Fresh off the first win of the season, and a short drive down I-40, Wake topped rival Duke to go to 2-0 on the season, 24-14.
Wake started with the ball and John Wolford took the field first for the Deacs. The first play of the game was the familiar read option keeper for a two yard loss. Then despite positive yardage on second down, the Deacs were unable to convert on a long pass to Cortez Lewis and quickly went three and out.
Duke started with good field position after a big punt but a nice return to their own 40 yard line. Freshman quarterback Daniel Jones started for Duke with only two quarters of football under his belt in his career. Duke ran the ball between the tackles effectively on the first drive, and Jones showed poise and confidence running an uptempo offense for Duke, completing his first two throws and using his legs to pick up another first. From there, Duke marched comfortably, mixing the pass and run, moving the line of scrimmage with ease. Wake was finally able to get pressure when Duke got to 1st and goal, but a pass interference call on 3rd and long gave Duke another set of downs from the 2 yard line. After three goal line stands, Duke went for it on 4th and goal and Jones scored off a great fake handoff inside.
Kendall Hinton quarterbacked the Deacs on the second offensive drive, but the Deacon offense quickly stalled again after more unimaginative playcalling. The Wake offense was only able to slow the game down on offense insofar as they ran the clock down behind the line. HInton held the ball way too long on 3rd down, and even with good time in the pocket, got sacked on the second effort by the rushing Duke defender. And after the second good punt of the game for freshman Dom Maggio, Duke found the edge and took over inside Wake territory for their second drive of the game.
On the first great play of the Deacon season, Duke Ejiofor batted down a backward pass from QB Daniel Jones, and the referees did an excellent job not whistling the play dead, so the Deacs were able to get their first turnover of the season. If Wake is going to succeed this season, their defense desperately needs to be the catalysts. Cade Carney bounced outside for a nice long on first down, but the play was called back for holding in a crowded box inside. So instead of a nice first down gain, the Deacs were pushed back to 1st and 20, and Wolford could only fecklessly scramble out of the pocket for no yardage. Wolford was able to complete his first pass to Devin Pike on 2nd and long, but 3rd and long was still too much for the Deacs who gave up another sack on a broken play.
With so short a rest on the sidelines after making the big play, the Deacon defense came back out again in what must have been a demoralizing and brief break from play. Still, the Deacon defense was able to get a big stop, but at great cost with Demetrius Kemp going out injured after a big hit on the sidelines. Wake was finally able to manage a good return on special teams, but it was negated by a block in the back penalty.
Wake started their fourth drive of the game on their own 15 yard line, and the offense finally started to gel with a nice touch throw from Hinton to veteran tight end Cam Serigne. When Wake got into an empty backfield set, however, everyone in the stadium knew the playcall, and the QB draw was snuffed out easily. Coach Clawson then brought in John Wolford for the 3rd down and 5, but despite a nice play, Steven Claude couldn't bring the catch in inbounds. Still, Wake won the field position battle after another great punt from Maggio, and Duke started its next drive inside its own 10 yard line.
Backed up deep in their own territory, Duke marched down the field to start the second quarter, getting most of their yardage on a huge throw down the sidelines beating Brad Watson for 59 yards. The announcers on ESPNU nailed it when they diagnosed the Deacs' extensive offensive woes--Wake stopping Duke after the big play to hold Duke to a field goal attempt was the only thing keeping Wake in the game. The attempt missed off the upright, and somehow, Wake was still just down 7.
On first down, Wake moved the chains with a nice throw and catch out to the flats to Tabari Hines. Seemingly perplexed by picking up a first down, Wake had to take a quick timeout. The first new play in twenty Wake ran went for positive yardage, but the next three couldn't pick up a second first down, and the offense once again let the defense down. Duke stripped Wolford on a slow developing play, and took over deep in Wake territory.
Wake's defense was still up for the challenge, though. After two good stops and two Duke penalties, the turnover didn't hurt the bad Wolford turnover after Duke couldn't convert from 3rd and 17. Kendall Hinton came in and took advantage of a weakside Duke blitz for a nice 32 yard run. Then after a pass lost yards, Hinton throw a jump ball to Cortez Lewis who brought in the catch for good positive yardage. Even though the ball was a little underthrown, Lewis was able to adjust and make a nice catch. From there, Cade Carney had two excellent runs, including a rumbling run up the middle for the second Deacon offensive touchdown of the season, knotting the game at 7-7.
Wake's defense came back out again after the Deacon touchdown and kept the Duke drive from going much of anywhere after a short pass, a short run, and an incompletion. Wake took back over with less than six minutes to play from their own 31. Hinton earned the QB duties on the ensuing drive and Wake was able to gain a first down on two Matt Colburn runs. Hinton then made a few Duke defenders miss himself on a keeper play up the middle and picked up another first. Hinton's ability to throw and run kept Duke's defense honest at least, and though the drive eventually stalled, it showed that Hinton was clearly the better option at QB.
Duke took advantage of their final possession of the half by moving the ball well in the two-minute drill. After a long review and delay, Duke was able to resume their drive near midfield and Jones ran for a big first down for Duke as the clock wound under a minute to go in the half. Wake sacked Jones on the ensuing play, however, and Duke was forced to take their second timeout of the half. Wake brought pressure out of the timeout, and Jones threw the ball away to preserve the Duke chances to score before the half ran out. Jones kept the ball to the 25 yard line on the final offensive play of the half, and Duke was able to kick a field goal as time expired, but it was another miss, and the game remained 7-7 at half.
The big playmaker for Wake in the first half was Duke Ejiofor. Not only did he force the turnover, he was constantly getting pressure, and accounted for two big sacks. Without his play on the defensive line, Wake would not have been in the game to the extent they were. The offense didn't show anything particularly special aside from a few good Carney and Hinton runs.
Duke took over in the second half on their own 25, and Duke Ejiofor came out of the locker room hot with a monster sack. Then on the next play, he forced a fumble and recovered the ball as the play was called on the field, and after a review, Wake took over in Duke territory after the giftwrapped plays from Ejiofor. Cade Carney showed more speed and power right off the bat with a huge 1st down run. Kendall Hinton then lost a yard on a read option keeper bringing up 3rd down, and then a QB sneak gave the Deacs a first down inside the Devil 5. From there, Carney was the workhorse getting three straight runs, finally pounding it in to give the Deacs a lead.
On the following Duke drive, Wake's defense looked ready for the challenge again before a missed tackle led to a long run after the catch from their receiver Anthony Nash. Duke took over from there on the Wake Forest 12 yard line looking to level the game. Nash worked Brad Watson again on the next catch and gave Duke a first and goal and Jones walked in for his second rushing TD of the game.
With the game tied again, Kendall Hinton appeared to have won the job. The playbook, however, didn't open up at all as the read option seemed to be the common theme for the Deacs again. Cade Carney made the best of a bad situation on 2nd down hauling in a tough screen pass and getting positive yards, but after a false start, Wake wasn't able to convert on 3rd and 12. Dom Maggio kept Wake happy with a punt inside the Duke 30, flipping the field as the 3rd quarter ticked down.
Anthony Nash picked up where he left off after the scoring drive with another nice catch and run, but Wake responded with a nice tackle for loss by Thomas Brown in the Duke backfield on a screen pass. Thomas Brown made another huge play on 3rd down two plays later chasing down Jones for a sack as the play broke down. Brown, in for Demetrius Kemp, showed that this Deacon defense has some depth again.
Matt Colburn took over for Cade Carney in the backfield and rushed for six yards on first down. Hinton then kept on second down for a short gain, and Carney was back in for third and short. Cade Carney broke it from there 52 yards up the middle on a huge breakout run to give the Deacs the lead right back, 21-14.
Duke took over from there on their own 20 yard line. They picked up one first down, but the defense was too much for Duke after that and after three straight tackles for loss, Wake took over with 1:29 in the third quarter with the lead. The Deacs went three and out, but managed to gain positive yards and continued to win the field position battle as the third quarter expired.
Duke picked up a quick first down with short, quick passes to start the fourth quarter, and Duke looked dangerous again for the first time in the second half. After three positive plays, Duke Ejiofor went out with cramps or a small injury, and Wendell Dunn took over for him with a great sack off the outside. On third and 15, Duke couldn't break down Wake's dime prevent defense and were forced to punt again.
Matt Colburn came in and made the most of his time on the field again with a huge run up the middle on first down, and Kendall Hinton showed why he earned the quarterback role with a huge pickup on 3rd and 5, keeping the drive alive deeper into Duke territory. Troublingly for the Deacs, Justin Herron went down hurt on a conservative third down run call, and Wake couldn't move the chains again, and were forced to go for it on 4th and 6. Clawson's first aggressive decision of the season was minorly punished, as Hinton was hit while he threw and the ball was picked off near the line.
Duke took over and quickly completed out to midfield, but couldn't move it from there after two great plays from the Deacon secondary. The clock ticked down under 8 minutes to go in the game and Duke punted to the Deacon 15. After two ineffective runs, on 3rd and 11, Kendall Hinton delivered a gorgeous throw to Alex Bachmann for 62 yards down the sideline, and Wake took the clock down under six minutes to go in the game. From there though, Wake was only able to pick up a few yards on the next three rushes, and Wake settled for a Mike Weaver field goal attempt as the clock wound under four to go. The ball snuck inside the upright, dinging off the inside of the metal for three points, and Wake stretched their lead to 24-14.
The two possession lead was enough for Wake to hold on and win after Brad Watson sealed the victory with a big interception.
The bottom line on this Wake win was that it was a win. And a road win, a conference road win, a conference road win against a rival, a conference road win against a rival that the Deacs haven't beaten in the last four matchups. The Deacs didn't look good for all 60 minutes, but the defense did enough to keep the offense in the game until the coaches saw enough to give Kendall Hinton control of the team on offense. When Hinton and Carney took over, Wake looked like a decent ACC offense for the first time in a few seasons. Most Wake fans will likely agree that he has earned the starter spot, and that Carney has earned the starting RB role. I know I'm willing to forget the first six quarters of the season and focus on the 2-0 start.