Duke Falls At Wake Forest, Despite Special Teams Heroics
Duke showed signs of snapping out of its late season funk, but the Blue Devils fell short against the Demon Deacons, losing at Wake Forest, 39-27 on Saturday.
The loss was the fifth straight for Duke and drops the Blue Devils to 4-7. Unless there aren’t enough bowl-eligible teams—heading into the final week of the regular season, the bowls are still five-teams short—Duke will miss out on the postseason for the first time in three years.
The Blue Devils, who have struggled to get their offense on track in the second half of the season, got a spark from their special teams. Damond Philyaw-Johnson became the first Blue Devil in history and just the second ACC player ever, to return two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same game. Justin Miller also did it, for Clemson, in 2004. He becomes the 25 player in NCAA history to accomplish the feat.
Johnson’s first return, a 97-yarder, gave Duke its first lead since October 26, against UNC, a span of more than 158 minutes of game time.
The score seemed to get the offense, which had struggled to move the ball in the first quarter, moving. Quentin Harris and freshman Jalon Calhoun connected on a 33-yard pass to set up a field goal, the longest reception by Calhoun since Oct. 12. Harris also threw his first touchdown pass in two weeks, later in the game.
The offense struggled on third down, however, converting just 1-of-11 for the game. The down was equally problematic for the defense, who allowed Wake to convert on 11-of-21, keeping the defense on the field for more than 39 minutes.
As the Duke defense wore down, the Blue Devils’ tackling suffered, allowing Wake to rack up 618 yards of offense. Quarterback Jamie Newman ran for a career-best 144 yards, and Kenneth Walker had 113. Kendall Hinton added 189 yards receiving.