WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Earlier in the week, Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe admitted that fortune had played a considerable role in the Demon Deacons' 12-game winning streak over Duke. On Saturday, the Deacs' luck ran out.
Actually, it sprinted out of town.
Wake Forest lost a game and its most versatile offensive weapon, wide receiver Michael Campanaro, on a day when the Blue Devils converted two fourth-quarter turnovers into touchdowns and earned a 34-27 win at BB&T Field. Duke overcame its own injury issue when backup quarterback Anthony Boone, subbing for starter Sean Renfree, guided TD drives immediately after the takeaways to break free from a 20-20 tie.
Campanaro, who accounted for more than half of his team's receptions in the season's first four games, was knocked out of the game after sustaining a broken right hand. While acknowledging the impact of the injury, Grobe said the better team won Saturday.
"Certainly Mike is big for our football team, but I didn't think that was the key," he said. "I just have to give credit to Duke."
Truth be told, the Devils were due. Five of the previous six games in the series had been decided by six or fewer points. Included in that run were the famous 2006 contest, in which the Deacons blocked a field goal at the gun to preserve a 14-13 victory that became the starting point of their run to the ACC championship.
On Saturday, however, the Devils went 10-for-17 on third down, converting plays requiring 17 and 19 yards en route to TD drives. They controlled much of the game, but things may have turned for good shortly after Wake appeared poised to seize it.
The Deacs closed to 20-17 by going on a 98-yard TD drive, the third-longest in school history, late in the third quarter. Tanner Price's throw in between two defenders to fullback Tommy Bohanon capped it off.
On Duke's next play, cornerback Chibuikem Okoro broke free on a blitz and hit Renfree just as the Devils' QB's arm was moving forward. The ball popped free and defensive end Zach Thompson snagged it at the Duke 20.
"When you have a momentum change like that and great field position, you have to capitalize and get seven," Price said.
Over the previous dozen years, the Deacs might have gotten that TD and in short order. Not this time. The effort stalled and Jimmy Newman's game-tying field goal, while good enough to forge a tie, left the Deacons frustrated.
Shortly thereafter, the Devils got to Price as he was stepping forward in the pocket, and they recovered the resulting fumble at the Deacon 8. Boone rolled around the right end for the touchdown two plays later.
One of the Deacons' several dropped passes became especially costly when Duke intercepted a tipped ball with 5:59 left and went on a time-consuming, game-clinching drive that featured a pair of third-down conversions. Jela Duncan's blitz-beating, 17-yard run up the middle made it 34-20.
Boone finished 8-of-11 for 54 yards in relief.
"Defensively, we didn't execute," Wake cornerback Kevin Johnson said. "We had opportunities to pin them back, but we missed assignments."
The Deacons (3-2, 1-2 ACC), who played four of their first five games at home, now face the meat of their schedule. Four of the next six are on the road.
"You can't place blame," Thompson said, "because you'll fall apart."
Scoring Drive Recaps
Duke 3, Wake Forest 0 (3:07, 1st Quarter)
On Duke's first drive of the game, kicker Ross Martin converted a 35-yard field goal, to give Duke a 3-0 lead. Earlier in the drive, quarterback Sean Renfree connected with Conner Vernon for a 47-yard pass to Wake's 33-yard line. The Blue Devils gained 20 yards on the next five plays before Wake Forest forced Duke into the fourth-down situation. On the field goal attempt, the Blue Devils were backed up five yards by a delay of game penalty but still converted the kick.
Wake Forest 7, Duke 3 (5:12, 1st Quarter) Deandre Martin was vital in moving the chains for Wake Forest's offense to set up the Deacons' first touchdown drive. The redshirt freshman capped off the 11-play drive with a four-yard touchdown run. On the second play of the drive, Price ran a quarterback draw play to rush 25 yards to reach the Duke 44-yard line for a first down. Then on first down, Campanaro posted a big play for the Deacs by rushing nine yards to Duke's seven- yard line setting up the touchdown run for Martin.
Duke 10, Wake Forest 7, Duke 3 (5:02, 1st Quarter)
Starting out on its own 30-yard line, Duke advanced 70 yards in 13 plays for a two-yard touchdown by Brandon Connette. Wide receiver Desmond Scott was vital for the Blue Devils throughout the series when Renfree hit Scott for a 12-yard pass and the first down. In the eighth play of the drive, Renfree was sacked on the 29-yard line by Justin Jackson to leave the Blue Devils at second and 19. Renfree then synched up with Scott again on third and long for 35 yards for a first down on the Wake Forest second yard line. Then on third down, Connette rushed for a touchdown.
Duke 13, Wake Forest 7 (10:20, 2nd Quarter)
Duke started its drive on the Wake Forest 34-yard line after Duke's Sydney Sarmiento recovered a fumble by Terence Davis. In first two plays of the series, Duncan rushed for 11 yards to secure the first down. Renfree hit Vernon with a sideline pass for four yards to Wake Forest's 19 yard line, but the drive stalled out in the red zone. Ross Martin drilled a 22-yard field goal to give the Blue Devils a six point lead.
Duke 13, Wake Forest 10 (3:31, 2nd quarter) Jimmy Newman knocked through a field goal just before halftime to cut the Duke lead to three points. After a touchback, Martin rushed for seven yards to begin the drive for the Deacons. At 3rd and 2nd, Price found Terence Davis for a 44-yard pass and a first down. Price completed a pass to Brandon Terry for four yards, but the Deacons lost nine yards on second and six. Price's crossing pass was incomplete to Sherman Ragland III to set up the field goal attempt.
Duke 20, Wake Forest 10 (5:48, 3rd quarter)
Connette rushed up the middle for a four-yard touchdown to expand the Duke lead to 20-10. In the first three plays of the series, Josh Snead rushed for 14 yards for the first down. Renfree hit Crowder with a deep out pass for 42 yards but it was called back for a holding penalty. After a Duke timeout, Renfree connected with Scott for 23 yards and a first down. Renfree targeted Duncan for eight yards, and after two consecutive penalties called on the Wake Forest defense, the Blue Devils reached the four yard line. On first and four, Conette rushed up the middle for four yards to run into the end zone. Ross Martin's kick attempt was good to give the Blue Devils a 10-point lead.
Duke 20, Wake Forest 17 (3:47, 3rd quarter)
Wake Forest rattled off a 98-yard drive that was tied for the third-longest in school history to pull within three points. On third and nine, Price made a big play by connecting with Martin for 36 yards to the Wake Forest 39-yard line. Back-to-back runs of 16 yards and 11 yards, respectively, by Josh Harris put the Deacons on Duke's 30 yard line. On third and 14, Price connected with Tommy Bohanon for 34 yards for a touchdown. Newman's PAT was good.
Duke 20, Wake Forest 20 (1:55, 3rd quarter)
The momentum shifted for the Deacons when Renfree's intended pass was tipped by Chibuikem Okoro and intercepted by Zach Thompson at Duke's 23 yard line. Thompson returned the ball three yards where Wake Forest started the series at the 20-yard line. In three drives, Harris rushed for nine yards. On fourth and one, Newman booted a field goal from the 28-yard line to even the game.
Duke 27, Wake Forest 20 (11:35,4th quarter)
Duke's Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo forced Price to fumble and Jonathan Woodruff recovered it at the Wake Forest eight yard line. In two plays, the Blue Devils scored to move to a seven-point lead. Duncan rushed up the middle for four yards, followed by Boone who also ran for four yards and into the end zone.
Duke 34, Wake Forest 20 (2:50, 4th quarter)
C.J. France intercepted a tipped Tanner Price pass to give the Blue Devils good field position at the Wake Forest 38-yard line. Anthony Boone completed to Vernon to convert a third down to the Deacons' 17. On the next play, Duncan burst up the middle for the 17-yard score to put the Devils in front by two scores.
Duke 34, Wake Forest 27 (0:42, 4th quarter)
Wake Forest ground out a 16-play drive in a little over two minutes to pull within a touchdown with under a minute left. A 14-yard completion from Price to Sherman Ragland III brought the Deacons to midfield and a 19-yard pitch-and-catch between Price and Terence Davis took the Deacs to the Duke seven-yard line. A few plays later, Price found Bohanon wide open in the back of the end zone for a four-yard score, but after Newman hit the PAT, the ensuing onside kick was recovered by Duke to end the game.