Conner Vernon will break the All Time ACC receptions record with his next catch, but today he helped his team to a 34-27 win over Wake Forest to push the Blue Devils record to 4-1 on the season. Vernon caught five balls for 62 yards in the win. Check out these two post game videos with Vernon from Blue Devil Nation -
WINSTON-SALEM: Duke had a number of players step up on Saturday as they snapped a 12-game losing streak to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. In his final trip to Winston-Salem, senior Desmond Scott posted his first 100-yard receiving game, making big play after big play when the Blue Devil offense needed him. Freshman Jela Duncan, though new to this rivalry, fully understood the implications of this win, which was sealed by his first career touchdown in the 4th quarter. With redshirt-senior QB Sean Renfree sidelined with a shoulder injury, it was Anthony Boone who guided the Blue Devils to victory in the 4th quarter, putting them up for good with his 4-yard TD run early in the 4th quarter. BDN was on hand to hear from all three players after the big victory.
WINSTON-SALEM - The Blue Devils snapped a 12-game losing streak to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons on Saturday with a 34-27 victory. Despite another slew of injuries, Duke battled back after Wake Forest tied it at 20 entering the 4th quarter. The Blue Devils made plays on both offense and defense to seal the victory, and Coach Cutcliffe was pleased with his team's performance. The happy Head Coach addressed the media shortly after the big win.
Duke players were all smiles as they came off the field on Saturday after their hard-earned victory against a pesky Wake Forest team.
After winning the last two weeks, the Voice of the Blue Devils, Bob Harris, has surged into first place in our overall standings. Harris holds a one game lead over BDN staff members Andrew Slater and Patrick Cacchio. Cleveland Browns QB Thad Lewis tied Harris for the week 4 win, correctly picking 8 games. A happy belated birthday to St. Louis Rams' safety Matt Daniels as he turned 23 this past week. Vinny Rey and the Bengals continue to roll along after a victory over the Redskins.
This week's slate of college football games is headlined by the Blue Devils' crucial road matchup at Wake Forest. Both the BDN staff and the BDN Greats believe this is the year for Duke to snap their 12 game losing streak to the Demon Deacons. Elsewhere in the ACC, the Wolfpack travel south to take on Miami, who comes off a surprising upset of Georgia Tech. After their disappointing loss at Florida State, Clemson will try to right their ship as they travel to Boston College. Virginia Tech will try to avoid going 0-2 against the Big East this year as they take on Cincinnati. Derek Dooley will take his Volunteers on the road to face Mark Richt's Bulldogs in a big SEC matchup. In what appears to be a wide open PAC-12 race, Oregon State travels to Arizona for an important game between two surprise teams. Texas will take on Oklahoma State, and Wisconsin faces a tough test at Nebraska. The headline game tonight will be in the Big 10, where Urban Meyer's Buckeyes will try to come away with a victory in East Lansing against the Spartans. Enjoy this week's games! Go Duke!
Here are this week's picks:
Patrick Cacchio: The streak ends here. Duke will improve to 4-1 as they put together their best game of the season. It will be another thriller in the series, but Duke will come out with the tough ACC road win. Duke 45, WF 37
Bob Green: Special Teams play has to improve. Muffed punts or a 95 yard kick return are potentially fatal mistakes against an evenly matched opponent. Duke has two excellent kickers in Will Monday and Ross Martin, but to take advantage of their skills the coverage teams have to step up their performance.
On defense, Tanner Price must be contained. His ability to scramble and create something out of nothing is a concern. Additionally, Duke must be tough up the middle as Wake Forest will look to establish the run to set-up the pass.
Offensively, the Blue Devils must utilize the whole playbook to take advantage of all the skill position players on their roster. It is time to pull out all the stops and unleash the offense.
Star Watch: Conner Vernon will have more receptions for more yards than Michael Campanaro. Add in significant contributions from Jamison Crowder and Desmond Scott and Duke's passing attack will be too much for Wake Forest to handle. Duke 35, Wake Forest 24.
Andrew Slater: Wake Forest has generated more excruciating losses over the past decade than any other program. This year, the Demon Deacons have had major trouble defending the run (giving up 5.4 yards per carry and 265.5 yards per game), while Duke has had its best rushing team under Coach Cutcliffe. Despite all of the injuries, it will be critical that the Blue Devils' secondary blankets the Deacons' slot receiver Michael Campanaro, who is averaging over 105 yards catching per game. The Deacons' line is expected to get a boost with preseason All-ACC NG Nikita Whitlock returning from injury to add to the Akron transfer, DE Hassan Hazime. One of these years, Duke will end this ungodly losing streak against the Demon Deacons. This could very well be the year. Duke 30, Wake Forest 27
Mark Watson: It's time to break the streak and this Duke team is up to the task. The Blue Devils come out with a hard fought 31-30 win.
Bob Harris: 12 straight losses to the Deacs? Devils SHOULD, not could, but SHOULD have won 7 of those. THE STREAK STOPS HERE! Duke 42, Wake Forest 28
Matt Daniels: The Deacs and Devils meet again as the Devils head down to take on a Deacon team that struggled versus Army last week. It is key for the Blue Devil offense to step up and make plays and the defense must stop the run and put clamps on WR Campenero who is having a great season thus far. Expect this game to be a nail biter as usual, but this time the Blue Devils finally come out on the winning side.
Thad Lewis: It's about time we get over this hump and finally beat Wake -- we've been so close but it's our time now.
Vinny Rey: Duke 34 Wake 13 - Duke handily gets a win against Wake. The explosive offense and fast reacting defense is too much for the Deacon defense.
Duke: 3-1, beat Memphis 38-14
Wake Forest: 3-1, beat Army 49-31
Last year: Wake Forest defeated Duke, 24-23
PROBABLE: CB Lee Butler (leg), OG Lucas Patrick (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: QB/TE/FB/S Brandon Connette (leg), TE Erich Schneider (lower body)
OUT: CB Jared Boyd (knee), LB Kelby Brown (knee), DT Jamal Bruce (foot), TE Braxton Deaver (knee), DE Justin Foxx (hand), S Chris Tavarez (knee)
OUT FOR SEASON: TE Jack Farrell (leg), WR Blair Holliday, DE Allen Jackson (shoulder), S Corbin McCarthy (shoulder), S Taylor Sowell (leg)
WAKE FOREST INJURIES
PROBABLE: NG Nikita Whitlock (ankle)
OUT: WR Matt Jones (collarbone)
OUT FOR SEASON: TE Neil Basford (ankle)
HOW DUKE CAN WIN
Wake Forest allows over 200 yards rushing per game, a statistic that is probably misleading since they most recently played two very good running teams in Florida State and Army. Still, without a healthy Nikita Whitlock, the Demon Deacons are vulnerable, and to me, it has to start on the ground for Duke. Jela Duncan and Josh Snead have the ability to break open a run or two, which gives more working space for Duke's outstanding receiving corps of Conner Vernon, Jamison Crowder, and Desmond Scott. Note that Vernon is just 6 catches from the ACC all-time mark, an amazing feat for one of the best to ever don the blue and white. For Vernon, Scott, and QB Sean Renfree, this is likely their final chance to beat the Demon Deacons, and all three will have to play a big part in a Blue Devil victory. Defensively, the key matchup to watch will be Duke's cornerbacks against ACC-leading WR Michael Campanaro. Cockrell and Butler will have to keep him under wraps to keep Duke in the game, as Wake QB Tanner Price is not likely to make many mistakes. Josh Harris has given Duke fits on the ground in the past, but Wake has a suspect offensive line, so Duke has to continue to get into the backfield as they did against NCCU and Memphis. In their three big wins this year, special teams has made game-changing plays, whether it's a blocked FG, an intercepted 2-point conversion, or a return TD. Against a tough ACC opponent on the road, a big play on special teams could be the momentum swing the Blue Devils will inevitably need.
HOW DUKE CAN LOSE
I looked for a highlight montage of Duke's last 12 games against Wake Forest, but I couldn't find it. Seriously, the Blue Devils have written the book on how to lose close games to the Demon Deacons over the past 12 seasons. For a recap, check out Laura Keeley's piece for the N&O. In a nutshell, though, Duke has to take better care of the football than they have this season. They will be unlikely to lose the turnover battle and win the game against a team like Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons do not turn the ball over often, meaning that the Blue Devil defense will have to create stops and force mistakes to get the ball back for their offense. With Brandon Connette listed as questionable, someone may have to step up for the Blue Devils in the red zone, or else fans may get an unwanted deja vu back to the 2011 season. Ross Martin, who has been solid up to this point, will face his first serious ACC game pressure in this one, and he will have to be up to the challenge to keep the game from slipping away.
WHY DUKE WILL WIN
Incredibly, this is the first time since 1971 that both teams have come into this contest at 3-1. The Blue Devils' offense ranks in the top 25 in the country in scoring, and in the top 15 in passing. They're going up against a unit that ranks 106th out of 120 teams in total defense. Duke has too many playmakers on offense for a Demon Deacon defense that is struggling to find its identity. The Blue Devil defense will make just enough plays to keep the game close, but don't expect a lot of turnovers from a disciplined Wake Forest offense. Yes, this game will go back and forth. Sure, there will be ups and downs. As most of these matchups have gone over the past decade, it will be a roller coaster ride of emotion for Duke and Wake Forest fans, but this year, finally, the Blue Devils will finish on top. Duke 45, Wake Forest 37
One of our most popular features among premium members at Blue Devil Nation is our famous Duke Basketball Team and Recruiting Update. With the growth of our football coverage and Duke's exciting 3-1 start, BDN offers up another installment of our Duke Football Team and Recruiting Update. Join BDN Premium today for all the latest on #dukegang. Go Duke!
Duke is already a third of the way through the 2012 season, and are right where most expected them to be at 3-1, despite a serious rash of injuries. Playing through those injuries, the Blue Devils have taken care of business at home, winning all three games by wide margins. The team now enters the most crucial stretch of its schedule with some confidence, and an opportunity to prove they are ready to compete for a bowl invitation. It all starts with Wake Forest, a team that has dominated the Blue Devils over the past decade. This is a game that many, both around and within the program, circled on their calendars some time ago. The Duke staff will have the Blue Devils well-prepared for Saturday's matchup in Winston-Salem for what could be a turning point for the program.
Though ACC play has not yet begun, after four games, we have a pretty good idea of what this Duke team is. Led by two outstanding seniors in Conner Vernon and Desmond Scott, the Duke offense has the ability to put up points quickly. Among their many quantifiable accomplishments, including Vernon's impending all-time ACC records, these two seniors are flat-out winners, and their leadership has gone a long way in changing the culture of Duke Football. Behind the two seniors, Jamison Crowder has proven himself to be a consistent big-play threat in just his second season in Durham. Redshirt-senior Sean Renfree will at times look like an All-ACC quarterback, and on other series resemble a first-year starter. The Blue Devils will need more consistency from him as they enter ACC play, and they will need more consistency from their running game. Jela Duncan and Josh Snead have been the Blue Devils' most effective runners to this point in the season, but Juwan Thompson, Shaquille Powell, and Patrick Kurunuwe have also proven their worth, particularly as skilled blockers. Expect the staff to continue to divide the snaps fairly evenly among the five backs, as Duke looks to stay healthy and fresh at the skill positions, especially with the bye week not coming until week 10. Duke still remains thin and young at tight end, and this weakness is often overlooked when examining Duke's running game struggles, but it's an important factor to keep in mind as it certainly affects the blocking schemes. As young tight end David Reeves and others develop, though, it will only help the Blue Devils in 3rd down and red zone situations, and indeed in the entire running game. Overall, Duke is an improved red zone team this year, almost entirely due to the return of Brandon Connette, who has proven capable of throwing, running, and catching a TD from anywhere inside the 20. After an offseason trip to Ethiopia, the Duke offensive line can now boast that they have allowed the fewest sacks in the ACC through four games, which is an accomplishment considering how often Duke likes to throw the ball. As they continue to build their on-field chemistry and as young players like Lucas Patrick gain experience, this group will improve more. The staff feels like this offense has yet to put together a consistent 60 minutes of football, and are hoping to see the unit peak just in time for conference play.
Defensively, Duke has appeared to be dominant at times, but looks can be deceiving. The defense did record 17 tackles for loss against NCCU and Memphis, holding both opponents to less than 20 points. Against two pretty good offenses in FIU and Stanford, however, the defense gave up a ton of yards, allowing an average of over 400 total yards in those two contests. Injuries have particularly impacted the Blue Devil defense, where a number of starters have already missed significant time. Against ACC competition, this defense is unlikely to turn in dominant performances like the second half against Memphis, but they have proven capable of making enough plays to keep the Blue Devils in the game. Ross Cockrell and Lee Butler have established themselves as two of the best cornerbacks in the conference; it's their veteran play that has directly resulted in a reduction of big plays for Duke's opponents compared to recent years. A healthy Kenny Anunike, along with an athletic defensive line rotation of Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo, Dez Johnson, and Jon Woodruff, has proven capable of getting into the offensive backfield, but still have to prove they can be factors against ACC offensive lines. The middle of the defense has also been effective using rotations, and Jamal Wallace is a player who appears more comfortable each week after sliding inside this year. If Wallace can continue to develop alongside Sydney Sarmiento, who is playing his best football as a Blue Devil, then Duke's defense up the middle will be much improved. The defense would also get a huge boost if it could get a few guys back from injury, but it appears that a cautious approach will be taken with Kelby Brown (after his 2nd ACL repair), while Justin Foxx (hand surgery) and Jamal Bruce (broken foot) remain sidelined indefinitely.
For a team with a first-year kicker and a redshirt-freshman punter, the Blue Devil kicking game has been outstanding. Ross Martin and Will Monday appear as good as advertised, and as they continue to build their confidence, Duke's special teams will continue to improve. Injuries have taken their toll on kick and punt coverage, but the return of players like Jordon Byas (knee surgery), Brendan Fowler (upper body injury) and Britton Grier (broken arm) should go a long way to improving the performance of those units.
It won't be easy, and the Blue Devils will never be 100% healthy this year, but Duke has proven it can overcome its injuries and flaws, and this team has an opportunity to make some noise in the ACC Coastal Division. It all starts on Saturday at 12:30 PM, as Duke looks to end a 12-year losing streak to the Demon Deacons.
The Duke staff was thrilled to add WR Terrence Alls and RB Joseph Ajeigbe as the 14th and 15th verbal commitments in the class of 2013. Both players ranked near the top of the Duke recruiting board at their positions, and both have been heavily recruited nationally. Alls, as well as fellow Florida natives Johnell Barnes and TJ Douglas, figure to compete for immediate playing time at receiver with the graduation of starters Conner Vernon and Desmond Scott. Teams will be sorry they missed out on Alls and Barnes; they are both big playmakers at receiver. Be sure to keep up with all of the Blue Devil commits in our weekly Friday Night Lights column.
With 15 players committed and just 11 players in their final year of eligibility (Anunike and Farrell should both get an extra year), well, there are only a couple of scholarships still available in this class. With that in mind, the Blue Devils will only look to add prospects who the staff believe can come in and make a significant impact in Durham. Duke remains in hot pursuit of two top offensive linemen in J.D. Hinnant (Fountain Valley, CA) and Elijah George (Arbor View, NV). Both players have great size and strength, and a number of suitors nationally. The Blue Devils plan to get both on campus for official visits later this fall. Duke hopes to welcome WR/DBs DaeSean Hamilton (Mountain View, VA) and Jake Roh (Chaparral, AZ) for officials as well.
Did you know that Duke will not graduate a single defensive lineman this year? They will add Mike Ramsay, a true diamond in the rough from Georgia, in 2013, but would love to bring in a game changer like Jaylen Miller (Gaffney HS) from South Carolina, who already has eight sacks in his senior year. Miller plans to take officials to Duke, Wake Forest, Florida, NC State, and Kentucky.
Each year under Coach Cutcliffe, the Duke staff has worked hard to secure commitments from the majority of their recruiting classes prior to the fall, and that has held true with the class of 2013. While there may be both costs and benefits to that strategy, probably the biggest advantage is that it allows the staff to get an early start on its 2014 recruiting efforts. The Blue Devils got on the board early with a summer commitment from LB Zavier Carmichael from Mobile, AL. Last week in a big 49-0 win for St. Paul's, Carmichael returned a fumble 35 yards for a touchdown. Carmichael is part of a defense that has posted three straight shutouts, helping St. Paul's to a #6 ranking in the state. Needless to say, the Blue Devils are excited to add a defender with Carmichael's skill set to their linebacking corps.
Getting a recruit on campus is never a bad thing, especially when you average nearly 50 points a game over your first three home contests. Being among the first to offer a scholarship to a prospect isn't a bad thing, either. Duke has been able to do both so far with the class of 2014. Chicks dig skill players, so we'll start there. QB Kendall Hinton, a 5'10" 180 pound prospect, leads a Southern Durham team coming off a 36-7 victory over Person. Duke was the first to offer 6'3" WR Josh Cabrera, who has helped Northside HS (Jacksonville, NC) to an undefeated start and a #3 state ranking. Cabrera moved to Jacksonville, NC this year after starring at Lee County HS in Georgia last year. TE Avery Edwards, who hails from Ryan Kelly's alma mater in Raleigh, has picked up offers from all four in-state ACC schools. Duke has also hosted and offered three big junior linemen in Greenville DT Kentavius Street (6'4" 260 pounds), Florida OL Reilly Gibbons (6'6" 270 pounds), and Mocksville OL Trip McNeill (6'5" 290 pounds). There's still a long way to go in these recruiting battles, but Duke is off to a good start with this six-pack of top prospects.
Really? Yes, the Blue Devils have already begun evaluating this year's high school sophomores, and have even extended a few verbal scholarship offers. With over 800 days until their National Signing Day, it's safe to say there's a long way to go in their recruitments. But still, getting these guys on campus, offering them a scholarship, and building a relationship can't hurt. RB Will Cameron, a teammate of Hinton's at Southern Durham, is one player the staff is very high on. RB Bryce Love, the younger brother of 2013 RB Chris Love, is another local prospect (hailing from nearby Wake Forest, NC) who has already been extended a scholarship offer. It's probably a bit early to get too attached to either Cameron or Love, but they're two prospects to keep an eye on.
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