After an excruciating loss to Florida State last Saturday, SU now has to win two of its final three games to ensure itself a bowl berth this season. The first opponent standing in its way of that pair of Ws comes in the form of divisional foe Wake Forest on Saturday. The Demon Deacons enter the week sitting at 5-4 on the season, but is coming off a big loss to #3 Notre Dame last Saturday in South Bend. The Orange should not be overlooking Dave Clawson’s club, however, and I’ve got three reasons for you right here. Next up in our three players to watch series is Wake Forest, so let’s get the down-low on the Demon Deacons.
Eric Dungey has been touted as one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country so far this season, but one ACC QB that gets mistakenly overlooked when it comes to guys that can both throw and pass the ball is Wake Forest signal caller John Wolford. The senior obviously leads his team in passing, but is also the second-leading rusher for a Wake Forest squad that is a top-50 rushing offense in the country. He’s scored 24 total touchdowns on the season (7 rushing, 17 passing) and he’s done a lot of that without his top target, Greg Dortch, for the past few weeks. While the numbers are pretty impressive for Wolford, it’s what he doesn’t do that is probably most important. He’s thrown just three interceptions on the season and always seems to make the right decision when passing the ball. He also doesn’t try to force the issue. If he can’t find any of his receivers open downfield, then he’ll simply tuck the ball and run for himself. Standing at 6-foot-1, his size isn’t great for a quarterback, but it’s more than passable, especially when you consider the kind of football IQ Wolford possesses. He didn’t have a great game last week versus the Irish, but that was against a really good defense that is being coached by Wake’s former defensive coordinator in Mike Elko, so ND had a bit of a leg up on Wolford. Because of that, Orange fans should still be wary of the kind of game that Wolford can have.
Last season’s matchup between Wake and SU was a grind-it-out, slugfest thanks in large part to Hurricane Matthew bringing atrocious conditions to Winston-Salem. Because of the weather, running back Cade Carney had a big day for the Demon Deacons, rushing for over 100 yards. This time around, though, Carney likely won’t be suiting up for Wake due to injury and the game will be played inside the weather-controlled Carrier Dome. For this reason, I’m choosing Wake’s top receiving threat remaining, Scotty Washington, as one of the three players to watch for Clawson’s crew. After the aforementioned Dortch went down with an injury in week 8 versus Louisville, Wake lost a TON of production. In that game alone, the redshirt freshman had 10 receptions for 167 yards and four touchdowns. In his first 8 games, he’d put up 722 yards and nine scores. But, Dortch is now out for the season with that abdominal injury and Washington has done a pretty nice job filling in for him. The redshirt sophomore had 8 catches for 84 yards versus Notre Dame last week. On the season, Washington ranks behind only Dortch for the most receiving yards on the team. He’s also the big-play threat in the passing game for the Demon Deacons, averaging a pretty nice 16.9 yards per reception, including a 47-yard reception earlier in the season. Like his quarterback, Wolford, Washington has pretty good numbers, but his most important tool is something outside of his statistics. The Washington, D.C. product (I know great combo) towers over defenders at 6-foot-5 and can go up over the top to make catches on contested balls. For a Syracuse defensive back corps that only averages about 5-foot-11, that kind of size and length may just be a recipe for success on Saturday.
Now that you know the ways in which Wake Forest can put points on the board on Saturday, let’s move to the side of the football where they can keep points off the board. The Demon Deacons don’t have an exceptionally stout defense (418 ypg, 88th in the nation), but there are some good athletes on that side of the ball that can help make a difference this Saturday. One of those athletes is defensive back Cameron Glenn. A safety, Glenn has become even more important for Wake over the past few weeks after starting free safety and the team’s leading tackler, Jessie Bates III, went down with an injury versus Louisville. Glenn’s now moved over into that free safety spot vacated by Bates and has been pretty darn good throughout the season. He ranks third on the team in total tackles with 61 so far this year and he’s also made a great effort at taking the ball away from opponents, having picked off a pair of passes and also forcing a fumble through the first 9 games. With Syracuse’s high-powered, pass-heavy offense looming on the horizon and Bates likely to miss the game for Wake Forest, a lot of pressure is going to fall on the Georgia native’s shoulders to step up and make an impact, something he’s shown he has the capacity for all season long.