The independent news organization of Duke University

Five observations and more from Duke football's first half against Wake Forest

<p>T.J. Rahming and the Duke offense have been quiet on Senior Day.&nbsp;</p>

T.J. Rahming and the Duke offense have been quiet on Senior Day. 

Duke hasn't looked the part of a double-digit favorite so far in its regular-season finale against Wake Forest, trailing 31-7 at halftime. Here are some quick notes and observations with the Blue Devils looking to come out of the locker room with more life.

Five observations

  1. Duke looks listless on a gloomy, rainy Senior Day with Wallace Wade Stadium about five percent full. A week after they stunned Clemson with a 6-0 lead through 15 minutes before that game unraveled, the Blue Devils were on the receiving end of a nightmarish first quarter and finished the first period down 21-0.
  2. Blue Devil quarterback Daniel Jones hobbled off the field and into the injury tent on Duke's sideline after getting knocked down as he made a pass early in the second quarter. But Jones didn't miss a play and returned to the field for the start of the Blue Devils' next drive.
  3. Jones had a half to forget, looking uncomfortable in the pocket and completing just 10-of-25 passes for 95 yards. He has uncharacteristically missed receivers downfield with space several times, and when he was accurate, his receivers haven't always helped. Damond Philyaw Johnson dropped a pass on an early third down that could have moved Duke past midfield.
  4. Duke's run defense struggled out of the gate, starting similarly to how it did two weeks ago against North Carolina. Wake Forest marched right down the field for a touchdown on the first drive of the game, only needing to throw one pass. Star senior linebacker Ben Humphreys started the game after injuring his knee last week at Clemson but trudged off the field after just a couple of plays, and Joe Giles-Harris is also unavailable after battling a knee injury for the last several weeks. 
  5. The Blue Devils tightened up on defense in the second quarter to keep the game within reach. Duke forced back-to-back three-and-outs, as reserve linebacker Brandon Hill settled in to make nine tackles after he was ejected in the first half last week against the Tigers for targeting. However, Jones threw a pick-six deep in Duke territory with 4:10 left as the Deamon Deacons extended the lead back to three touchdowns.

By the numbers

  • 25 total yards on Duke's first three drives: The Blue Devils failed to get anything going early against the second-worst scoring defense in the ACC to dig themselves into a daunting hole. The Demon Deacons got pressure on Jones and stuffed the run to build their commanding first-quarter lead.
  • 118 rushing yards for Cade Carney: Carney spurred Wake Forest's upset at Wallace Wade Stadium two seasons ago with 108 rushing yards and three touchdowns as a freshman, and he is back to haunt Duke again, already reaching triple-digit yardage on the ground through the first half.
  • 6-for-11 on third-down conversions for Wake Forest: Two of the Demon Deacons' touchdowns came on third-and-long passes by Demon Deacon quarterback Jamie Newman, as he was able to read blitzes and find open receivers quickly with impressive passes. Duke's injury-riddled defense struggled to get off the field and got worn down by Wake Forest's long drives.

A moment that mattered

Duke had just stopped Wake Forest on its second drive to stay within a touchdown, but on the first play of the Blue Devils' second possession seven minutes into the game, running back Deon Jackson was hit near the line of scrimmage and coughed up the ball inside Duke's 20-yard line. The Demon Deacons capitalized on the short field to seize a 14-0 lead.