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

<p>Duke quarterback Quentin Harris fought through a constant downpour in the first half against Wake Forest.</p>

Duke quarterback Quentin Harris fought through a constant downpour in the first half against Wake Forest.

Nearly one year ago, Duke suffered its worst loss since 1990 against Wake Forest in a rainy, muddy Wade Wallace Stadium. A rematch in Winston-Salem, N.C., is repeating itself in the skies, but Duke has held its own in a gritty, slippery ACC battle, finding itself down 13-10 at halftime. The rain element has added a certain zing to the game.

Five observations:

1. Water, water everywhere

Constant rain has turned BB&T Field into a water park. Water has infiltrated every aspect of the game—players on either side are slipping and sliding on the slick surface, dropping passes, releasing passes too early or failing to catch snaps at all.

Quentin Harris in particular has struggled to get a grip on the ball. He threw the ball 10 feet over wide receiver Aaron Young's head on the first play of the game. On the next drive, Harris mishandled a snap from the shotgun. The ball bounced along until Wake Forest recovered the ball deep in Duke territory.

2. Down to earth

The downpour has all but taken the passing game out of the picture completely for both teams, with at least two receivers having dropped passes on either side. Instead of the air, the Blue Devils and Demon Deacons have stuck to the ground, running the ball seemingly every down. Duke ran the ball 16 times while passing eight times. Similarly, Wake Forest ran 37 times and passed 12 times.

The Blue Devils have totaled 45 yards on the ground; the Demon Deacons ran for 165 yards. 

3. In the blink of an eye...

After Wake Forest drove down the field unimpeded by Duke for a field goal, the Blue Devils returned the favor immediately, and more. Redshirt sophomore Damond Philyaw-Johnson returned the Demon Deacons' kickoff 97 yards—untouched—for a touchdown to put Duke on top just as the first quarter ended.

4. Blink again

Halfway through the second quarter, Wake Forest quarterback Jamie Newman scampered 42 yards—untouched, like Philyaw-Johnson—around the Blue Devil defensive line and into the end zone. So much for Duke's lead.

5. Go big or go home

Duke's dink-and-dunk offense has proven ineffective against Wake Forest. The field goal it produced came off of the Blue Devils' lone deep attempt, a 33-yard bomb to Jalon Calhoun.

On the other side, Wake Forest also added a field goal of its own following a 36-yard pass to redshirt senior Kendall Hinton.

By the numbers:

  • 97 yards: That's the distance redshirt sophomore Damond Philyaw-Johnson ran for Duke's first score of the game. The touchdown was the first of Philyaw-Jackson's career. He has mostly served as a special teams player.
  • Four fumbles: Two of Duke's four fumbles were recovered by the Demon Deacons. The Blue Devils just can't get a grip on the ball. Duke receivers have bungled catches even on short passes, rendering the team's passing game virtually useless.
  • 100 percent humidity: It's the 100th game ever between Duke and Wake Forest, and the atmosphere felt the need to match colors. It is really, really wet in Winston-Salem, and everybody is having trouble keeping balance.

A moment that mattered:

Duke's offense has failed to get anything going, but Blue Devil fans can thank a 97-yard kickoff return for producing the team's first touchdown since Nov. 9. Philyaw-Johnson took the ball from the right hash and cut to the right sideline. After evading a final Wake Forest tackler at the Demon Deacons' 40-yard line, it was a straight shot to the end zone for the return specialist.

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