NCAA football: Duke gets another test
DURHAM ó Duke gave up too many big pass plays in its loss to Florida State last week. The Blue Devils know those struggles canít carry over to Saturdayís game against Wake Forest and its strong passing attack.
The Demon Deacons (4-2, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) have won 11 straight meetings and averaged 43 points in the past four meetings with the Blue Devils (3-3, 1-1). Wake Forest enters the game with the leagueís third-ranked passing attack, which could mean another tough day for a secondary that gave up three 50-yard completions in the 41-16 loss to the Seminoles.
ěWe knew what Florida State was going to do, and we know what Wake Forest is going to do,î Duke cornerback Ross Cockrell said. ěBut we canít really worry about them too much because we have to fix ourselves internally first.î
Duke has yielded 1,049 total yards in its last two games after allowing 646 total yards in wins over Boston College and Tulane to close September.
The three big pass plays against the Seminoles came on deep balls to receivers who had slipped a few steps past their defenders. Wake Forest, which features the ACCís top receiver in Chris Givens, has enough weapons to threaten Duke with more big passing plays.
ěWe know theyíre going to try it,î Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. ěThey made a bunch of big ones against us last year.î
That contest, a 54-48 victory by the Demon Deacons in Winston-Salem, marked the fourth consecutive time that Duke and Wake Forest each scored at least 30 points against each other. The combined point total (102) was the second highest for a conference game in ACC history.
It was a fun day for fans of offensive fireworks, but Dukeís defensive players had no reason to smile at the end.
ěThey have a lot better defense than last year, like weíve improved a lot on offense,î Wake Forest fullback Tommy Bohanon said. ěTheyíve improved just as much as we have.î
The Blue Devils are focused on two areas as they attempt to avoid a repeat. They want to be sound in their technique, where they say breakdowns cost them against the Seminoles, and ready for the occasions in which Wake Forest shifts its pace into overdrive.
ěItís just discipline, really,î Duke linebacker Kelby Brown said. ěWeíve kind of upped our tempo in practice this week a little bit to get prepared for it. Weíve got to get used to getting the signals called faster and lining up faster. Thatís really what itís about.î
Duke also hopes to benefit from improved health in its secondary, where injuries have limited starters Johnny Williams, Matt Daniels and August Campbell in recent weeks. Campbell, who was sidelined with a leg injury against Florida State, could return against the Demon Deacons.
ěWe have to prove that weíre taking the next step as a program,î Cockrell said. ěI think this game will help us do that. We have to, as a defense, be able to keep our offense in the game.î
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