Duke balanced, efficient in win at Wake
Posted September 29, 2012
Winston-Salem, N.C. — Duke walked into Winston-Salem Saturday with a game plan and never strayed from it. The result was a well-balanced, highly-efficient, well-deserved, program win.
Duke (4-1, 1-0 ACC) controlled the time of possession – 33:08-26:52, had 40 pass attempts to 36 rushing attempts, and got 11 players involved with either a carry or reception. In doing so, they snapped a 12-game losing streak to Wake Forest, beating the Demon Deacons at BB&T Field, 34-27.
Sean Renfree, before departing in the fourth quarter with an apparent injury, went 22-for-28 passing for 204 yards. The stretch screen passes were countless, and created a sideline presence, but were also safe passes that allowed the receivers to do most of the work. Many of Renfree’s passes never traveled more than three yards downfield, but his yards per completion average on the day was 7.3.
Desmond Scott was the major beneficiary of the short passing game by Duke Saturday hauling in 11 passes for 134 yards. Conner Vernon – more on him in a minute – caught five for 62 earning him a special mark.
Backup quarterback Anthony Boone was forced into the game for the final four series’ for the Blue Devils and was equally as efficient - and one could argue more-so given the situation. Duke had to simply control a fourth quarter lead and Boone’s feet helped the clock roll to make that possible. His 4-yard touchdown proved to be the insurance score that the Devils needed in the end.
It’s not that Wake Forest played poorly, and anytime Wake Forest is close in the fourth quarter, you can expect a fight. Jim Grobe, in my opinion, is one of the best fourth quarter head coaches in the country.
Tanner Price was a mundane 19-for-38 and had two picks to go with two scores, but he was good when he needed to be. Trailing in the fourth quarter he used both his arm and feet to lead a touchdown drive and give the Demon Deacons a chance.
Vernon makes history
Back to Vernon’s special day. He entered just five receptions shy of Aaron Kelly for the all-time career receptions mark in the ACC. On the final drive, on a quick hit to the left hash from Boone, he got the fifth reception of the day and 232nd of his career to tie Kelly’s mark.
Personal records are fun for fans anytime. As a player, you want to make those moments happen in games that you win and when those plays make an impact. Saturday, the whole receiving corps was workmanlike and Vernon can smile now with a share of the record.
Best part? He can take the record outright in front of the home fans next week against Virginia.
Special Teams importance
Wake Forest entered Saturday as one of only two teams in the nation without a field goal made. Midway through the second quarter, they got it – barely, but it counts. Jimmy Newman converted from 45 yards to bring the score to 13-10 before half. Newman added one late in the third quarter to tie the game at 20.
Duke’s special teams were equally up to the task. Freshman Ross Martin connected on all four extra points and a pair of field goals. Punter Will Monday pinned Wake Forest inside the 20 twice and averaged 45 yards on five punts.
Duke is now 4-1 and has a suddenly important game next week against Virginia. Considering the Blue Devils’ schedule, there are surely two wins left – although it’s no guarantee.
Home games include Virginia, UNC, Clemson and Miami. Road games left are Virginia Tech, Florida State, Georgia Tech.
If in fact this season does end with a bowl appearance for Duke, Saturday's win over Wake Forest can be considered a bowl-buster win that helps boost a program.