When Duke (1-6, 0-4 in the ACC) and Wake Forest (3-4, 0-4) clash at Groves Stadium Saturday, both teams will be playing to make a statement. The Blue Devils hope to avenge last year’s 42-14 Homecoming loss, which resulted in the firing of former head coach Carl Franks. On the other side, the Demon Deacons are looking to snap a three-game losing streak during which each game was decided on the last possession.
“The bottom line is winning the football game,” head coach Ted Roof said of the teams, which are both winless in the conference. “That’s why we coach, that’s why we play and that’s why you go out there to compete on Saturdays.”
Duke’s success against Wake will have to start with a strong defensive effort. Giving up more than 300 yards in rushing last week, the Blue Devils could not stop Virginia’s running game. Much like the Cavaliers, the Demon Deacons’ running game is their primary offensive weapon, averaging 209 rushing yards per game.
Roof described Wake Forest’s starting running back Chris Barclay, who is the ACC’s active career rushing leader, as a “slasher” who runs primarily north-south. Barclay’s 169-yard ground performance was pivotal in last season’s victory, and in an attempt to shut him down, the Blue Devils have focused on executing tackles in practice this week.
“We’ve got to attack the line of scrimmage, then we’ve got to wrap up, tackle and get more hats to the ball,” Roof said.
Although Barclay will pose the most difficult challenge for the Blue Devil defense, Wake Forest quarterback Cory Randolph is another athletic runner who adds to the Demon Deacon attack. With only 123 passing yards per game this season, Wake Forest will likely pick up the majority of its yards on the ground Saturday.
Against a team that relies so heavily on the run, Duke is looking to turnovers as a way to swing the balance of the game in its favor. The team has been adept at forcing fumbles in 2004, ranking second in the conference.
“We’re going to try to tackle between the [linemen] before the [runners] can get outside,” linebacker Giuseppe Aguanno said.
A bright spot from last week’s game was the development of Duke’s offense. The Blue Devils accumulated more than 300 yards of total offense, running and passing the ball effectively. With varied play calling, Duke threw for a season-high 242 yards, while Cedric Dargan’s 108 yards on the ground opened up the field.
“We’ve got to throw the ball, but we’ve got to have balance [with our play calling] and hopefully that will increase our production,” Roof said.
Although Duke will use a variation of standard passing and rushing plays, Roof may utilize several “gadget” plays to trick the defense.
Along with an increased concentration on the passing game, the Blue Devils have been working on gaining “extra-effort” yards after catches to earn first downs. Even if the extra effort fails, Roof said he has shown no hesitation going for it on fourth down.
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“Let’s be aggressive,” Roof said. “Let’s call our game to win, lets coach to win, let’s play to win.”