Special Teams A Focus This Week

Sometimes things just don't go your way. Duke had driven deep into Wake Forest territory, needing only a field goal to earn a much needed victory over the Demon Deacons.

It wasn't that difficult of a kick. A 27 yarder. Just a chip shot. Routine. Onlookers at the summer and fall preseason camps had seen Duke's kicker hit kicks of more than twice this distance on a daily basis. Surely this time would be no different and the Blue Devils were on their way to erasing a sea of doubts caused by a disappointing season opener.

And then Joe Surgan's field goal attempted was blocked by a leaping Chip Vaughn. Once again the Blue Devils had found a way to come out on the short end of the scoreboard. Only this time there was no clear indication the better team had won.

Immediately Duke fans began condeming their once highly rated kicker. After all hadn't this kid come out of high school rated as one of the four best at his position? Didn't he earn a prospect rating of four stars? Didn't Duke have to fight off a late offer from Florida for his services? How could this happen?

"Well, he hit it solid, but it was more of a driving kick than one that jumped out," said head coach Ted Roof of the final attempt. "If you looked on the tape, the kid puts one hand up, and it was heading right down the middle of the goalposts, but it was more of a driving kick, but the kid made a great play on it."

Maybe, but these Blue Devils aren't in a position to give away easy points. And that's just what happened on Saturday afternoon when Surgan's game winner was sent back - it's what happenend once earlier in the game when Surgan pushed another attempt from inside 30 yards wide right. It happened twice against Richmond in the home opener as well. In all Surgan has connected on just two of his six attempts on the season, and just one of three from inside 30 yards.

Despite those numbers, Roof isn't ready to give up on the sophomore - naming him as the starter for this week's game with Virginia Tech.

"Joe's our kicker. We have some kids behind him that have worked hard and do a good job, but right now, Joe Surgan's our kicker."

Those missing 12 points could very well be the difference between the Blue Devils being 0-2 and 2-0 after the first pair of games on the schedule. Of course, as with any young team, Roof is turning what happened Saturday into yet another learning experience for his group.

"The shame of it was that [Saturday's improved effort] didn't result in a win but it just continued to hammer home with our players the fine line between winning and losing. For us to be a good football team, we've got to be opportunistic. When we have opportunities, whether they're given to us or whether we create them ourselves, we've got to take full advantage of them and we've got to convert our scoring opportunities."

That fine line was even more evident after the team's post game film session according to Roof. No just on a kick that was blocked. In fact, Roof believes his team had a chance to put their sophomore in that position.

"We needed to find a way to make one more play. Everyone focuses on the last play because that twists it and makes it gut-wrenching, but throughout the course of the ball game, it was one more play in any area, but because of the nature of the game and the way it unfolded, everyone focuses on the last play. There are a lot of details and a lot of other opportunities that we all had to find a way to make one more play. It shouldn't have come down to [the last kick]."


Punting Game Improves:
After struggling against Richmond, former kicker turned punter Alex Feinberg put together a solid performance against the Demon Deacons. After a 27 yard opening effort, Feinberg responded with kicks of 48, 39, and 35 yards. Each kick logging a hang time long enough to prevent Wake Forest from gaining any yards back on the return.

"I thought [Alex] Feinberg responded to the challenge and I thought he punted the football better," said Roof. "Our coverage did a good job and our kick off coverage did a good job. I think our coverage through the first two weeks has improved and now we've got to continue to improve at the punter and kicker position."


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