The coveted Big 4 championship wasn’t going to come easy for Wake Forest.
But the goal can be checked off after a 39-27 win against Duke on Saturday night at BB&T Field.
The Deacons (8-3, 4-3 ACC) previously beat North Carolina 24-18 and N.C. State 44-10. This margin was in between those, but the game flowed back and forth until the Deacons edged ahead in the final 10 minutes.
Wake Forest had 613 yards of offense — the third time this season crossing the 600-yard plateau. Jamie Newman passed for 284 yards and ran for 144, throwing a touchdown pass and running for a touchdown. Kenneth Walker III ran for 113 yards and a touchdown and Kendall Hinton — on his Senior Day redux — had six catches for 189 yards and a touchdown.
It wound up being another wild night-game finish for the Deacons.
In one 90-second span of the fourth quarter, there were three scores. Nick Sciba kicked a 25-yard field goal, his fourth of the game. On the ensuing kickoff, Duke's Damond Philyaw-Johnson returned it 98 yards for a touchdown, his second TD of the game, to put Duke (4-7, 2-5) ahead 27-26.
Wake Forest then went 75 yards in three plays, the bulk of it coming on a 57-yard catch and run by Hinton. It was capped off by a 14-yard touchdown run by Walker.
All of those scores came between the 9:47 and 8:24 marks of the fourth quarter.
It was the last bit of scoring until Cade Carney’s 18-yard touchdown run with 3:27 left that put the Deacons ahead 39-27 and put the Blue Devils into desperation mode.
A fourth-down sack by Ja’Cquez Williams effectively ended the game with about one minute left.
Wake Forest struck early in the second half, with Newman hitting Hinton in stride for a 62-yard touchdown pass. It was Hinton’s second go-around for Senior Day and his second touchdown of the season — the first since his game-winning catch against Utah State in the opener.
Duke’s A.J. Reed made a 43-yard field goal in the third quarter to pull the Blue Devils back to within a touchdown, at 20-13, and then it was Sciba’s turn to chisel his name into the NCAA record book.
Sciba drilled a 44-yard field goal with 1:10 left in the third quarter, the 31st straight made field goal. The previous NCAA record was 30.
Sciba made first-half field goals from 38 and 34 yards. It pulled Sciba, Wake Forest’s sophomore who hasn’t missed since the fourth game of last season, even with Chuck Nelson of Washington from 1981-82.
In between Sciba’s kicks was Wake Forest’s touchdown of the first half, a 42-yard run by Newman on third-and-8. Newman made a few cuts and broke through arm-tackle attempts, and then benefited from downfield blocking of Waydale Jones to cruise into the end zone.
It was the Deacons’ first touchdown since early in the third quarter against Virginia Tech, two weeks ago.
The game started in a downpour that slowly subsided throughout the first half, and by halftime the rain had stopped.
Wake Forest’s offensive game plan reflected the improving conditions — the Deacons had 37 rushes and 12 passes in the first half. Those 37 rushes accounted for 165 yards — a stark difference from the Deacons rushing for 63 yards against Virginia Tech and 64 yards against Clemson.
Duke only had one first down in the first half until its last two plays, runs of 15 and 11 yards with the Deacons in prevent defense.
Wake Forest’s defense was swarming and active against a scuffling Duke offense — the Deacons had two fumble recoveries and two sacks in the first half.
The problem for Wake Forest came on special teams (again).
After Sciba’s first field goal, Philyaw-Johnson took the ensuing kickoff back 97 yards for a touchdown. It’s the second kick return touchdown Wake Forest has allowed this season, accounting for half of the kickoff return touchdowns by ACC teams.