Game preview: Duke at Wake Forest

Posted by Laura Keeley on November 23, 2013 

It's first and goals to go for Duke, needing two more wins to take the ACC Coastal title.


Duke at Wake Forest

When: noon

Where: BB&T Field, Winston-Salem

Line: Duke by 6.5 (up from an opening of 5)

TV/Radio: ESPN2/WDNC-620 AM, WKIX-102.9 FM

New links galore!

Loose, focused and fresh, the Blue Devils pay a visit to Wake Forest, home of the original small-school ACC darlings. With a freshman quarterback who didn’t know better, the Demon Deacons made the most of their opportunity in 2006.

Esteemed colleague Joe Giglio caught up with Joe Alleva, the former Duke athletic director who hired David Cutcliffe on his way out the door to LSU.

And speaking of Joe, Luke DeCock looks at the final push for the Mack Brown Cup, which will go to the in-state team most worthy of saying Our State.

As far as the Deacs go, longtime beat writer Dan Collins gave us his take on Wake in these five questions earlier in the week.

Key Player for Wake Forest

NG Nikita Whitlock, Senior

At 5-foot-11, 250 pounds—not a typo—Whitlock anchors the Demon Deacons’ defensive line. And he does it in the most disruptive way possible for opponents.

"He comes off the line like he weighs 350 pounds," offensive guard Dave Haring said. "Phenomenal pad leverage. We have our hands full as an offensive line this week.

"He plays with phenomenal effort. That’s really what sticks out. He doesn’t have an off switch. He constantly moves his feet. That’s what I really respect about him. That’s tough to do. He plays football the way football should be played."

When asked to talk about the problems Whitlock presents, David Cutcliffe said, "Yeah, how many do you want me to talk about, I don’t have that much time." Expect Duke to double team him as much as possible, just like every other opponent that has played the Deacs this year.

Which brings up to…

Three Keys for Duke

Beat Wake Forest on the outside With Whitlock, running between the tackles might not be the Blue Devils’ best option this week. But last week’s 358 rushing yards against Miami showed what happens when Duke commits to the ground game early (and often). So, expect lots of quick bubble screens, jet sweeps and end-arounds for guys like Jamison Crowder and Josh Snead who have the speed to get outside and get moving up the sideline past the defense.

Get to Tanner Price Last time out, the four-year starter threw three interceptions—in his first four passing attempts. Granted, it was against Florida State, but that marked the end of Price’s day, as he was benched in favor of freshman Tyler Cameron. The recipe for forcing Price into bad decisions (that four-year starters shouldn’t be making) is the same for Duke: put pressure on him. And this week, the defensive line won’t be at a size of athleticism disadvantage.

End every possession with the ball That’s something Ross Cockrell told me this week. The goal of every possession (expect for field goals) is to end with the ball. The defense needs to create turnovers, and— here’s the main point—the offense needs to limit mistakes. The Deacs are a well-coached group, as Jim Grobe was doing the less with more thing seven years before Cutcliffe arrived at Duke. Give Wake Forest a chance to beat you, and there’s a good chance they will.

My prediction

Duke and Wake Forest play close games. It’s what they do. Last year’s game, the first Duke had won in the series in 13 years, was tied headed into the fourth quarter.

In 2006, the Deacons’ magical run was a 27-yard Duke field goal away from never happening (but the kick was blocked, so, dream on). I’m not expecting this year’s game to be quite that close. But I do think it will be a one-score game, as, outside of the Florida State debacle, no opponent has scored more than 24 points on the Wake Forest defense.

Duke 21, Wake Forest 14

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