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Roof hopes to fix leaky defense

Head coach Ted Roof called Saturday's loss to Virginia the "most physical" game of the season. Now, the Blue Devils must regroup and prepare for this weekend's contest at Wake Forest, where they will seek revenge for last year's humiliating 42-14 loss.

Head coach Ted Roof called Saturday’s loss to Virginia the “most physical” game of the season. Now, the Blue Devils must regroup and prepare for this weekend’s contest at Wake Forest, where they will seek revenge for last year’s humiliating 42-14 loss.

“They embarrassed us last year, I mean we’ve got to come back,” junior linebacker Brendan Dewan said.

Victory will not come easily for the 1-6 Blue Devils. The Demon Deacons’ potent running attack will create some of the same problems that troubled Duke against Virginia. Wake Forest ranks second in the ACC in rushing—only the Cavaliers have earned more yards on the ground.

“Some of the parameters and some of the philosophies are real similar,” Roof said of the Cavaliers and Demon Deacons. “You can tell it’s important to them that they run the football and that they stay with it—that they’re patient with it. I think that’s what you saw Saturday.”

Stopping the run has been a problematic for the Blue Devils the entire year. The size and ability of the Virginia offensive line created gaping holes for running backs Wali Lundy and Alvin Pearman.

“I’ve played three years and I haven’t seen an O-line like that—their speed, athleticism and strength,” Dewan said. “We probably won’t face an O-line like that again, and with their tight ends it makes a pretty tough front to go up against.”

Although Wake Forest’s line may not be as intimidating, its emphasis on ball control and time of possession relies on a proficient ground game.

“Their offense eats the clock up, and they run the ball,” Roof said. “To beat Wake Forest you’ve got to be able to stop the run, and you’ve got to be able to run the ball some.”

For the first time since the season opener against Navy, a Blue Devil running back tallied more than 100 rushing yards Saturday. The return of Cedric Dargan has helped the offense take a “big step forward,” Roof said.

Duke won the time of possession battle against Virginia, and the offense recorded a season-high 21 first downs—minor victories that resulted from last week’s practices, in which the team focused on yards-after-catch.

“We put such a huge emphasis on ‘Let’s not just be satisfied with making a catch for a first down or for some yards, let’s try and hit a home run after we make a catch,’” Roof said. “Same thing with our running backs, ‘Let’s try and hit some home runs, let’s try and make a big play out of it.’”

In addition, the coaching staff has tried to become more innovative with its play calling. Against the Cavaliers, Duke wide receiver Deon Adams threw two completions, which Roof said should have gone for touchdowns.

“He’s got a pretty good efficiency rating right now, doesn’t he?” Roof said. “We’ve got to be creative and use every weapon we have. He’s a former high school quarterback, so why not?”

While Duke continues to struggle, Wake Forest is going through a skid of its own. The Demon Deacons’ have an 0-4 record in the ACC but have lost those four games by a combined 23 points. Each loss has been decided on either the final possession or in overtime.

“They could just as easily be sitting here 7-0 as they are 3-4, when you look at how their season has gone,” Roof said.

When the Blue Devils take the field Saturday afternoon, the bitter taste from last year’s loss will still be resonating, but the Duke players are not letting that distract them.

“It certainly stirred some emotions in my gut,” Roof said. “But it’s a different team, we’re a different team, they’re a different team, it’s a different year. We have to prepare for this Wake Forest team with the football team we have because that revenge thing sounds good, but the first time you get hit in the mouth, you go back to reality.”

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