WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Backup quarterback Tanner Price threw three touchdown passes and ran for another, and Wake Forest held off Duke 54-48 on Saturday for its 11th straight victory in the series.
Price was 12 of 19 for 190 yards with scoring passes covering 13, 38 and 23 yards and an early 1-yard scoring run for the Demon Deacons (2-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference).
Wake Forest posted the first consecutive 50-point games in school history, outgained the Blue Devils 500-487 and won the second highest-scoring game in ACC history. During an early 5-minute stretch, the teams combined for three touchdowns of at least 60 yards.
Sean Renfree was 28 of 44 for 358 yards with four touchdowns for Duke (1-1, 0-1). Conner Vernon caught two of those, covering 70 and 51 yards.
Renfree's second scoring pass to Vernon made it a six-point game with 1:39 remaining, but Marshall Williams recovered the ensuing onside kick.
Renfree had touchdowns covering 9 yards to Cooper Helfet and 13 yards to Austin Kelly. Vernon finished with eight catches for 181 yards — his second straight 100-yard game — and Desmond Scott rushed for 122 yards including a 63-yard score.
Will Snyderwine kicked field goals covering 46 and 38 yards for the Blue Devils, with the second pulling them to 48-41 with 8:45 remaining.
Price then led them on a 13-play, 79-yard drive that chewed up nearly 6 minutes and ended with Devon Brown's 6-yard touchdown run.
Price, who played the entire second half after sharing time in the first with Ted Stachitas, put the Demon Deacons ahead to stay midway through the third quarter.
He found a wide-open Williams streaking down the right sideline from 38 yards out to make it 41-35. Earlier, those two hooked up from 13 yards out during a school-record-tying 28-point second quarter for Wake Forest. Price threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Danny Dembry on the fourth play of the fourth quarter to make it 48-38.
Stachitas had an early 23-yard touchdown run for the Demon Deacons. Williams caught two touchdown passes and threw another on a gadget play and Chris Givens had two TDs — one catch, one return of a fumbled long snap on a punt. Givens finished with four catches for 159 yards.
Most of Wake Forest's previous five wins in Winston-Salem were tight affairs that weren't decided until the final moments.
This one was destined for that kind of finish, and the tone was set during a wild first half in which the teams combined for 604 total yards and midway through the second quarter, there were touchdowns scored on three consecutive snaps.
Renfree's long strike to Vernon came one play after Price's scoring sneak put the Demon Deacons up by seven. That 21-all tie didn't last long: Williams took a pitch on an end-around and found Givens wide open behind the Blue Devils' secondary for an 81-yard score — the longest by Wake Forest in stadium history.
Then came more wackiness. After Price's first scoring pass to Marshall put Wake Forest up 35-21, Scott had a 63-yard touchdown run. Renfree's touchdown pass to Kelly came 41 seconds before the break and made it a 35-all game at the half.