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X-Factor: Duke football needs Shaka Heyward to help slow Wake Forest's dynamic offense

Shaka Heyward leads the Blue Devils in total tackles with 60.
Shaka Heyward leads the Blue Devils in total tackles with 60.

After falling hard to Virginia on the road and a subsequent bye week, the Blue Devils are back in action this weekend at No. 13 Wake Forest. As always, the Blue Zone brings you a player to watch out for on both sides as Duke goes after its first conference win Saturday:

Duke: Linebacker Shaka Heyward

This may be the obvious choice, but come Saturday in Winston-Salem, the Blue Devils are going to need all the help they can get from their defensive cornerstone. It is no secret that the Demon Deacons play in high-scoring, low-defense contests—each of their last three opponents has scored over 30 points, and Army notched 56 last week.

But Wake Forest still pulled out the win, scoring 70 points in just over 17 minutes of possession—a blistering pace that gave the Demon Deacons an average scoring time of less than two minutes per touchdown. Assuming that the offense can do its job, it will be up to Heyward and the defense to slow this team down.

Heyward leads the team in total tackles with 60, including 19 solo efforts along with two sacks. A force in the middle of the field, the linebacker has also tallied a pick over Duke’s first seven games—his expertise will be necessary to halt Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman and Co. in their tracks. If Heyward can quarterback the defense to a number of stops, he gives his team a good chance to emerge Saturday with the victory.

Wake Forest: Wide receiver Jaquarii Roberson

If the Demon Deacons’ defense looks anything like it did last week, Roberson will need another banner game to lift his team to the win. Roberson put up remarkable numbers against Army, catching eight balls for 157 yards and a remarkable three scores despite making only two trips to the end zone through Wake Forest’s first six contests. 

Roberson's breakout day cemented the wideout as a favorite target of Hartman's and will likely have him seeing a similar workload this week. It will be up to Duke's defensive backfield to ensure that Roberson is kept in check and that the same fate that befell the Black Knights does not similarly befall the Blue Devils. But if you see a wideout streaking down the sideline for a long score come mid-afternoon Saturday, don’t be surprised if it's the number five on Roberson's jersey that flashes across your screen.


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