Offense, offense, and more offense. That sums up Wake Forest Football in 2022. We saw the Demon Deacons’ offensive firepower last year when they escaped the Dome with an overtime victory. Expect more of the same this year, even though the game will be in Winston-Salem this time around.
Wake Forest has established itself as one of the most consistent teams in the ACC. The Demon Deacons have qualified for a Bowl Game in each of the last seven seasons (including this one). Not too shabby. This season got off to a rocky start when starting QB Sam Hartman (more on him later) was ruled out indefinitely before the season due to a non-football-related medical condition. But Wake Forest’s signal-caller only missed one game, and it was against FCS foe VMI. The Demon Deacons enter Saturday’s contest against Syracuse at 6-4, in no small part because they average 36.6 points per game. That’ll play, perhaps even more so against an SU defense that has given up 27 or more points in three of its last four contests.
HEAD COACH DAVE CLAWSON
Clawson has been at the forefront of the program’s turnaround. The former bench boss at Fordham, Richmond, and Bowling Green took over prior to the 2014 season. After a pair of 3-9 campaigns to start his tenure, Clawson has had just one sub-.500 season since 2016 (and it was the COVID season in 2020). But the Youngstown, NY native has taken Wake Forest to greater heights in recent years. The Demon Deacons finished last season ranked #15 and have spent plenty of time in the polls this year. If you want to add some spice, Clawson is an even 4-4 against Syracuse since he took over.
QB SAM HARTMAN
We mentioned Hartman’s preseason medical issue earlier. The reason it was such a big deal (in terms of what happens on the field) is that the Charlotte native threw for over 4,000 yards and 39 touchdowns. After Hartman missed the season opener, he has looked like his normal self. He’s averaging over 300 yards through the air per game along with 28 touchdowns so far. He’s very familiar with Syracuse too. This game will mark Hartman’s fifth appearance against the Orange.
WR A.T. PERRY
Perry’s name most certainly is not one SU fans ought to enjoy hearing. If you flashback to last season’s matchup, the Florida native only had three catches against Syracuse. That doesn’t tell the whole story. All three of the catches were for 20+ yards. All three of the catches were for touchdowns. One of them was the game-winner in overtime. Perry has been balling out this year too, registering three games with at least 100 yards so far. The pressure will be on Duce Chestnut and the SU secondary to contain Perry, especially without Garrett Williams.
DL JASHEEN DAVIS
Syracuse’s offensive line has been the subject of a lot of harsh criticism lately. Well, bad news. Davis is a monster. The Snellville, Georgia native has elevated his game over the past two weeks, registering at least two tackles for loss in each game as well as three total sacks. Davis leads the Demon Deacons in tackles for loss and is tied for first in sacks. He didn’t play against the Orange last year, so that unfamiliarity factor makes him even scarier.
LB RYAN SMENDA JR.
Tackling machine. That’s how one would best describe Smenda Jr. The Orange Park, FL native had 16 (!!) tackles in each of Wake Forest’s last two games and leads the team with 91 total on the season. For reference, the gap between Smenda Jr. and Wake Forest’s second-leading tackler is the same as the gap between #2 and #14. Smenda Jr. had eight tackles when SU and WF met inside the Dome. You can rest assured he’ll look to feast on a ravaged SU offense.
It has been a limp to the finish line and then some for Syracuse. On the heels of four straight losses and a defense that is depleted to its core, the Orange now have to face perhaps the best offense they’ll face all season, along with a defense full of players hungry to make big plays. Buckle up.