Durham, N.C. - Wake Forest (5-2, 4-1 ACC) blew its 17-point first half advantage when Duke (3-4, 1-2 ACC) exploded for 23 unanswered points, but Chris Givens saved the day after catching a 66-yard touchdown pass from Tanner Price to defeat the Blue Devils 24-23.
"I thought our kids played their hearts out," Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe said after his 100th career win. "I thought our kids hung in there and made a play when they had to. It's not good for my blood pressure today, but it's good to get a win."
After accumulating 224 yards of total offense in the first half the Demon Deacons did not record a first down till Givens game-winning score with 6:52 left in the game.
"It just is simple," Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said. "It looked we were a little afraid of [Givens] at corner and [we gave him] way too big a cushion. When the guy's running that kind of route, you want it to be bang-bang. If he catches one on you in front of you, he needs to be hit. It's just, again, one of those circumstances of me not getting it done like it could be."
It was 'bang-bang', but not the way Cutliffe wanted it to be. Givens made two Duke defenders miss on his way to the end zone for the go-ahead score.
At halftime Wake had a 15:33 to 14:27 edge in time of possession, but in the second half fell behind dramatically in this category, forcing its defense to stay on the field 16:14 more than Duke's in the second half.
"I can't say enough about our defensive kids the way they just kept going back and going back and going back," Grobe said. "Our defensive coaches hung in there and we made a couple plays when we had to. We were desperate to get a first down, to give the defense a little bit of a rest and we couldn't do anything. We had the good kickoff return by [Lovell Jackson] and then we had the big play by Chris. The good news is we took the lead; the bad news is no time off the clock again so the defense is right back out there."
The most important defensive stand from the Demon Deacons came at the 7:14 mark in the fourth quarter when Anthony Boone's pass intended for Patrick Kurunwune fell incomplete. Duke was forced to settle for a Will Snyderwine field goal that put the Blue Devils up 23-17, which still left Wake Forest within a possession of retaking the lead.
Price and Givens only needed 22 seconds to erase the six-point margin, and improve Wake's win-streak to 12 games against Duke.
"The defense was tired," Wake Forest nose guard Nikita Whitlock said. "I think we just dug deep. We knew we had to win. We knew we had to get three and outs. We knew we had to save the offense. We knew the offense had to save us. That's what we did. Last year we would have lost that game."
Whitlock is probably right that last year's squad likely would have succumbed to the adversity of watching a double digit lead vanish, but not the 2011 Deacs.
'Refuse to lose' is the drumbeat they are marching to now. Wake Forest stumbled like a boxer, as Duke bludgeoned its tired defense for 229 yards and 20 points in the second half. Givens'(six receptions for 147 yards and two touchdowns) fourth quarter-touchdown rose the Demon Deacons from the canvas, and was the blow that left Devils devastated in Durham once again.
"I knew we needed a big play," Givens said. "I knew a play needed to be made. We had all of those three and outs in the second half. I just wanted to put us in a situation to win the game."
Along with giving Grobe his 100th career win and Wake's 12th in a row over the Blue Devils, this victory has the Deacs in need of only one more to be bowl eligible for the first time since 2008 and still in contention for a spot in the ACC Championship.