After a loss to Pittsburgh last Saturday, Duke returns home for its final regular season game to take on Wake Forest. Before the contest Saturday afternoon, the Blue Zone takes a look at one player from each team who can swing the outcome of the game:
Duke: DeWayne Carter
While good offense is necessary for victory in modern college football, the importance of a strong defense cannot be underestimated. On a unit known more for its depth than any particular star, redshirt junior DeWayne Carter has become a household name among the Blue Devil faithful. The defensive tackle has recorded 4.5 sacks in 2022, and most recently had two pressures on Pittsburgh quarterback Kedon Slovis in the Blue Devils’ loss.
Carter is the centerpiece of a run-stuffing defensive unit that has allowed just 3.7 yards per carry to opposing rushers this season. However, Duke’s defense has proven vulnerable by this method of offense at times. Carter and the Blue Devils were unable to stop star Pittsburgh running back Israel Abanikanda Saturday, allowing him to run for 113 yards and a score on just 17 attempts. Carter faces a weak rushing attack against Wake Forest, but must play consistently to eliminate the run as an option for the Demon Deacons to gain yardage.
In order for the Blue Devils to secure a win, the team must limit Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman with interior pressure. If Carter can force attention from the Demon Deacons’ interior offensive linemen, space may be freed up for edge defender R.J. Oben or pass-rushing defensive back Brandon Johnson to either hurry or take down Hartman. Carter has also shown his ability to make plays himself; he has recorded three forced fumbles this season and recovered as many. If Carter can rise to the occasion, Duke will have a strong chance to earn its first eight-win season since 2018 as it prepares for a bowl later this winter.
Wake Forest: A.T. Perry
A.T. Perry knows a thing or two about performing well when it matters most. After a magnificent 10-catch, 119-yard, three-touchdown day in a win against Syracuse Sunday, Perry became Wake Forest’s all-time leader in receiving touchdowns. In 11 contests, Perry has eclipsed the century-yard mark in four and has scored at least a touchdown in all but three. He is among the better receiving prospects for the 2023 NFL Draft, and the former First Team All-ACC wideout should no doubt hear his name called in Kansas City, Mo., in April.
Perry’s physical gifts are clear; one scouting report prior to the season described him as a “very smooth mover for his size” while emphasizing his catch radius, acceleration and catch ability. The Demon Deacons have needed to rely on Perry for his skills and 6-foot-5 frame as much as out of necessity alone, as their rushing offense ranks third-to-last in yards per carry in the ACC.
Throughout the year, Duke’s defense has been pitted against many of the ACC’s best receivers. Facing another NFL-bound, elite wideout in Boston College’s Zay Flowers Nov. 4, Duke gave up 65 yards and a pair of touchdowns. A much tougher matchup for the Blue Devils occurred against North Carolina Oct. 15, where the defense allowed a combined 238 yards to wideouts Josh Downs and Antoine Green, including the game-winning touchdown. Duke has allowed 22 scores and 7.2 yards per attempt through the air, giving Perry a big-game opportunity to end the year. With all of this in mind, Perry has a strong chance to help the Demon Deacons secure their eighth victory of the year in Durham Saturday.
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