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Third and goal: Duke football needs to rise to the occasion against Wake Forest

<p>Leonard Johnson and the Blue Devils' secondary will need to create turnovers against Wake Forest to spark the offense.</p>

Leonard Johnson and the Blue Devils' secondary will need to create turnovers against Wake Forest to spark the offense.


The Blue Devils are on precarious ground, in danger of missing a bowl game for just the second time in eight years. The Blue Zone gives you three keys to a Duke win Saturday:

1. Sense of urgency

Wake Forest's motto throughout the 2019 campaign has been "sense of urgency," and that is just the mentality Duke needs right now.

Thanks to a lethargic offense and head-scratching coaching decisions, the Blue Devils have scored a combined 13 points over their last two games. Duke is going to need to generate offense down the field Saturday, especially against a Wake Forest team that has been held under 20 points just twice this season. To get their offensive woes sorted, the Blue Devils will need to take a hard look at their game-plan and get everyone on the same page for the first time in almost a month.

2. Exorcising their Demon (Deacons)

The last meeting between the Blue Devils and Demon Deacons was an embarrassing 59-7 loss for Duke in Wallace Wade Stadium, capping off a 2-4 finish to the 2018 regular season. A loss this weekend would be five straight for Duke, almost certainly keeping the squad from bowl season.

The Blue Devils are winless in four games this season against opponents that have been ranked in the AP Top 25 at some point, and the Demon Deacons ranked No. 22 two weeks ago. Duke has flashed top-tier talent throughout the season, but that has rarely amounted to high-end play in its toughest matchups.

3. Team effort on defense

The Blue Devil defense has had outstanding individual play this season, from Victor Dimukeje’s 6.5 total sacks to Koby Quansah’s punishing presence in the middle of the field. However, the Demon Deacons will be without their top two receivers Saturday, and without them, they’re likely to lean heavily on the run.

Duke’s run defense has been anywhere from sloppy to nonexistent this season, and recent losses to Notre Dame and Syracuse have only further exposed this weakness. The Blue Devils are allowing over 170 rushing yards per game this year, ranking just 83rd in the country. With Wake Forest averaging about the same ground yards per contest, the fate of the Blue Devils rests on their reserve defenders filling their gaps and playing at a consistent level for 60 minutes.