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Seniors Have Final Shot to Defeat Wake Forest
Courtesy: Michael Tomko,
Release: 11/24/2009
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Senior cornerback Leon Wright
Photo Courtesy: Duke Photography
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DURHAM, N.C. - Just because Saturday's home finale against Wake Forest is the final time that Thaddeus Lewis and eight other seniors will suit up in Duke blue, doesn't mean you won't see them around Duke's campus.

"Once a Blue Devil, always a Blue Devil," Lewis said.

"This is our last game for the seniors," Lewis said. "Last game lasts a lifetime. If you are going to remember anything, you are going to remember that last game that you played in. We are definitely going to go out there and try to get a win."

Duke is coming off a tough 34-16 defeat at the hands of Miami on Saturday.

 "I think having a rival game to come back to is huge," head coach David Cutcliffe said. "We had our head in the sand a little bit after (the loss to Miami), and our seniors handled that. Our practice, I thought it started a little bit quiet. But man, when we started hitting and competing, it finished on a really strong note."

A victory would give the Blue Devils six wins and their first season of .500 or better football since 1994.

Getting their sixth win against Wake Forest, a team which has beaten the Blue Devils nine straight times, with seemingly every matchup being more heartbreaking for Duke than the last, would be a special way for the nine seniors to leave their mark on a program that they have helped change over their four years.

"We are just two similar teams," Leon Wright said. "Both coming from smaller private schools, similar athletes... It is very even and that is how it plays out."

Wake Forest enters Saturday's matchup, with kickoff scheduled for noon, averaging 262.5 pass yards per game and 132.3 rush yards per game, totaling 394.7 yards of  offense compared to Duke's 297.5 pass yards per game and 63.1 rush yards per game totaling, 360.6 yards of offense.

The Demon Deacon offense is fueled by senior quarterback Riley Skinner with 252.3 pass yards per game and is tied for second in the league with 21 touchdown passes.

"He [Skinner] is extremely accurate," Cutcliffe said. "He's got nice arm strength, and he buys time extremely well, which is what he does as well as anything. He makes you pay when he buys time. A lot of guys buy time and then panic, but he buys time and makes plays. He's done that his whole career. I watched him when he was young and I was at Tennessee, and I was impressed with him."

Lewis will take the snaps for the last time as a Blue Devil, finishing his career against the same opponent he had his first career start against back in 2006.

"That day I was just out there playing, scanning the field and trying to find open guys," Lewis said.

Skinner was also making his first career start for Wake Forest with the Demon Deacons pulling out a 14-13 win.

Wake Forest would win the next year, 41-36, and again in 2008, 33-30, in overtime.

"Anytime Riley is on the field and we have played against each other it has been a great game," Lewis said. "Obviously he has been on the winning side of things. Two guys that have started their career playing against each other and now they are going to end their careers playing against each other, it is funny how it panned out."

Lewis has come a long way as a person and a player since that first start four years ago.

"Sometimes I watch film and ask myself what was I thinking or what was I doing? You are just a young pup out there playing in a football game," Lewis said. "When you look how far you have come with fundamentals and knowledge of a football game and making smart decisions on the football field you actually see the maturity level and the growth from a freshman until now."

Lewis will leave Duke holding or sharing 48 total Duke records. He has 25 career records, 17 single season marks and six single game records.

"In the midst of breaking those records, we got better as a football team," Lewis said. "That is something that you want to be remembered for. Getting a win Saturday would be a stamp on that."

A win would leave a positive remembrance point for the players returning next year as well as leave the group of seniors with a feeling that they have left Duke on a positive note.

Win or lose, these seniors will be remembered at Duke forever.

 "This group has endured some difficult times," Cutcliffe said. "Thank goodness they've been able to celebrate some good times. Their contribution to Duke football will be more significant over a period of time, because it's not just what you do on Saturday. It's not even what you do on the practice field alone, and they've done well there. But they've gotten high marks in their conditioning work, their summer passing work that they set up and organized themselves and in their commitment to excellence, academically and socially."