Because man cannot live on one blogger alone, I bring you Zach from the Wake Forest blog Old Gold & Blog to answer a few questions about this week’s game from the Demon Deacon perspective.
1) So, what’s it like being a fan of a juggernaut for once?
It’s definitely a great time to be a Demon Deacon, but this may be the first time I’ve heard the team called a juggernaut, and I think it sounds pretty good, thanks!
As a relatively young Deac, I know I don’t have as great an appreciation for it as those who’ve been around for decades of poor football. Still, it’s been an amazing ride and the best thing is that it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. I feel like this program is officially on the map, and even though that doesn’t necessarily mean the team will challenge for a conference championship every year, I think they’ve gotten to the point where for the foreseeable future it would be a major disappointment not to go to a bowl.
Support for the team is at an all-time high, and considering things like the brand new Deacon Tower and the retention of head coach Jim Grobe, it’s clear that the school, athletic department, and alumni are all incredibly supportive of this team.
2) What are your expectations for this season?
Expectations for this season are higher than they’ve ever been. There are still some major hurdles on the schedule that have to be cleared, most notably a Thursday night home game against Clemson and a game at Miami, but I really believe we’ll see the Deacs play for an ACC Championship in December, and if they get there I don’t see why they can’t win. It’s been a great start, and I only expect the fun to continue.
3) Just how good is the Wake Forest defense?
I’ve never seen them play as well as they did against Florida State last weekend. Forcing seven turnovers in a game is incredible, even for a Wake defense that forces lots of them already. I think the front seven may be as good as any in the country, particularly given the considerable depth at many of those positions. Alphonso Smith is one of the flashiest, and most talented, defenders in the nation and the secondary has performed pretty well as a whole (although I was slightly concerned about them after the close game against Ole Miss). The only other slight concern I’ve had is some mistakes in open field tackling, but all things considered they’re pretty minor complaints. This defense is for real, and they only need to play close to the way they did against Florida State to have a very successful season.
4) On the other hand, the offense doesn’t seem to have clicked as well, particularly the running game. What’s wrong?
The biggest issues is the offensive line. Basically the entire unit had to be replaced after last season, and the new unit hasn’t performed up to par yet. I think they have the ability to get the job done, but they haven’t progressed quite as quickly as I would have hoped. I’d like to see some considerable improvement from this this weekend against Navy.
I can’t let the running backs totally off the hook, though. Both Josh Adams, who was last year’s ACC rookie of the year, and redshirt freshman Brandon Pendergrass are very talented backs, but I think they’ve done too much dancing around the backfield this season. They need to hit the holes faster and harder, and even if there isn’t much of a hole there I’d rather see them get in there and try to pick up a couple instead of trying to make a big play out of nothing.
One final thing I’ll point out is that much of Wake’s short passing game is really part of the running game. Wake uses very short passes to get the ball outside in a hurry, and in many ways these plays function as part of the running game. I think the coaches would tell you the same thing, and it’s part of why Riley Skinner’s completion percentage is always so high. Certainly that doesn’t mean we can ignore what the running backs do between the tackles, but it does make it more bearable.
5) When you look at Navy, what do you see as the team’s strengths and weaknesses?
I had the opportunity to watch a fair amount of Navy’s game against Duke a couple weeks ago, and as always I get a little nervous watching them run the option. I know that a well run option is going to be very difficult to stop no matter what defense is on the field against them. Had Kaipo not been hurt in the game against Wake last season, I think the game would have ended up being much closer than it ultimately was.
So, all that to say, I think the offensive scheme Navy utilizes is one of it’s greatest strengths. Ultimately, though, I think Navy’s biggest weakness is that it doesn’t have enough football talent to compete with the best teams in the country, and I think this weakness outweighs the strength of the offense. Losing Paul Johnson certainly didn’t help, either.
So there you go. Thanks to Zach for taking the time to do this. Be sure to hop over to his site, where I’ve polluted the innernets with my responses to his questions.