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Three Up, Three Down: Duke

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Wake Forest completed its clean sweep of home victories against Big Four rivals with a victory over Duke that put the nail in the coffin of the Blue Devils’ bowl hopes.

NCAA Football: Duke at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Ups

Seniors Coming Up Huge. Kendall Hinton, on his second Senior Day, had an absolutely massive game, coming up with 6 catches for 189 yards and a touchdown, including a couple of grabs in high pressure situations. That’s massive in a game with both Sage Surratt and Scotty Washington unavailable. Kendall even took a snap at quarterback after Jamie Newman (who had a great game but I only have so many Ups to give) took a play off after rolling an ankle. But Kendall wasn’t the only senior to put a spectacular exclamation point on his career. Cade Carney, who’s had a bit of a rough season, came up absolutely clutch in a high pressure offensive drive, taking the team on his back and chewing up the final 34 yards to paydirt with Wake up 5 and time winding down, including a punishing 11 yard gain on 4th and 1 at the Duke 34. I cannot extend enough thanks to all of the truly incredible seniors in this class. Thank you all so much for the wins, the memories, and most importantly the sacrifices you all make. I have the easy job covering this stuff. You guys put in the work.

Nick Sciba Kicks His Way Into History. The sophomore kicker, since being part of a play that was fodder for the SportsCenter Not Top 10, has made 32 straight field goal attempts and counting. That, folks, is an NCAA record, toppling the mark set by Chuck Nelson of the Washington Huskies (30 straight) in 1981-1982. Congratulations, Nick, and thanks also go to Dom Maggio and Dayton Diemel. You guys did it. You’re legendary.

Impact Plays On Defense. The Deacs forced five fumbles, recovered two, added 5 sacks, and an interception for Ja’Sir Taylor. Thet’s a hell of a performance. They weren’t flawless, but jeez. Any time you can hold a team to a combined 2-14 on third and fourth downs, that’s pretty darn fantastic.

The Downs

Kick Coverage. To quote Coach Clawson himself, “If we could cover kicks, this isn’t even a game.” TWO kickoffs returned for touchdowns, which makes for three on the season, not to mention a 21 yard punt return. Think about this. Without multiple such breakdowns against Louisville as well, we likely win that game and are sitting at 9-2 with a shot to break the all time school win record. Not everything is bad on special teams! Dom Maggio is a great punter, and I already talked about Sciba, so why on Earth is kick coverage such an outlier? I don’t know, but it’s kind of infuriating.

Red Zone Offense. As thrilled as I am for Nick Sciba, I don’t love the fact that Wake had to kick it 4 times and that the long was from 44. Seriously, this offense is quite possibly the best Wake has ever had, but somehow the red zone seems to be something of a bugaboo. I will make some allowances for the fact that we’re missing two huge targets, but come on now.

Defensive Breakdowns. As impactful as the defense was. they still gave up 290 yards and a 4 play, 65-yard touchdown drive for Duke that absolutely should not have happened. It was far from a terrible performance by any metric, but it wasn’t quite Happy Haiku-worthy, and I need a third down somewhere.

The Bottom Line

I was absolutely furious at the special teams lapses and the fact that the defense gave up the lead, but holy cow, guys, we’re at 8 wins with 2 games left, a program best 6-1 record at home, and the only loss was truly bonkers. What a season (not that it’s over yet). Thank you seniors and those who may be going pro, thank you Coach Clawson, and truly incredible work, to a man. Hopefully we can finish strong (and hold on to Coach, to be honest).

On to the next. Go Deacs.

—SF