Duke ends losing streak with 27-21 win at Wake Forest

Dionte Austin (11) breaks up a pass intended for Duke’s Anthony Nash at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem.
Dionte Austin (11) breaks up a pass intended for Duke’s Anthony Nash at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem. Getty Images

It took a month, but Duke is finally back in the win column.

The Blue Devils defeated Wake Forest 27-21 in Winston-Salem to end a four-game losing streak and finish the year 7-5 (4-4 ACC). Quarterback Thomas Sirk started the game and played so effectively that backup Parker Boehme only played one series (a quick three-and-out on the Blue Devils’ second offensive series).

Sirk was Duke’s leading passer and rusher as the Blue Devils outplayed the Demon Deacons (3-9, 1-7 ACC) in every phase of the game. The Demon Deacons couldn’t take advantage of Duke safety Jeremy Cash’s first-half suspension, a result of his targeting ejection in last week’s loss at Virginia.

The Blue Devils never trailed and had the ball and the lead at the same time for the first time since the fourth quarter of their win at Virginia Tech on Oct. 24.

Turning point

Wake Forest, down 17-7 marched down the field to begin the second half, but kicker Mike Weaver shanked the 28-yard field goal attempt. Duke then went 80 yards in 2:13 as Max McCaffrey made a tough catch, holding on as he was hit right as he received the ball, for the 28-yard touchdown reception. That gave Duke a three-score advantage at 24-7.

Three who mattered

Thomas Sirk: Duke’s most effective quarterback on the day, going 26-for-39 (66.7 percent) for 275 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 57 yards and one score on 16 carries.

T.J. Rahming: Duke’s leading receiver with seven catches for 63 yards.

Max McCaffrey: In his final regular-season game, made several tough catches (five in total) for 93 yards and scored two touchdowns, the second multi-score game of his career (at Virginia Tech this year was the first).

Three key numbers

4 First downs by Wake Forest in the first half.

3 First downs in Wake Forest’s first three offensive snaps of the second half (but zero points on that drive).

113 Total snaps played this year, on defense and special teams, by defensive end Allen Jackson entering the game. Jackson hauled in his first career interception in the third quarter.

Highlight reel

In the third quarter, Duke safety DeVon Edwards broke into the backfield and hit John Wolford as he (unwisely) tried to throw the ball. The pass fluttered a few yards into the arms of reserve defensive end Allen Jackson, who held on for the catch.

Laura Keeley: 919-829-4556, @laurakeeley