Leonard’s late TD toss sinks Wake Forest 34-31

Nov 26, 2022, 2:21 AM | Updated: 5:35 pm

Duke head coach Mike Elko waves to fans as he walks off the field after earning a victory in Duke's...

Duke head coach Mike Elko waves to fans as he walks off the field after earning a victory in Duke's final regular season NCAA college football game against Wake Forest in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Ben McKeown)

(AP Photo/Ben McKeown)

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Riley Leonard threw for a career-best 391 yards and four touchdowns and Duke used a late touchdown to close out the regular season with a 34-31 victory over Wake Forest on Saturday.

Leonard, who completed 29-of-41 passes, connected with Sahmir Hagans for the game-winning score, a 20-yard reception with just over two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

Hagans finished with two touchdowns and set career-highs in receptions and receiving yards, as did Duke’s Jalon Calhoun. As a duo, Hagans and Calhoun accounted for 19 receptions and 313 receiving yards. With the win, the Blue Devils (8-4, 5-3 ACC) snapped a three-game losing streak in their series with the Demon Deacons and recorded their first eight-win regular season since 2014.

“I think we put down a marker about how long it’s going to take for Duke football to get competitive,” said first-year Duke coach Mike Elko, who inherited a program that went 5-18 in 2020 and 2021.

Wake Forest (7-5, 3-5) quarterback Sam Hartman completed 26-of-42 passes for 347 yards and three touchdowns but was intercepted late in the fourth by Duke defensive back Darius Joiner. Demon Deacon wide receiver A.T. Perry had eight catches for 87 yards and a score in the loss.


Wake Forest: In late October, the Demon Deacons were 6-1 and ranked 10th nationally. Coach Dave Clawson’s team then lost four of its final five regular-season contests, and defense was once again a big issue for Wake Forest on Saturday. Wake Forest now has given up 30-plus points in four straight games, and Duke had multiple offensive playmakers with career days. The Demon Deacons surrendered five plays of at least 20 yards, including Duke’s game-winning score.

“We had a chance on defense to get a stop, and it’s been our Achilles’ heel all year — our inability to defend the deep ball,” Clawson said. “We’ve struggled all year defending the deep ball and a disappointing way to end the season.

Duke: The Blue Devils closed out first-year coach Elko’s first regular season in grand fashion. Punctuated by Leonard and Hagan’s big days, Duke once again illustrated their impressive turnaround after going 3-9 last year and showed that there’s a lot of young talent around for the years to come as well.


Few people expected Elko’s first regular season coaching the Blue Devils ending with him tying the program record for most wins by a first-year coach. Yet, Elko and his staff have found a way to take an offense and defense that ranked 102nd and 127th in scoring last year, respectively, and vastly improve both groups. Entering Saturday, Duke ranked 34th in scoring offense and 35th in scoring defense.

“The thing that stands out the most to me is we go into every game expecting to win,” Leonard said. “And trusting that if we do our job, we’re going to win. I know that in years past, some guys predetermined things in their heads, but this year, there was not one game that we went into thinking we were going to lose.”

Even in defeat, Duke has been competitive, with each of its four losses coming by a score or less.

Added Calhoun, a senior who had career-bests in catches (11) and receiving yards (174): “We always knew we could be special. It was just putting the right pieces together and getting the culture back where it needed to be.”


Both Wake Forest and Duke await bowl invitations. Wake Forest has played in a bowl every season since 2016, and Duke is bowl eligible for the first time since 2018.


More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25. Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter: https://apnews.com/cfbtop25

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

1 year ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

1 year ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

1 year ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

1 year ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

1 year ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

1 year ago

Leonard’s late TD toss sinks Wake Forest 34-31