Mistakes cost Duke in ACC opener

Tielor Robinson couldn't watch.

The Duke running back sat on the Blue Devils sideline too nervous to watch as kicker Joe Surgan lined up for the game-winning field goal that turned into Wake Forest safety Chip Vaughn's game-clinching blocked field goal in Duke's 14-13 loss to Wake Forest on Saturday.

The Devils saw a great chance to pull a rare ACC victory in recent years roll away when Vaughn got a piece of Surgan's kick.

The looks on the Devils faces after the game showed they knew all too well what they let slip out of their hands.

"We only have each other and that's how we have to play football," Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis said. "We have to play together. We did that and it brought the fight out of us. We never quit so I give it up to whole football team; it never quit."

It was obvious the team felt they had shown they aren't the hapless ACC bottomfeeders outsiders think they are.

Are they the team that was shutout by Division I-AA Richmond?

"We made some strides," Duke coach Ted Roof said. "Once we're able to separate ourselves from the emotion of this thing we'll be able to see it."

On the upside, Duke stymied Wake Forest's running game, holding the Demon Deacons to 57 yards a week after the Deacons had run at will in a win over Syracuse.

Duke's defense forced the game into the hands of Wake's freshman quarterback Riley Skinner who was making his first collegiate start in place of injured starter Ben Mauk.

A week after being shutout, Duke also outgained Wake Forest 367 yards to 292 behind a breakout performance by Lewis.

Lewis, making his first collegiate start, threw for 305 yards and and a touchdown on 21-for-32 passing for Duke. Skinner threw for 235 with two touchdowns on 22-for-29 passing for Wake (2-0, 1-0 ACC).

Still, Duke lost the chance to open ACC play with a win for the first time since 1994 and felt afterwards, after controlling the game on both sides, that they had hurt themselves.

On Saturday, what didn't happen was way more compelling than what did when Duke had the ball.

The Devils scored just 13 points on six trips to the Wake 15-yard line and another down to the Wake 22 during the game.

It started right after the opening kickoff. Lewis reared back and fired a strike on the first play from scrimmage. He had receiver Jomar Wright with several steps on the defender and nothing but green in front of him.

Wright let the pass glance off his hands.

On its second drive, Duke was looking at first and goal from the Wake 3 when center Matt Rumsey sent a bad snap to Lewis, who jumped on the loose ball at the Wake 10. Wake held Duke to a field goal (the Devils' first points of the year).

In the second quarter, the Devils had driven down into the Wake Forest red zone again at the Wake 15. Lewis kept the ball on the right side then tried to pitch it to Re'quan Boyette. Boyette didn't have a chance to grab it and Wake's Sam Arnoux recovered.

Late in the quarter, Boyette fumbled at the 1-yard line trying to reach for the end zone.

Duke led 10-0 at halftime. Lewis eventually connected with Wright for a 47-yard scoring strike on the same play the duo had missed connecting on on Duke's first play of the game.

Roof bemoaned the mistakes that cost Duke sounded like the missed field goals were the hardest to swallow when he kept repeating how important it was for the Devils to hit field goals.

That falls on Surgan, who missed one on Duke's opening drive and then saw final attempt of the game blocked after Lewis and company had driven 51 yards in the final 1:18 to give the Devils a chance to win the game.

"I've got to make those; it's my job," Surgan said. "That famous line, ‘It's always the kicker's fault.' I've got to convert."

Surgan has tried six field goals this season. He has made two and missed two and two have been blocked. He said his teammates are still behind him 100 percent.

"The history of this program isn't so great, so have to know that we all have each other's back," Surgan said.Once the haze of the despair wears off, Duke should be able to see a team that moved forward.

"From a defensive and an offensive standpoint, we were a completely different team than last week when we played Richmond," Duke defensive tackle Vince Oghobaase said. "The offense was producing, gaining yards, completing passes and getting some good rushing yards. The defense had a lot of three-and-outs and got the offense the ball back when they needed it. It was completely different team."

Roof, who looked battered afterwards, still found a silver lining. With Virginia Tech (2-0) coming up, that was his best choice.

"I thought they played with their heart today and we have to find a way to make one more play," Roof said. "There's a lot of football left. There are no magic words to make the hurt go away but we have to plan for for a good football team next week so we have to go back to work, get these things corrected and move forward."