Even the ugliest of wins looks better than the prettiest loss, but Wake Forest's win over UVA sure tested that theory. It was a battle of which team would cost themselves last, and on this day, that team ended up being the Cavaliers. It was a tremendous showing by the Wake defense and special teams, and that was enough.
-This week I'm going to start with the defense, because boy howdy do they ever deserve it. Kevin Johnson was MVP, with four tackles (three solo), an interception, and a fumble recovery. But there's plenty of love to go around on the defense, with Nikita Whitlock, Zach Thompson, Merrill "Bud" Noel, and Tyler Harris all making plays of note, and I'm sure other guys I'm forgetting. The one bad drive of the day for the defense was a 13 play, 72 yard touchdown at the end of the first half, but I can't fault them too much, because it felt like they were out there all day. I don't know how Wake managed to win the time of possession battle, but when they do it by less than a minute when the winning team is +3 in turnovers, that's pretty bad. Still, so much respect to our boys on D for digging deep on a tough day.
-Special teams also get love from me today. Alex Kinal is still a boss, with a mind boggling ten punts with a 44.5 yard average (and one only went 18), a 54 yard long, and three inside the 20. Chad Hedlund was 3-3 on field goals, with a 22, 24, and 44-yarder, and not one of them was in doubt. Even our punt return game showed some life today, with Lovell "Scooby" Jackson setting up Wake's only touchdown of the day on a 60 yard punt return early in the game. Just a really good game for the special teams all around.
-The offense, oh man the offense. I cannot even put it into words. Wake had 213 yards of total offense on the day. 108 passing (Tanner Price was a woeful 7-19 for 102 yards, and Deandre Martin was 1-2 for six yards, I wish I was kidding) and 105 rushing (on 41 carries, for an abysmal 2.6 yards per carry, the long run of the day being Josh Harris's 16 yard touchdown run). Wake was 1-15 on third down, 1-1 on fourth down (between you and me, largely thanks to a generous spot), and Wake Forest's longest drive was ten plays for 55 yards, which ended in a field goal. The offensive quagmire was a mixture of horribly slow play development, ridiculously conservative and at times baffling play calls, and dropped passes all over the place. Sure, Tanner hardly had a great day, but I'm not kidding when I say I'm decently confident that more incompletions may have been on the receivers than on Tanner. Okay, that might be an exaggeration, but the dropped passes are an absolute epidemic at this point and I am positively pining for the return of Michael Campanaro.
UVA punted the ball to Wake down six points with a little over two minutes and two timeouts left. All it would've taken was a single first down for Wake to ice the game, but instead it took a special teams gaffe by UVA. After a nice punt by Alexander Kinal, Virginia return man Khalek Shepherd (whom I feel AWFUL for, for the record; chin up man) muffed the punt when it bounced off his facemask (you can't make this stuff up) and the ball was recovered by the Deacs to ice the win. It's one thing when a team disrespects our offense and we make them pay for it. But when a team disrespects our offense, we prove them right, and then they have to beat themselves, it just tears me up inside. Yes, the players could and should play better, but when Wake is up 7-0 at midfield and you have a fourth and the length of a football IF that, and you punt and then give up 31 yards on the first play from scrimmage (a rare defensive gaffe on the day) you show no faith in the offense and a total lack of killer instinct. I realize the philosophy is that the defense is playing great and you're putting faith in them, but I personally think the flipside of that is "okay, defense established, time to give the offense an opportunity to mark their territory." But we didn't do that, because we're Wake Forest.
Oh, one other thing I want to mention. There was a defensive delay of game penalty that extended a desperation drive for Virginia late in the game that was one of the worst, most baffling calls I think I have ever seen, It ended up not really mattering, but I'm STILL confused by it.
Unless the same defense amped up to 11 and a completely different offense show up on Thursday, Clemson is going to absolutely humiliate us. Every game is a different game, but lord knows Wake Forest is thankful for that after this performance. Still, our bowl hopes are alive, if on life support. On to the next one. Go Deacs.
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