LIVE BLOG: Duke 48 Wake Forest 54 (FINAL)

PREGAME: Welcome, one and all, to another fantastic edition of The Blue Zone's Live Blog, hosted by yours truly. While we try to sort out some new technology we'll be going with this old-fashioned blog, but look out for a new system in the next couple weeks.

The Wake Forest Band is now on the field with about 20 minutes until kickoff as the fans slowly start filing in to what is expected to be a sold out crowd here in Winston-Salem.  The Blue Devils haven't beaten the Demon Deacons in 10 years, so this should be a crucial game not only for Duke's confidence, but for its bowl chances as well.

We'll keep you posted as the game progresses.

MORE PREGAME: Well, Wake Forest certainly has one of the more interesting pre-game introductions I've ever seen, as the team is led out onto the field by a real live race car and the Demon Deacon mascot on a motorcycle. Duke has not entered the field as well.

After a flyover by a couple over fighter jets, Wake Forest wins the toss and elects to receive. Two minutes till gametime folks!

11:13 1st Quarter, Duke 0 Wake Forest 7: Wake Forest starts out running the option on their first play of the day, but it is quickly stopped by the Duke defense. The next three runs however, are much more successful, yielding a first down, a six yard gain on a reverse, and finally another first down.

And after that initial promising play, the Demon Deacons are quickly running over Duke, as an option by Stachitas yields a first down and a scramble yields seven more. The Demon Deacons are quickly getting into the Blue Devil secondary on these running plays, as Matt Daniels has already had to make multiple stops from the safety position.

One more option and Stachitas is into the endzone from 23 yards away. On that 82 yard, nine play touchdown drive, the Demon Deacons didn't throw the ball once. The PAT is good, and Wake Forest leads by seven less than four minutes into the game.

7:37 1st Quarter, Duke 7 Wake Forest 7: Duke quickly answers Wake Forest's opening drive with a fantastic kickoff return by Patrick Kurunwune, which brought the Blue Devils out past the 40 and was very nearly taken back to the house. After a failed run by Desmond Scott, a screen to Conner Vernon is good for eight yards (and very nearly more if the sophomore didn't stumble). Then in a bit of trickeration, David Cutcliffe sends in freshman Brandon Connette for the QB draw, yielding a first down and a personal foul penalty on Wake Forest. Very quickly Duke is inside the Demon Deacon 30.

The Blue Devils continue to show faith in the run, and this time Desmond Scott proves them right with a seven yard carry that included some nice broken arm-tackles.  But the next run proves much less fruitful, and Scott is swamed under trying to run up the middle. Sean Renfree, however, remains calm under heavy pressure on third down and hits Vernon for a 12 yard catch and a first down.

With the Blue Devils in first and goal, Brandon Connette enters the game and puts Duke into the endzone with two runs, including a nice touchdown run that had him dragging a defender on his back. It looks like David Cutcliffe is trying to implement a Chris Leak/Tim Tebow type system with Renfree and Connette and at least on that drive it proved successful. After less than eight minutes, its tied up at seven, and it looks like this contest this contest will follow the recent trend of high scoring Duke-Wake Forest games.

6:35 1st Quarter, Duke 7 Wake Forest 7: On the first play of the Demon Deacons' second drive, Stachitas finally attempts a pass to Devon Brown, but it falls harmlessly incomplete.  Interestingly enough, the Blue Devils have shifted to a 4-2-5 defense with four linemen and three safeties, and the extra lineman proves useful as Duke stops a Wake Forest run forcing 3rd and 10.  On that third down, Stachitas makes a nice throw to Chris Givens along the sideline, but a hit from the Duke cornerback knocks it loose.  A very good defensive possession by Duke, and after a subpar punt the Blue Devils will take over at their 39. As one member of the press just mentioned, Duke is the first to "break serve" in what should continue to be an offensive matchup

5:09 1st Quarter, Duke 7 Wake Forest 7: As the Blue Devils start their second drive, they begin in their usual fashion—a swing pass/screen to the outside, this time to Varner, for a first time. The next play Renfree fends off some pressure on the naked bootleg and hits Vernon on a lob pass for yet another first down. After a four yard run, Renfree makes a solid pass to a wide-open Varner to the 10 yard line. But more importantly, Renfree went down awkwardly on the play and is currently down in pain by the 30 yard line. We'll keep you posted as to Renfree's condition.

3:26 1st Quarter, Duke 14 Wake Forest 7: Good news for the Blue Devils, as Renfree is able to jog off the field under his own power, as it appears he might have just gotten the wind knocked out of him. Connette enters the game and immediately tries another run up the middle, but the Demon Deacons are now wise to his game. After a failed option play, Renfree reenters the game at quarterback and immediately hits tight-end Cooper Helfet for a touchdown. It was a fantastic play overall, where Renfree snuck the pass in under tight coverage and Helfet made a nice catch to hold off his defender. However, the play went under review but is confirmed. Seven plays, 61-yards, just over three minutes and another Duke touchdown.

0:00 1st Quarter, Duke 14 Wake Forest 7: Michael Campanaro returns Will Snyderwine's kickoff to nearly to midfield on another nice return. The Demon Deacons now appear committed to passing the ball, but to no avail, as Matt Daniels very nearly just picked off a Stachitas pass. Stachitas has much more success running it up the middle (much like Connette) and gains a first down. To this point, Stachitas has gained more than 10 yards on every quarterback keeper. After a six yard run, Stachitas nearly hits Chris Givens for a touchdown, but a pass interference penalty instead gives Wake Forest the first down. Interestingly enough, the referee initially thought the pass was complete and stated the Demon Deacons declined the 15 yard penalty—needless to say, the Demon Deacon players quickly correctd him on that crucial fact.

Wake Forest has now returned to the option game, and two of those plays yielded a total of two yards, leading to third and eight. The Demon Deacons, forced to throw, complete the pass—to Duke's Chris Rwabakamba, who nearly returns it to the house but instead takes the interception to Duke's 40, where the Blue Devils take over.

However two negative plays will give Duke 3rd and long when the second quarter begins.

2nd Quarter 14:13, Duke 14 Wake Forest 14: Duke fails to convert as Austin Kelly gets flattened in the flat by the Wake Forest receiver. Then Duke's special teams issues reemerge, as the snap on the punt goes right through Kevin Jones' hands and is returned by Wake Forest for the tying touchdown. Duke's special teams have been notoriously bad in games against Wake, especially in terms of field goals. This time, though, the punting game takes all of Duke's momentum away and puts it squarely in Demon Deacon hands.

2nd Quarter 8:07, Duke 14 Wake Forest 21: While the punting game might have just failed them, Duke's special teams are succeeding in other facets of the game, especially in kickoff returns. Desmond Scott just returned that Wake Forest kick out past the 35, giving Duke great field position once again.

After a pass to Kelly in the flat again, Duke returns to the run game as Desmond Scott on the ground, this time successfully—a 25 yard run is followed by two more runs for a first down. As the rain begins to fall, it looks like Duke may start to run the ball more. But no sooner said a pass slips off Varner's hands, and bounces off a Wake Forest defender before being intercepted by Alex Frye, who scooped the ball right off the turf to stop what looked to be a promising Duke drive.

Duke quickly forces third down, but Stachitas finally gets on target through the air completing a 48 yard pass to Givens. Duke cornerback Ross Cockrell appeared to be on Givens tight, but as was the problem last week against Elon he never turned around to look at the ball while it was in the air. Givens was then able to use a questionably-legal swim move to get by Cockrell and make the catch, despite the tight coverage.

The Wake offense quickly stalls though, but on their own 30 they choose to go for it on fourth down. Once again Givens makes a big catch down the middle, this time after bobbling the ball, for the first down. The Demon Deacons appear to be taking advantage of the matchup between Givens and the redshirt-freshman Cockrell. The Demon Deacons punch it into the end zone, and regain the lead at 21-14. That interception could prove to be the turning point of this game: Duke very easily could've rebounded from that botched punt and regained the lead on that possession, but now they find themselves down a touchdown.

2nd Quarter 7:52, Duke 21 Wake Forest 21: Remember when I mentioned that Wake Forest had regained the momentum? Connor Vernon may disagree. The sophomore receiver just made a fantastic catch down the middle and then fought off his defender to take the pass 70 yards to the house. All of a sudden, it's a tie game again...

2nd Quarter 7:39, Duke 21 Wake Forest 28: Duke's special teams might've just taken out the team's frustration on Chris Givens, who was just annihilated on the kickoff return. But very quickly momentum has shifted again, as a trick play leads to an 81 yard pass from wide receiver Marshall Williams to Givens. It doesn't appear either Duke or Wake Forest wants to play defense in this game, as there have been seven combined touchdowns with more than seven minutes to play in the first half. Duke's cornerbacks continue to get picked on by the Wake Forest passing game, especially Cockrell and Johnny Williams.

2nd Quarter 5:17, Duke 21 Wake Forest 35: For the first time in recent memory Duke will start with poor field position after a less-than-intelligent holding penalty on the kickoff return. But Duke grinds out a first down with short passes and runs up the middle, including a six-yarder on third down by Jay Hollingsworth, who seems to have been relegated to the fourth string running back. But once again the momentum shifts even more to Wake Forest's side, as a well thrown ball from Renfree is bobbled by Austin Kelly and intercepted once again by Alex Frye. The Demon Deacons quickly take advantage as Stachitas hits Marshall Williams in the endzone for a touchdown. Once again, mental mistakes are costing the Blue Devils, as the Demon Deacons now have 21 points off turnovers. The Blue Devils now find themselves in a 14 point hole. Wake has now scored 28 points in the second quarter, tying the school record for points in a quarter.

2nd Quarter 2:31, Duke 28 Wake Forest 35: Duke appears to be completely flustered by this latest Demon Deacon run, as miscommunication in the backfield just left Renfree with no running back to hand off to, and he had to just fall to the ground and take a sack. Duke falls just short on third down and lines up to go for the fourth-and-one before calling timeout to think it over. The Blue Devils lineup and then immediately call another timeout after seeing Wake Forest lineup. I'd be shocked if this timeout wasn't to bring Connette into the game to run for the extra half hard. Alas, I'm wrong, but Renfree does the job just fine and sneaks for the first down.

Going for it on fourth down proves to be a very good decision, as on the subsequent play Desmond Scott takes the ball 63 yards into the end zone after a nice cutback in the secondary. Snyderwine's PAT makes it 35-28. This offensive output is staggering: the teams are averaging three minutes per touchdown. To put this in perspective, I recently predicted Duke would win this game 30-27.  Needless to say, my prediction was a little off.

Also of note is Desmond Scott's production in this game—namely, seven carries for 108 yards. Duke may have finally found its running back.

2nd Quarter 1:01, Duke 28 Wake Forest 35: Patrick Egboh has been very active on the defensive line today, contributing to the last two tackles on Stachitas to force third and long with the Demon Deacons only on their own ten yard line. The Demon Deacons call timeout to think the third down over, and likely to decide whether they want to take the risk of giving Duke the ball back with good field position and one remaining timeout. They choose to run it with Stachitas, who is nearly taken down at the two yard line but scampers away for only a three yard loss. Duke calls timeout, and will likely get the ball back with good field position and a minute to score.

2nd Quarter 0:41, Duke 35 Wake Forest 35: Lee Butler makes the fiar catch on the short punt at Wake Forest's 44 yard line and with 54.2 seconds on the clock. Very quickly Renfree hits Scott with a nice lob pass along the sideline, who takes it for 31 yards to the Wake Forest 13 yard line. Very quickly Renfree hits Kelly in the slot, who takes it into the end zone for yet another touchdown. This offensive production is staggering—14 touchdowns combined in the first half, and there are still 41.3 seconds left to go in the half (so Wake could still score here). I'd be surprised if the teams' defensive coordinators still have jobs after halftime.

2nd Quarter 0:00, Duke 35 Wake Forest 35: Surprisingly, Wake Forest chooses to kill the final 40 seconds on the clock and go to the locker room tied at 35-35. The absurdness of the offensive output in this game cannot be overstated. The teams have combined for 604 yards in the first half. Sean Renfree is 15-17 for 221 yards, and both of his incompletions were utter drops that were intercepted. Desmond Scott is averaging more than 15 yards a carry. Connor Vernon already has 116 yards receiving. Not to mention there have been fourteen touchdowns in this game already. As a fellow member of the press just said, there are Duke basketball games that are lower scoring after the first half. This is insane.

3rd Quarter 13:15, Duke 35 Wake Forest 35: Duke takes over after halftime and quickly gets moving again with a quick run and a 10 yard pass to Austin Kelly.  The drive stalls, though, before an eight yard pass to Helfet gives Duke fourth and two. However, a Wake Forest defender is down on the ground after what appeared to be a helmet to helmet hit. Luckily Helfet is OK, and the Wake Forest defender walks off the field under his own power, albeit a bit shakily.

Somewhat surprisingly, Duke elects to punt just inside Wake Forest territory. This time, though, it is Alex King and not Kevin Jones who will kick the ball away. A decent punt bounces into the end zone, and the Demon Deacons will take over at their 20.

3rd Quarter 11:19, Duke 35 Wake Forest 35: Duke's defense appears to be motivated to improve in this second half, as they immediately force an option play backwards for six yards. After a personal foul penalty the Demon Deacons are pinned at their seven yard line with second and 24. Tanner Price, the backup quarterback, enters the game and runs for 14 yards, but on third down Cockrell wrestles the ball away from Givens for Duke's second interception of the day.

Duke's own offense quickly stalls, however, after a short run and two incomplete passes, both in the direction of Conner Vernon. On both plays Vernon was pleading with the referees for a pass interference penalty, but to no avail. King is on again to punt and does so successfully, pinning Wake Forest at their own 14.  All of a sudden, the defenses are back.

3rd Quarter 8:49, Duke 35 Wake Forest 35: Duke's defense definitely appears to be pumped up after putting a big hit on Price on a second down blitz, although the Demon Deacons convert with a nice completion on third and ten. Duke really appears to be snuffing out the option now too, stopping another Demon Deacon attempt for no gain. Wake is stopped on third down thanks to a fantastic shoe-string tackle on Devon Brown by Lee Butler, forcing the Demon Deacons to punt.

3rd Quarter 8:12, Duke 35 Wake Forest 41: All of a sudden Duke's offense has gone from pristine to sloppy, as three quick incompletions due either to drops or underthrows force Duke to punt. This game has gone from an exciting offensive shootout to a defensive struggle, although a nice runback by Devon Brown on the punt might provide a boost for Wake Forest.

No sooner said than done— Marshall Williams pulls in a 38 yard touchdown pass with no one within 10 yards of him. Duke now finds itself down once again, but only by six after Wake botches the PAT.

3rd Quarter 3:13, Duke 38 Wake Forest 41: Duke's offense stalls again as Connette tries a QB draw on 3rd and 2. However, Wake Forest obviously knew that Connette entering the game meant Duke would be running and stuffed the freshman. Duke once again goes three and out, and King punts it back to the Demon Deacons.

The Blue Devil defense, though, rebounds and forces a three and out, thanks in part to a critical false start penalty on Wake Forest. The rain is beginning to come down much harder, which appears to be a main factor in the offenses stagnating.  Lee Butler makes a fantastic punt return and might've taken it to the house if not for the fact he had lost his left shoe. Duke takes over in Wake Forest territory.

Disaster very nearly strikes for Duke, as a Connor Vernon covers what would've been a first down catch. Vernon, however, fumbles the ball, although it is recovered by an offensive lineman.

Renfree is looking very calm under pressure and has been able to escape the pocket and make plays or get rid of the ball with relative ease. But no sooner do I type those words than he is sacked by Tristan Dorty, putting Duke in third and long. Another drop makes it 4th and twelve, and Will Snyderwine smacks a 46 yard field goal through the uprights (very impressive considering the downpour).  Duke is now down only three.

In other news, I've now written over three thousand words for this blog. I think I need help.

3rd Quarter 0:00, Duke 38 Wake Forest 41: Wake Forest has returned to its running game in a big way, slowly but surely moving the ball into Duke territory. Faced with third and four with 32 seconds to go in the quarter, Wake calls timeout to plan their attack. The timeout proves useful, as a run up the middle yields a first down as the third quarter runs out with Duke down 3.

4th Quarter 13:58, Duke 38 Wake Forest 48: An alert to all my loyal readers (all three of you): because of a strange Wake Forest media policy that requires media members to go down to field level with four minutes to go in the game, this lively live blog (get it?) will conclude slightly before the game does. I know you're crushed.

Meanwhile, the Demon Deacons continue to grind it out on the ground and earn another first down (with the help of a few generous spots).  After the Duke defensive line is unable to create any pressure on Price, Wake Forest enters the end zone on a pass from Price to Danny Dembry. Wake Forest now leads by 10, and now the clock becomes Duke's enemy.

4th Quarter 8:45, Duke 41 Wake Forest 48: The rain really seems to be slowing down Sean Renfree's passing game, as he appears to be settling for more underneath passes as opposed to the deep ball. After a first down, a promising pass goes right through Austin Kelly's hands (yet again). The Blue Devils area again faced with 3rd down, but this time convert. Interestingly enough, while Duke was at one point 4-for-5 on third down, with that last conversion they are now 5-for-12.

Duke seems to have caught a dangerous case of the drops, as this time Varner drops one that would've been a first down. The Blue Devils have at least five drops on the day at this point. Kelly, though, holds on to his next opportunity to earn a first down for Duke.

The Blue Devils are methodically working the ball down the field—a big contrast from the big plays that defined the first half. Renfree gets let off the hook after an ill-advised pass to Helfet bounces incomplete. Vernon makes a tough catch on third down, but finds himself a yard short of the first down thanks to a not so generous spot. Cutcliffe elects to go for the field goal, but a delay of game penalty pushes Duke back five yards before the attempt. Snyderwine, though, remains collected and puts it through the uprights in the driving rain, putting Duke back within a touchdown.  Now, though, they'll have to come up with a stop.


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