a decent job fighting over the top of Duke's screens near the top of the key and preventing the Blue Devil guards from turning the corner. As a result, Duke has often had to work deep into the shot clock to get an open look. Read more »

XFactor: Duke basketball vs Utah State

XFactor: Duke basketball vs Utah State

After dismantling Yale in an 80-61 victory, No. 6 Duke will try to extend its NCAA-best 119-game nonconference winning streak Sunday against Utah State. The Blue Devils (5-1) are riding a three-game winning streak, while Utah State (4-0) has not lost this season, and is looking to build on an 81-55 victory against Utah Valley Tuesday. The Blue Zone takes a look at one player from each team who could be the difference in the game:

Duke: center Marshall Plumlee

Plumlee is a captain and has been an emotional leader of this team. He brings leadership and experience, and his hustle has made him one of Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s favorite players. Averaging 2.5 blocks and 1.2 steals per game, Plumlee makes a living on the defensive end and will look to do so again against the Aggies—a team that does not have a player listed taller than 6-foot-9. Read more »

Extra Point: Duke football vs Wake Forest

Extra Point: Duke football vs Wake Forest

Duke was the better team on both sides of the ball and snapped its four-game losing streak with a 27-21 victory at Wake Forest in its regular season finale Saturday afternoon. The Blue Devils never trailed in the game and held off a late rally by the Demon Deacons after taking a 24-7 lead into the fourth quarter. The Blue Devils improved to 7-5 with the win and clinched their third straight winning season.

Revisiting the three keys to the game:

  • Manage Boehme and Sirk: Thomas Sirk started the game and engineered a solid drive on his first possession before Ross Martin barely missed a 39-yard field goal. On the Blue Devils’ second drive, Boehme took the field and could not lead the offense to a first down on Duke’s only three-and-out until its last possession of the game. Sirk reentered the contest and led a touchdown drive the next time down the field, and Duke head coach David Cutcliffe rode the hot hand and kept his starting quarterback in for the rest of the game.
  • Do not take Wake Forest lightly: The Demon Deacons have challenged several strong opponents despite their 3-9 record, and they did not go down quietly as they tried to mount a fourth-quarter comeback. The Blue Devils knew they needed a win to improve their bowl placement prospects, and they came ready to play from the start and made enough plays down the stretch to finish off a gritty Wake Forest squad.
  • No slow starts: Duke was very disciplined from the opening kickoff, marching down the field on its first possession and rebounding from the missed field goal to get a couple stops in a row and strike first with a touchdown late in the first quarter. The Blue Devils gradually built up a 10-point halftime cushion, gaining 18 first downs in the first half while allowing the Demon Deacons to move the chains just four times.

Three key plays:

  • 6:19 remaining, first quarter: With the game still scoreless, Wake Forest quarterback John Wolford scrambled up the middle on third-and-five and fumbled as he dove for the first-down marker, with Duke linebacker Dwayne Norman knocking the ball loose. Junior safety Deondre Singleton recovered the fumble—which was upheld after review—and the Blue Devils took advantage of the short field for their first touchdown drive.
  • 0:04 remaining, second quarter: Senior kicker Ross Martin has had a shaky last few weeks and missed his first attempt against the Demon Deacons, but he calmly split the uprights on a long 51-yard attempt on the last play of the half to give Duke its first two-possession lead of the afternoon.
  • 7:20 remaining, fourth quarter: Wake Forest was down 24-14 and driving into Blue Devil territory with plenty of time to mount a comeback. But Wolford’s pass down the right sideline intended for K.J. Brent was intercepted by cornerback Breon Borders. The junior dove in front of Brent for his third pick of the season and the Demon Deacons’ third turnover of the game.

Three key stats: Read more »

Key Three: Duke basketball vs Utah State

Key Three: Duke basketball vs Utah State

After pulling away in the second half in an 80-61 victory against Yale Wednesday, the Blue Devils will look to extend their winning streak to four games when they host Utah State Sunday at 12:30 p.m. The Aggies are undefeated through four games, with their best win coming in their season opener at Weber State. Here are three keys to a Duke victory against Utah State:

Get off to a strong start

The Blue Devils have come out flat and trailed for most of the first half in each of their last four games. The Bulldogs scored the first nine points of Wednesday night’s contest, and Duke spent the rest of the period playing catch-up to stumble into the locker room with just a two-point lead. Against Utah State, the Blue Devils need to seize an early lead and keep building on it for the entire game. After all, the longer an underdog stays in the game, the more confidence brews that an upset may be in the making. 

Like every opponent that comes into Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Aggies will certainly come out with a lot of energy and expect to compete. Duke needs to match their intensity from the opening tip and get the crowd in the game early. The Blue Devils could probably recover from another bad start Sunday and win the game—just as they did against VCU, Georgetown and Yale—but they need to show that they can sustain a high level of energy for 40 minutes. Read more »

Chronicle Postgame: Duke 27, Wake Forest 21

The Chronicle's Ryan Hoerger breaks down a 27-21 Blue Devil victory in Duke's regular season finale. Led by Thomas Sirk and Max McCaffrey, the Blue Devils snapped a four-game losing streak against Wake Forest, creating three turnovers while committing zero giveaways to pick up their seventh win of the season. Duke now awaits its bowl fate and is assured a winning season for the third straight year.

HALFTIME: Duke 17, Wake Forest 7

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.—The Blue Devils are 30 minutes away from ending their four-game losing streak.

Duke leads Wake Forest 17-7 at halftime at BB&T Field after a strong all-around performance through the first two quarters. Thomas Sirk has earned most of the snaps under center after at first alternating drives with backup Parker Boehme, and the Blue Devil defense has limited explosive plays, holding the Demon Deacons to just four first downs.

Duke capitalized on an early Wake Forest mistake, as Deondre Singleton scooped up a John Wolford fumble inside the Demon Deacon 40-yard line. Sirk drove the Blue Devils into the red zone with a pair of completions to wide receiver Anthony Nash, then found Max McCaffrey on a out-and-up route along the right sideline for an 18-yard touchdown.

Wake Forest answered right back with a seven-play, 75-yard drive to knot the score at 7-7. Wolford took advantage of Duke's new-look secondary for two big pass plays during the series, opening with a 49-yard toss to Cam Serigne on play-action. After the Blue Devils forced Wake Forest backward on its next two plays, Wolford burned freshman cornerback Jeremy McDuffie for a 25-yard completion to put the Demon Deacons inside the five yard line. Two plays later, Tyler Bell plowed into the end zone. Read more »

Chronicle Pregame: Duke football vs. Wake Forest

The Chronicle's Ryan Hoerger and Brian Pollack preview Duke's regular season finale Saturday afternoon against Wake Forest. Somebody's losing streak will come to an end in Winston-Salem, as the Blue Devils and Demon Deacons enter with a combined nine straight defeats. The Duke defense will look to get back on track against a Wake Forest squad that has struggled running the ball as the Blue Devils look to make one final good impression before awaiting their bowl fate.

Third and Goal: Duke football vs Wake Forest

Third and Goal: Duke football vs Wake Forest

Heading into its regular season finale, Duke will look to snap a four-game losing streak Saturday when they face in-state rival Wake Forest at 12:30 p.m. The Blue Devils have already earned bowl eligibility, but will look to use the win to bolster their standing in the ACC Coastal division. Here are three keys to Duke's final game of the regular season: 

Manage Boehme and Sirk

Duke head coach David Cutcliffe announced earlier this week that he plans to utilize both of his quarterbacks—Thomas Sirk and Parker Boehme—Saturday against the Demon Deacons. Sirk enters the contest nursing an upper body injury that he suffered Nov. 7 against North Carolina, while Boehme has played well whenever he has seen the field. Whether or not the Blue Devils win their season finale could rest on Cutcliffe’s rotation between the true starter and the “hot hand.” 

Although the Demon Deacons show nothing special on the stat sheet, including in the win/loss column, poor quarterback play can doom any team. Cutcliffe will need to make sure he plays the best quarterback given each situation in this weekend's game. If the Blue Devils experience poor play from the game’s most important position, it is not unimaginable to think they could fall to their in-state foe and end the season 6-6. Read more »

XFactor: Duke football vs Wake Forest

XFactor: Duke football vs Wake Forest

Duke is looking to end the regular season on a high note Saturday when it travels to Winston-Salem, N.C. to face Wake Forest at 12:30 p.m. at BB&T Field. The Blue Devils are looking to snap a four game losing streak and end the regular season with a 7-5 record heading into the postseason. Every week throughout the football season, we will break down a player on each team who could be the difference-maker in the upcoming contest:

Duke: wide receiver T.J. Rahming

Rahming stepped up for a thin Duke receiving group when the team needed him to last week against Virginia, hauling in 12 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown in the 42-34 loss. The Blue Devils will face a stout Demon Deacon pass defense that ranks 33rd in the FBS, giving up only 195.5 yards per game through the air. Despite this, Rahming’s short-space quickness could allow him to find holes in the defense, especially on deep routes that could result in big plays. Against Boston College back on Oct. 3, Rahming caught five passes for 75 yards against a secondary that remains one of the best in the nation. 

Rahming has proved he can go up against any defense, but his play also needs to remain mistake-free. Last week vs. the Cavaliers, the Powder Springs, Ga., native had a couple of early false start penalties and a drop on Duke’s final drive that came up just short. If Rahming can have another solid outing, minus the costly mistakes, he could help the Blue Devil offense march down the field against the Wake Forest defense. Read more »