This past Saturday, the Demon Deacons traveled to Boone, North Carolina for the first time ever, as they took on the Appalachian State Mountaineers, leaving with a hard-fought 20-19 win. What most are calling the opener for a renewed in-state rivalry did not disappoint fans. The Deacons showed grit to fight through their mistakes, and in the end prevailed.
It took until the beginning of the second half for Wake Forest’s offense to get anything going, but quarterback John Wolford and redshirt freshman wide receiver Greg Dortch continued their upwards trend and led the comeback for the Demon Deacons, as the blossoming superstar Dortch recorded another touchdown grab to go along with his 6 receptions. To go with this, the Wake Forest defense was pivotal in keeping the game within reach while the offense was struggling in the first half. Holding the Mountaineer’s offense to nine points in the first half and ten points in the second half, especially in their home stadium, shows the strong bond that defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel has with his defense, especially with his young secondary.
Where were the running backs for the Demon Deacons? John Wolford was the team’s leading rusher for the second time so far this season, and it wasn’t very close. Matt Colburn and Akeem Byrd were both tied for the team’s second-leading rushers in this game, each with 34 yards on 10 and 9 attempts, respectively. John Wolford led the team with 77 yards on 13 carries. Quarterbacks are not built to take 13 hits while running down the field. In the long run, those hits will accumulate and may come back to haunt Coach Clawson and his offense. Instead of using a running back by committee approach, offensive coordinator Warren Ruggiero should pick one main running back and stick with him for a game. Leaving three running backs wondering when they will get snaps is not good for team morale or chemistry. Furthermore, TJ Watkins 84 yard touchdown run in the third quarter was unacceptable, as the Wake defense is too strong to be allowing massive plays on the ground.
Three points in the first half is not going to cut it when Wake Forest plays teams such as Louisville, Clemson, and Florida State. The Demon Deacon defense has been fantastic this year, but it is not realistic to expect them to keep the game close while the offense struggles to get anything going for the first half of the game. That may have worked against Appalachian State, but when playing some of the best team’s in the nation it will be vital to have the offense working in flow with the defense. Hopefully, head coach Dave Clawson and his staff can use this game as a teaching point to improve upon for next weekend’s home game against Florida State.