DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Todd Pelino kicked a 26-yard field goal on the game’s final play and Duke, despite using a third-string quarterback, beat Wake Forest 24-21 on Thursday night.
Pelino’s field goal gave the Blue Devils (6-3, 3-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) their only lead of the game as they snapped a two-game losing streak and became bowl eligible.
Grayson Loftis, a true freshman from Gaffney, South Carolina, was called upon to handle quarterback duties for the Blue Devils. He was 7-for-19 for 86 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Wake Forest knows what it’s like to win with a third-stringer because two games ago the Demon Deacons played a third-string quarterback in a win over Pittsburgh.
Starter Mitch Griffis was back for Wake Forest, completing 16 of 19 passes for 241 yards and an interception.
Duke’s Ryan Smith intercepted Griffis with 4:12 left. Shortly after, the Blue Devils faced second-and-21, but got moving, aided by a third-down pass interference penalty and later a personal-foul infraction.
Duke was down two quarterbacks, playing without first-stringer Riley Leonard and backup Henry Belin IV because of injuries.
Wake Forest (4-5, 1-5) went ahead on Griffis’ 5-yard scramble in the third quarter, which was set up by his 61-yard pass play to Taylor Morin.
Duke got even with 11:40 remaining on Loftis’ 29-yard pass to Jordan Moore.
The Blue Devils avoided what would have been their first three-game losing streak in coach Mike Elko’s two seasons.
The teams alternated touchdowns in the first half, going to the break at 14-14.
Tate Carney ran 3 yards for Wake Forest in the first quarter. The rest of the scoring came in the second quarter, beginning with Jaquez Moore’s 32-yard run for Duke.
Griffis rambled 8 yards for Wake Forest’s next touchdown. Duke scored on Jordan Waters’ 4-yard run with 1 minute to play in the first half.
Wake Forest kicker Matthew Dennis missed on field goal attempts from 27 and 39 yards.
For Carney, a redshirt freshman, the production wasn’t as big as his brother’s first game on Duke’s field, but it was notable. Cade Carney ran for 108 yards and three touchdowns as a true freshman when the Demon Deacons won at Duke in 2016.
This was the second year in a row that the Demon Deacons visited Duke. Tate Carney played here a year ago as well when Duke won 34-31.
Duke entered the national rankings after the first week of the season and stayed there until the latest poll. This outcome won’t likely be enough to move the Blue Devils back into the Top 25.
Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons put up a strong effort on defense after giving up a season-high 41 points Saturday vs. No. 4 Florida State. But the offense wasn’t productive enough, particularly after some good field position at times in the game.
Duke: The Blue Devils don’t look like the team that made waves across the first month or so of the season. Much of that has to do with the absence of Leonard, who played in the two previous games despite ongoing ailments.
Wake Forest: Nov. 11 home vs. North Carolina State
Duke: Nov. 11 at North Carolina