Duke, Wake Forest seek to bounce back from big losses

·3 min read

While Duke and Wake Forest are teams in recovery modes, they seem to be in vastly different situations as they prepare to meet Saturday afternoon at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, N.C.

Wake Forest needs to come to grips with a heartbreaking defeat last week at North Carolina in what would have been a significant upset.

Duke is dealing with much more challenging issues, even after an open date giving the Blue Devils time to figure things out.

The most recent game for both teams came against North Carolina. Duke (2-6, 1-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) lost in a 56-24 blowout Nov. 7. Wake Forest (4-3, 3-3) squandered a 21-point second-half lead before falling 59-53 last week to the Tar Heels.

"You have to try to learn from it," Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman said.

The crazy nature of the offensive slugfest for the Demon Deacons means they'll have to mentally regroup. So many things went well for Wake Forest for so long before the devastating final 20 minutes.

"Learn from it, that's the only way we can get better," Wake Forest receiver Jaquarii Roberson said.

Duke has been in a learning mode since the trouncing from North Carolina.

"A very difficult time in the program," Blue Devils coach David Cutcliffe said. "You have to find foundations you can build on."

With only three games remaining, Duke is guaranteed a losing record for the third time in five seasons.

"There are obviously a lot of things that need to be addressed," Cutcliffe said. "The most notable are we need to do the fundamental things better. What we have to do better to get results. We can get those results."

Wake Forest could be thin in the secondary. The Demon Deacons thought safety Luke Masterson would play in the North Carolina game, but his return to action from a foot injury was delayed. Safety Nasir Greer returned to action but didn't feel right and so he didn't play much. He is recovering from an ACL tear suffered last year.

"We got thinned out on defense again," coach Dave Clawson said.

Wake Forest swept in-state opponents last year. Now, they're 1-2 against teams within the state, with a loss to North Carolina State and a non-league thumping of Campbell.

This represents the Demon Deacons' third consecutive road game.

"We got to bounce back," Clawson said. "Another in-state game that's very important to us. Good football teams bounce back. That's our job as coaches and that's the job of the leadership on our football team."

While North Carolina did much of its damage to the Demon Deacons through the air, Duke might be more inclined to try a ground assault.

Duke's rushing attack has two main contributors, with Mataeo Durant racking up 592 yards and Deon Jackson gaining 580.

With the extra time between games, Duke could be stewing up some different looks.

"There's always the potential (for major revisions) when you have an open date," Cutcliffe said. "Look at all the possibilities to make sure we're putting our best athletes on the field."

Chase Brice has been the primary quarterback, but backup Gunnar Holmberg received some extensive time on the field late in the North Carolina game. Holmberg has a different style and tends to be more of a threat running the ball than Brice.

"It tells you a backup quarterback has been working hard in practice because he's getting better," Cutcliffe said of Holmberg.

Wake Forest has won the past two meetings with Duke, including a 59-7 blowout two years ago in its last trip to Durham.

--Field Level Media