After two games, Wake Forest is 2-0 with a down-to-the-wire win and a lopsided win. One was in the central time zone, one was at BB&T Field. The Deacons have shown a few things to be encouraged about and a few flaws that could rein in expectations for a season of ascending in the ACC Atlantic Division’s hierarchy.
The Deacons’ offense moves like a well-oiled machine, with a dynamic quarterback who can stretch the secondary with an arsenal of throws. A few injuries are worrisome. Wake Forest’s defense doesn’t lack playmakers, but has an Achilles’ heel of giving up chunk plays. If only the Deacons clean those up, they’ll have a dangerously balanced team …
The same was essentially written about last season’s start, too.
The circumstances and opponents are different, obviously. But there are enough similarities between the way Wake Forest started last season and has started this season — and now approach a third game against an ACC team that appears to be every bit the Deacons’ equal — that it’s safe to say Wake Forest is in a similar position.
At least the hurricane came through last week and isn’t slated to hit at game time.
Wake Forest’s holes were exposed in that game against Boston College last season — and Friday night’s visit from North Carolina presents the chance for the Deacons to display, again in front of a national audience, that this season will be different.
Or it’ll be similar.
Here’s what I picked up on while re-watching the win against Rice:
• It was indeed hot in Houston. Every bit of the 102 degrees that the broadcast says it felt like before the game. But what if I told you it was cold in the press box? (Can confirm Rice Stadium’s press box air conditioning works)
• Ben Holden (play-by-play announcer) calls Cade Carney’s injury “undisclosed,” which in Wake Forest terminology typically has a very specific meaning (if you know, you know) — but that’s not the case here. In this situation, I understand “undisclosed” to mean the regular definition, that Wake Forest isn’t naming the nature of the injury. Coach Dave Clawson said afterward “he had a strain” — didn’t specify what or where.
• Completely forgot Christian Beal-Smith ripped off an 18-yard run on the first play. Sharp, explosive run. Helped that two Rice players left unblocked covered Jamie Newman on the read-option. The problem is he gained 12 yards on his other nine carries for the game.
• Analyst Ross Tucker says Rice needs to blitz Newman, that if they sit back, he’ll carve them up. That’s probably correct in theory, but Rice has tape too — they can see that more than half of his touchdown passes last year came against pressure.
• That is a strong, strong catch by Kendall Hinton in between two defenders. And a lot of faith shown by Newman in making that throw.
• I’ll try to avoid overreacting to what large wide receivers do against tiny cornerbacks, but … When Scotty Washington uses his body and catches balls with his arms extended, he’s as good as any receiver in the ACC.
• Business-like first drive, business-like push from 2 yards out for Beal-Smith’s touchdown run.
• Special teams tackle for DeAndre’ Delaney.
• Amari Henderson might as well bank on the first throw of every game being a hitch against him.
• Two changes to the starting defense, I only caught one of them during the game: Luke Masterson dropped back to Nasir Greer’s starting spot at strong safety, while Traveon Redd started at rover. Also, Royce Francis started at drop end — not Ja’Corey Johns or Shamar McCollum.
• I imagine, and I tweeted as much during the game, that Francis started because he’s better against power runs than Johns or McCollum. All three played significant snaps.
• Whoa, Boogie Basham gets the strip-sack and he owes a Sulaiman Kamara a pat on the back for it. They stunt, and Kamara occupies two linemen and the running back while Basham knifes through the middle to reach quarterback Wiley Green.
• Good awareness by Rondell Bothroyd to be there for the fumble recovery.
• Targeting was right call against Rice’s Tyrae Thornton.
• Great physicality by Sage Surratt on his touchdown catch. And again, good anticipation by Newman to throw it before he had separation.
• Chase Monroe came in for Ryan Smenda Jr. on the second defensive series for the Deacons. Wound up with three tackles, .5 for loss.
• Justin Strnad nearly comes up with an interception, would’ve been a tough catch. Was going to say he came off of his man and was reading eyes of Green, but that’s a guard who was trying to block him … about 6 yards downfield.
• Second-and-10, Smenda misses a tackle and it’s a 9-yard run to get to very manageable third down. Can’t do that.
• Essang Bassey slides off of Brad Rozner on a 40-yard catch-and-run. Can’t do that, either. Touchdown-saving tackle by Coby Davis — somebody had to do it while Greer wasn’t out there.
• I’m glad the broadcast showed wide shots of the stadium. The announced crowd was 17,567. That’s a complete joke. There might, *might*, have been 4,000 people there — and that includes the teams, support staffs, media, chain crew, refs, replay officials, etc.
Don’t play college football games on Friday nights. But if you insist, as TV does: Don’t play college football games on Friday nights in Texas.
• Pretty obvious pass interference in the end zone on Henderson.
• Dion Bergan Jr. and Kamara plug a hole on first-and-goal run from the 2. Second really good play from Kamara in the game’s first 10 minutes.
• OK, there’s the play that knocks Green out of the game. Great pursuit by Francis — which makes sense, because since the spring, Dave Cohen has raved about his motor. Manny Walker does a really good job occupying a blocker in front of Green and prolonging the play.
Strnad comes from the middle of the pile, too, and his forearm/elbow hits Green’s head. I don’t think that’s targeting (Rice’s coaches wanted it at least reviewed). He doesn’t lead with his helmet. Just seems like two guys trying to make a play for their teams, and Strnad does what he can to prevent a touchdown. Seems clean, just unfortunate.
• Rice provided an update on Green’s status Saturday: “Rice quarterback Wiley Green was released from the hospital last night after all post-injury testing came back negative. … He will continue to be treated symptomatically by the Rice medical staff.”
• Good look for Green to give a thumbs-up motion as the cart left the field — didn’t see that in the box.
• Have to chuckle: One of the things on the bottom line just said, “Do Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M hold key to beating Clemson?” … Uh, no.
• Geez man, you got your “Hello, Newman” line in in the pregame. Give it a rest.
• Third-and-3 incompletion, just a little low on the throw.
• Outkicked the coverage on the punt, which gets returned 34 yards. When Austin Trammel — a nice player, btw — catches it, the closest Deacon is 12 yards away. It was only a 42-yard punt. Can’t do that.
• Francis credited for a tackle on punt, but it’s No. 87, not 97, and that’s Taleni Suhren, an offensive lineman who switches to that number when he’s on punt cover.
• Over-pursuit on the read-option (I think that’s what it is) for Rice’s second touchdown. And I think the Owls were pretty fired up about their quarterback leaving the field in an ambulance. Credit them for responding well to it.
• It was really important for Wake Forest to score immediately after Rice tied it at 14-14.
• Gets to third-and-2 — if the Deacons had missed this and had gone three-and-out on back-to-back possessions, both coming after Rice’s touchdowns, would’ve been #NotGoodDino.
• Really good throw and catch to Surratt for 15 yards. Also: Surratt’s size helps him get separation, but he might use it as even more of an advantage at racking up yards-after-catch. He’s really strong in that aspect.
• Great throw to Kendall Hinton on the final play of the first quarter. Hinton reaches for his right hamstring — Wake Forest will need at least one of him and Jaquarii Roberson healthy against North Carolina.
I’m not saying Surratt is incapable of playing the slot for a full game, but he had one 10-yard catch after moving to the slot because of Hinton’s injury. And it’s clear Isaiah Isaac and Taylor Morin aren’t going to be thrown into the fire if they’re not even used against Rice until it’s a four-touchdown lead. So, you’ve gotta have Hinton or Roberson against the Tar Heels.
• Press coverage against Washington in the red zone, might as well throw to the end zone every time. Harp on the passes he’s dropped all you want (I’m a little guilty of that, too), or you can realize he looks just as good — if not, better — than he did in 2017.
• Five plays in 1:36 is not “warp speed.”
• Rice’s second-down play is a handoff to Cameron Montgomery, a 5-5, 160-pound redshirt freshman who wasn’t even on the depth chart … and is listed as a receiver on the roster.
• Great job stuffing third-and-1, not so great for Traveon Redd lining up in neutral zone.
• Disciplined play from Basham to force a first-down incompletion.
• It’s hilarious to watch this Sunday night, while the Patriots game is on my other TV (highly recommend two-TV setup in offices), and the bottom-line ticker keeps telling me the Raiders expect Antonio Brown to play Monday night.
• Great up-and-under move from redshirt freshman Ja’Corey Johns on third-and-long, and he gets rewarded with his first career sack.
• Kenneth Walker III’s night will be remembered for his 96-yard touchdown run, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that he looked sharp on his first eight carries.
• Walker runs on third-and-1, hit behind the line, turns it into a 6-yard gain. He’s going to be — already is, to an extent — really good.
• Jack Freudenthal now has seven catches this season without a touchdown. I don’t know what to believe in anymore. (he entered the season with five touchdowns on 18 catches in his career)
• Not sure that’s offensive pass interference that cancels Freudenthal’s touchdown. Washington just runs into the cornerback on him — he doesn’t pick the safety covering Freudenthal. Weird.
• Rice snuffed a third-and-goal play from the 3-yard line that was probably too cute. Credit for changing things up though, from last week’s short-yardage debacles. That’s just not the solution.
• I love the fullback dive on first down. Disappearing from football, but such a good play.
• Mike Allen with good penetration, Luke Masterson flies in for tackle, on second-and-4 run. Nice play.
• “Green” instead of Greer once is an honest mistake. Twice is rough.
• It was pointed out on Twitter: Yeah, pretty sure Dave Clawson takes the timeout before the punt because Rice had a fake on. Good coaching.
• Three-and-out for Wake Forest — Washington’s drop on first down hurt.
• Bad angle by Smenda, should’ve been a TFL.
• Ja’Sir Taylor beaten on third-and-6 conversion on a pass over the middle. Bad step when Trammel breaks in.
• Basham was about upset as you’ll ever see him — which isn’t much — about missing a deflection on a third-and-3 swing pass.
• Redd ran a long way for his first career sack. It was certainly an important one, to get Rice off-schedule when it looked like the Owls would put points on the board before halftime.
• Strnad is one of the best linebackers for a number of reasons, but chief among them is his sideline-to-sideline range. Lateral quickness is outstanding.
• Basham gets the third-down PBU he wanted.
• Halftime. The Deacons had to run up a steep tunnel to get to their locker room. That’s not that interesting — just thought it was strange after the game, realizing how long and steep the tunnel was. God bless the equipment staff that had to push the massive trunks and cases up that hill after the game.
• Kevin Carter nails the biggest key to Newman’s on-field development since last season: He’s so comfortable and poised in the pocket, going through progressions, and then delivering an accurate pass. He’s in the zone. Story now becomes how long he can stay in it.
• Ah, we’re back to Wake Forest on the short end of the time of possession number.
• Second play of the second half, Rondell Bothroyd almost intercepts a handoff, Masterson does a great job tracking down a misdirection play.
• Third time for “Green” instead of “Greer,” which is pathetic.
• Loic Ngassam Nya started the second half at left guard, and was in there during the first half. Different from last week, when Sean Maginn took every snap at left guard (I think).
• Essang Bassey gets blamed by Tucker for being offside … while Rice’s defense is on the field. That’s, um, interesting.
• I thought Newman overthrew Washington on the 36-yarder down the right sideline. Here’s Newman on the advantages that come with throwing to Washington:
“Scotty Washington is not only physical, but he’s definitely fast,” Newman said. “You know, a guy who’s 6-5, runs a sub-4.5, he makes it easy for you as a quarterback.”
• Steve Claude wasn’t as much of a factor, obviously, with only an 8-yard catch in the first half. Was a nice move to get open on the third-down play near the goal line; unfortunate for him the ball was tipped at the line, negating the pass interference penalty he drew.
• Bergan is coming along nicely, really good backfield penetration on a first-down run.
• Bassey is such a good cornerback. Fundamentally sound.
• Good box out from Surratt to make himself available for a 10-yard catch on third-and-5.
• Walker has some Matthew Colburn II patience to his running style. Not as much, maybe that’ll come with time, but it’s definitely there — and the Deacons need that as a change of pace to Carney’s hammering style and Beal-Smith’s breakaway potential.
• Justin Herron had an injury scare, returned the game after a few plays.
• Walker takes a TFL and Newman should’ve pulled it and run. One of his only — maybe his only one — mistakes of the night.
• Royce Francis had a really nice game. Non-stop motor with some good instincts.
• If you have two rotating QBs, you have no QBs — but I have no idea how that saying goes if you’re rotating punters.
• Said this on Twitter, will repeat: Just a grown-(derriere) man play from Washington on the 59-yard touchdown. More impressive considering the last pass that was thrown his way was a would-be touchdown that went off his hand. If he’s making those plays regularly this season, he’s an All-ACC receiver.
• Henderson misses another tackle.
• And then gets beat by a good route and good throw on the opposite side of the field.
• TFL for Strnad — maybe missing a vowel in his last name, but doesn’t miss many tackles.
• Interesting nugget dropped by broadcast crew, that Bergan is in the 1,500-pound club. Crazy, given it’s his second year in the program. Not even sure Phil Haynes was in the 1,500-pound club as early as his second season (but, he also didn’t start lifting weights seriously until he arrived at Wake Forest).
• Didn’t realize Redd could’ve been called for roughing the passer on his third-and-8 pressure that forced Stewart to throw it at the running back’s feet on a screen.
• I think that’s a bad call on Henderson’s fourth-down pass interference call. Looked like Rozner was losing his balance, and I don’t think Henderson had much to do with that. Certainly not an egregiously bad call or anything — just didn’t think there was that much there to warrant the flag.
• Really good play by Masterson to stuff the first-down fullback dive.
• First play of the fourth quarter, Stewart almost scores again on a keeper — Basham over-pursues, but recovers to make a touchdown-saving tackle.
• Clawson frustrated for the second straight week of failing to rotate defenders.
• Ja’Cquez Williams made a great play on the third-and-goal stop, tackling Nahshon Ellerbe before he jump over the pile.
• There’s the fourth-down stop, perfect anticipation by Strnad. I included this in the 5 takeaways article, but will put what Strnad said about the play here too: “They called a timeout and we huddled up and I told my coach, because they ran that formation a couple of times, I was like, ‘They’re gonna do the boot out of it.’ I took the chance and played the boot, and got lucky. We were all together and I told them that I just expected that play.”
• Cutting a team’s heart out is getting a fourth-and-goal stop on the 1-yard line, and then having a 96-yard touchdown run on the next play.
The lights, turn them out.
• Wow, didn’t realize Je’Vionte’ Nash and Ngassam Nya were on the field for Walker’s touchdown. And every skill position player ran to the end zone to congratulate him.
• Shamar McCollum with a really rangy play to get a TFL on a screen pass.
• Henderson could’ve had an interception, good break on the ball.
• Tucker really didn’t do his homework on Washington’s high school career, which had less-than-impressive numbers because he played in an option offense.
• Mike Allen causes some problems in the middle of the line.
• Houston native Isaiah Essissima got some action, which is a nice hometown feeling, but it’s also so very important. Bassey and Henderson are gone after this year, he’s got to be ready to be a starting cornerback in the ACC as a sophomore next season. The more snaps this year, the better.
• Clawson wasn’t happy that the second-team defense gave up a touchdown, there was some poor tackling. But overall, a pretty solid defensive effort after the two touchdowns in the first quarter.
• Tayvon Bowers enters for the final drive. Clawson said that was because “we’re not going to burn games that we don’t need to,” which makes it pretty obvious that Wake Forest, in an ideal scenario, doesn’t play Sam Hartman in more than four games this season and preserves a redshirt year.
• That’ll do it. Should be a fun week on tap. Happy Monday.