Duke defeated Wake Forest in a high scoring game Saturday afternoon at Groves Stadium. Despite rain-drenched conditions, the Blue Devils captured their first victory over the Demon Deacons in 12 years. Here is a graded breakdown of Duke’s successes and failures in the game.
Pass: Quarterbacks Sean Renfree and Anthony Boone combined for 77% pass completion percentage and 258 yards through the air. Except for an interception on the play during which Renfree injured his elbow, Duke’s passing attack was solid. Receivers Conner Vernon and Desmond Scott were crucial targets. The question moving forward will be whether Renfree is healthy. Boone may be talented, but Renfree’s experience will prove invaluable in upcoming matchups.
Rush: The rushing attack was not overly successful, but it was effective enough to impact the game. Freshman running back Jela Duncan was a pleasant surprise, averaging 5.1 yards on 11 carries with one touchdown. The run game will need to continue to be a presence on the field in some form for Duke to even have an opportunity to succeed late in the season.
X’s and O’s: The offense took a more balanced approach to its game plan than early in the season. With 36 rush attempts and 40 pass attempts, the Blue Devils managed to outscore a potent Wake Forest team. Playing without Renfree, who was injured on an interception in the third quarter, Duke utilized Boone effectively both in the passing and ground game. Utility man Brandon Connette proved his importance to the Duke offense in the red zone, scoring two touchdowns in close yardage situations. The offense will need to use this balanced approach effectively against other ACC opponents to bolster an injury-ridden defense.
Pass: The defensive line was particularly adept at getting to Demon Deacon’s quarterback, Tanner Price, forcing a fumble in the fourth quarter that led to Duke grabbing the lead. Wake Forest was able to average 6.1 yards per pass mostly due to Duke’s weakened secondary. In order to compete with more talented offensive teams, Duke’s pass coverage must be stronger.
Rush: The rush defense was adequate, allowing the Demon Deacons to average 4.8 yards per rush. The running tandem of Deandre Martin and Josh Harris was effective throughout the game, with Martin scoring a touchdown. The rush defense faced what will, in all likelihood, be its weakest offensive line. The fact that Wake Forest ran for 167 yards proves the need for improvement in this area of the defense. Despite holding the Demon Deacons on third down multiple times, the defense must continue to improve its interior play as the season progresses.
X’s and O’s: The defense came up big late in the game. They held Wake Forest on crucial third down plays and were able to get to quarterback Tanner Price. For the first time this season, the turnover differential aided the Blue Devils instead of crippling their success. Instead of consistently losing possession of the ball, Duke caused two fumbles and two interceptions. That effectiveness in causing turnovers is something the Blue Devils have not done up until this weekend’s game. If they hope to continue defeating ACC opponents, the turnover ratio must be in the Blue Devils’ favor.
Special Teams: A
The kicking game was certainly a highlight for Duke. There were no major mistakes in the coverage and returning aspects of special teams play. Receiver Conner Vernon recovered a crucial onside kick near the end of regulation to seal the victory. Kicker Ross Martin made both of his field goal attempts including a 35-yard kick, a career long. Punter Will Monday was also effective in his five punts, with an average of 45 yards per punt and a key punt in the fourth quarter to set up Duke’s defense with solid field position.