Wake Forest played like it wanted its season to continue Saturday while Duke looked like it was ready for a few weeks off before its bowl preparation.
Needing a win to keep its season going, Wake Forest demolished the lifeless Blue Devils 59-7 to earn itself a bowl trip.
Duke (7-5, 3-5 ACC) ensured itself a bowl trip for the sixth time in seven seasons three weeks earlier. But any hope of establishing momentum heading to bowl season and 2019 was dashed quickly. The loss is the most lopsided of David Cutcliffe’s 11 seasons as Duke’s coach.
Wake Forest (6-6, 3-5) scored touchdowns on its first three possessions and Duke never put up much of a fight. The Blue Devils gained just 251 yards of total offense while turning the ball over four times.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Jamie Newman fired four touchdown passes while completing 18 of 23 passes for 177 yards. Running back Cade Carney rushed for 223 yards and two touchdowns. He averaged 7.2 yards per carry. Wake Forest finished with 517 yards of offense.
Wake Forest took control of the game on its first possession, easily marching 74 yards on nine plays to take the lead for good.
The drive included a Carney 10-yard run, Newman’s 21-yard pass to Greg Dortch and a Dortch 11-yard run. When Duke had a chance to stop the drive, Carney ran for nine yards on third-and-9.
Carney’s 5-yard touchdown run gave Wake Forest a 7-0 lead and the mood had been set for a dreary afternoon for Duke.
Duke’s offense contributed to the woes by only gaining 122 total yards of offense in the first half. On top of that, two turnovers led directly to Wake Forest touchdowns.
Deon Jackson fumbled on his first carry of the game and was fortunate the ball rolled out of bounds.
He wasn’t so lucky on his second carry four minutes later. Running on first down from his own 11, Jackson fumbled when he was hit by Wake Forest’s Demetrius Kemp. Willie Yarbary recovered for the Deacons at the Duke 17.
After two running plays, Duke sent a blitz on third down. Newman unleashed the ball right before he was hit and Dortch caught the pass for a 15-yard touchdown and a 14-0 Wake Forest lead.
The Deacons moved the ball 80 yards on their next possession thanks to more big plays. Carney had runs covering 12 and 15 yards. Newman completed a 14-yard pass to Dortch moving Wake Forest into Duke territory.
When Duke sent another third-down blitz at Newman, he once again showed poise to toss a perfect pass to Scotty Washington for a 9-yard touchdown pass that gave the Demon Deacons a 21-0 lead with 1:29 to play in the first quarter.
Duke finally put together something positive after that, with Jones completing 7 of 11 passes on an 83-yard touchdown drive. His 6-yard touchdown pass to Jackson gave the Blue Devils life and left Wake Forest with a 21-7 lead.
The Blue Devils defense finally figured out how to slow Wake Forest down in the second quarter, forcing three-and-out drives on the Deacons’ next four possessions.
But with a chance to get back into the game, the Duke offense was ineffective. The Blue Devils failed to get another first down the rest of the half.
Down 21-7, Duke started a drive at the 50 but failed to get a first down. Jones completed a five-yard pass to Jackson on first down but his next two passes fell incomplete.
Duke’s next possession started when tackle Christian Harris committed a false start penalty on first down and Jones was sacked on second down to doom the drive.
Still down only 21-7, Duke appeared ready to make a move when T.J. Rahming returned a punt into Wake Forest territory. But an illegal block penalty negated the play.
On the next play Jones threw a pass in the flat directly toward Wake Forest freshman safety Nasir Greer, who intercepted it and strolled into the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown return and a 28-7 Wake Forest lead.
The Deacons even drove 72 yards in the waning minutes of the half to reach the Duke 3. Wake’s Nick Sciba kicked a 20-yard field goal at the horn for a 31-7 lead.
When Wake Forest moved 70 yards and scored on Newman’s 6-yard pass to Alex Bachman in the third quarter, the Deacons’ lead grew to 38-7.