It’s not about producing an encore performance for No. 13 Wake Forest’s offense, but a repeat would be a plus for the Demon Deacons.
More pressing matters await Wake in attempting to stay atop the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Atlantic Division. Wake Forest will play its lone conference game across a four-week period when Duke arrives Saturday for the homecoming game in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Wake Forest (7-0, 4-0 ACC) has been 7-0 just once before. That came in 1944, when Duke was the next opponent and ended the Demon Deacons’ bid for an unbeaten season.
“We’re 7-0, but that wasn’t the goal for the season,” Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman said. “It’s to do bigger things.”
The Demon Deacons haven’t been ranked this high since 1947 (at No. 11).
“It’s a huge challenge, but with huge challenges come huge opportunities,” coach David Cutcliffe said. “Wake is not going to give you anything. What it means is that you’re going to have to go get it done. I hope that’s the impact it has on our team. Don’t sit back and wait on anybody to give you anything. You have to go get the job done.”
The chatter this week is bound to be on Wake Forest’s eye-opening 70-56 victory last week at Army.
The statistics were staggering for the program’s third-largest point total in history, a figure that was achieved despite only 17 minutes, 17 seconds of possession time.
“That was about as clean as a performance as I’ve ever seen,” Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said. “And every time we had to make a play, we made a play — 70 points, no turnovers, 638 yards.”
The accolades have been pouring in for Hartman. He has 2,073 passing yards with 19 touchdown tosses this season.
“A lot of people don’t talk about us,” Clawson said. “They don’t talk about him. But he’s 7-0 as our starting QB this year.”
Duke (3-4, 0-3) has lost three consecutive games, hoping to regroup as it comes off an open date.
“We have all run through these times. We have seen them,” Cutcliffe said. “We’re all accountable. Every one of us. We own this. None of us individually have all the answers.”
Most recently, Duke was blanked in a 48-0 loss at Virginia on Oct. 16. The Blue Devils have been outscored by a combined 117-34 margin in three October games.
“When you’re in the middle of a three-game losing streak, I think it’s kind of good to let your mind reset a little bit,” Duke quarterback Gunnar Holmberg said.
Duke doesn’t have to dig too deep to find a ground attack can be disruptive after seeing what Army did to the Demon Deacons. The Blue Devils, who are third in the ACC in rushing with 202.9 yards per game on the ground, are led by running back Mataeo Durant’s 124.3 rushing yards per game.
Yet contending with Wake Forest is a challenge.
“They’ve played some close games, but that tells you they can win in the fourth quarter,” Cutcliffe said. “They’ve blown some people out. An offense and a quarterback that’s playing as good, if not better, than anybody else in the country.”
Wake Forest had some shifting parts on defense last week, largely dictated by injuries. Chase Jones moved from linebacker to safety, a juggling act that the Demon Deacons expect to benefit from if health challenges resurface.
“We were down five or six players on defense,” Clawson said, pointing out uncertainty for the Duke game. “I have some concerns. I’d rather have these concerns (at) 7-0 than 6-1.”
Duke is moving Charlie Ham back to a first-string role as kicker, a spot he lost early in the season.
The teams didn’t meet last season because a scheduled November meeting was wiped off the slate due to COVID-19 protocols involving the Wake Forest team.
The Demon Deacons have won two meetings in a row, though the teams have split the past 10 matchups. They’ve met 100 times, with Duke holding a 58-40-2 series lead.
–Field Level Media