DURHAM, N.C. — Cade Carney didn’t jump to hurdle a defender, nor did he do it to showboat. Carney's leap as he crossed the goal line was an expression of pure joy.
It was on his third touchdown of the day, and it was that third quarter score that put the Deacs in the lead for good in a 24-14 victory Saturday over in-state conference rival Duke at Wallace Wade Stadium.
But Carney wasn’t alone in his unmitigated joy.
Offensive lineman Tyler Hayworth couldn't contain his giddiness while talking to the media. Hundreds of fans waited patiently for their conquering heroes to emerge from the Wake locker room. Wake wide receiver Cortez Lewis distributed celebratory signature handshakes. Smiles and hugs were abundant.
The Wake Forest locker room? Absolutely raucous — shouts and cheers could be heard in the adjoining media room for several minutes.
“It’s crazy in there. Guys jumping around and everything,” Wake cornerback Brad Watson said. “Especially the seniors. Four years in a row losing to Duke, and this is definitely a change.”
The reason for the joy? There’s many.
For one night, it was more than just a win. After a 7-3 slog of a victory over Tulane last week, the Demon Deacs were once again college football’s punchline.
Wake Forest was the team that can’t move the football against a 3-9 team from the AAC, just as they were the team that played Virginia Tech to a 0-0 score at the end of regulation two years ago.
And Wake Forest was the team that had yet to win an ACC game under Dave Clawson when they’ve scored a touchdown.
Not to mention Wake Forest was the team that just two years ago was last in the NCAA with just 40 yards rushing per game.
The Deacs not only finally won a conference game while scoring a touchdown, they did it by dominating on the offensive line, wearing down the Duke front seven, and at times running it straight down their throat.
“This is one of the best game our offensive line has ever had,” Wake quarterback Kendall Hinton said. “It was great to be back there to witness that.”
“It felt awesome,” Wake offensive lineman Tyler Hayworth said. “It’s just a great feeling.”
Wake ended up gaining a total 239 yards on the ground, the most against a Power 5 school since going for 254 against Virginia Tech in 2010.
“It was really encouraging that we were able to run the ball,” Clawson said. “We haven’t done that in a long time.”
Then there’s knocking out Duke, a team that the Deacs had lost to four-straight years. No player on Wake’s roster had ever posted a win over the Blue Devils. That changed Saturday night.
The Deacs were happy with the 24-14 win, but there were certainly some rough spots early.
Wake's first three drives were all three-and-outs, with the Deacs actually losing four yards in the process.
Meanwhile, the Blue Devils took advantage of good field position and promptly marched down the field for a 17 play, 60-yard drive on their first possession to take a 7-0 lead.
The Deacs finally found some offensive momentum mid-second quarter, when quarterback Kendall Hinton led a 6 play, 85-yard touchdown drive to tie the game. Hinton scrambled for a 32-yard gain, then completed a pass to Cortez Lewis for 37 yards to set up a pair of Carney runs that resulted in the score.
“That second quarter we just started pounding them,” Hayworth said. “You could feel that momentum shift and feel that we were taking over.”
A pair of missed Duke field goals resulted in a 7-7 tie at halftime.
Wake defensive end Duke Ejiofor sacked Duke quarterback Daniel Jones on the first play of the second half, then again on the second play.
The second time, he also stripped the ball and recovered it, to set up a short field for the Deacs.
It took six plays, but Cade Carney got 13 of the 14 yards needed to score another Wake touchdown to give them a 14-7 lead.
Duke answered with a 6 play, 75-yard drive of their own to tie the contest at 14. Jones found Anthony Nash for a 56-yard completion, exacerbated by a missed tackle by Wake’s Dionte Austin.
That set the stage for Carney’s emotional 55-yard scamper late in the third quarter to put the Deacs up for good at 21-14.
Carney said he went through the first level of defenders largely untouched thanks to the Wake offensive line.
“I think (running back) coach (John) Hunter could have ran through that hole,” Carney said. “It was beautiful.”
They tacked on a Mike Weaver 34-yard field goal in fourth quarter to provide the final margin. Hinton set up the field goal attempt with a 62-yard completion to Alex Bachman on a 3rd-and-1 from the Deacs own 15 yard line with a little over five minutes left in the game.
“That was a great throw (to Bachman),” Clawson said. “It was third down, with the game on the line. It was a one-score game and he laced that throw in there.”
Once Hinton started having success moving the ball in the middle of the second quarter, he remained the Wake quarterback the rest of the way. He finished 6-for-11 passing for 133 yards, while John Wolford, who started, was 3-for-5 for 17 yards.
“Some of the things we had planned to do with John Wolford, I didn’t really think we were getting open. We weren’t throwing the ball with the efficiency we wanted,” Clawson said. “If that wasn’t going to happen, then Kendall is the guy who can make plays with his feet. We felt that we needed a spark and we felt that he could make explosive plays and we made a decision halfway through the second quarter that we were going to go with him.”
Carney had 108 yards on 17 carries, and added nine yards receiving on two catches. His three touchdowns on the ground are the most for a Wake Forest true freshman running back since Chris Barclay did the same against Purdue in 2002.
“It’s kind of a dream come true, in my first ACC game,” Carney said. “To represent my hometown like that, and have all the guys that did such a great job in front of me make that happen, it’s very gratifying.”
Hinton added 63 yards rushing on 11 attempts and Matt Colburn gained 54 yards on eight carries.
Marquel Lee led the Wake defense with 10 tackles, followed by Brad Watson’s nine. Watson also had a pick in the final minutes to snuff out a late Duke drive and essentially end the game.
Ejiofor lived in the Duke backfield, finishing with seven tackles, three sacks, four tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, and two quarterback hurries. Wake allowed 369 yards offense, but only 37 on the ground on 30 attempts — an average of 1.2 yards per carry.
The Deacs (2-0) will host Delaware (2-0) at 6:30 Saturday Night at BB&T Field.