On Friday morning, I submitted a brilliant idea to Jake Sloan over at the ever-popular www.bloggersodear.com. I have long been a fan, and thought that I could only augment their greatness by doing an in-game diary from the Duke contest. This would be a great chance for me to use my brand new voice recorder and give a fan's perspective on yet another Deacon victory over the perpetually hapless Blue Devils.
Um, yeah. Enjoy the "View From Section 2."
My compatriot and old friend Heath and I arrive in the parking lot of the Coliseum Park Plaza, some 382 miles from Gate 1 at BB&T field. There has been a steady rain falling for much of the day and preceding night, but we are armed with 88 cent Walmart ponchos and some stray hand towels from Heath's residence. Actually, this isn't normally a long walk and it saves us from dropping eight bucks on parking. More important, we don't have to fight the awful Dixie Classic Fair traffic. However, this will be a brutal journey back if a) this ends in an ‘L' and b) it is still raining.
It's always hard to judge a tailgate scene during a Fair game unless our friends from Blacksburg or Clemson are in town, but it looks like at least some people are here for some football. I smell meat of unknown origin cooking on a hot grill, sans grease, so I know it's from a tailgate and not the fairgrounds. I'm starting to have hope for a sizeable crowd for today's game. After all, it is the ACC game of the week on television with serious bowl implications.
"It's not fall break yet is it?" asks Heath. Great question. Six minutes before the kick and there may be 100 students in their seats. Kids, I know it's early and raining but if you want to be taken seriously you've got to show up. Get a poncho. Walmart has them for 88 cents. Next time you criticize the quality of our athletes, think about all those good athletes on recruiting visits who see one hundred people in the student section. His next visit may be to Clemson, where the entire student body will be sitting in the end zone. Where would you go?
Josh Harris takes the first snap and bursts out to a huge gain. I hope this is a good omen.
Ed. Note: No. No, it was not.
The Devils' defense holds and Duke begins their first series with a bang. Quarterback Sean Renfree throws deep and complete on first down to easily give Duke a first down in Deacon territory. The Wake defense stiffens, however, and the Blue Devils only get 3 points.
That's more like it. Wake Forest does what Wake usually does and marches the ball 75 yards down the field, resulting in a Deandre Martin touchdown. It is now 7-3, Wake Forest, and the stadium denizens are now awake.
In another instance of "What Wake usually does" the Blue Devils convert on third-and-26 as Renfree finds a wide-open receiver down the field between two Wake Forest safeties. This disaster is quickly followed by Renfree taking the ball in all by his lonesome. Duke regains the lead and much hand-wringing ensues in section 2. Additionally, the Devils now have 124 yards passing with six seconds to play in the first quarter. Adding insult to injury is the fact that (surprise) Wake has not shown any ability to stop the run when Duke is in a spread formation. They just hand it up the middle for 5 or more yards. Every time. They are doing what they want without bubble-screening us to death. This is not going to go well.
Wake Forest dodges a bullet and surrenders only a field goal on the latest Blue Devil drive. The angst created by the Deacon "defense" is only heightened by the middle-aged couple behind us, who apparently don't get to football games much. The male of the unit is adept at pointing out the obvious and making the most obvious joke about it. I may get escorted out of here involuntarily today. Did I mention it's still raining?
Jimmy Newman has hit a monster 45-yard field goal to make the score 13-10 in favor of the Devils. More important is the fact that on the ensuing drive the Deacons hold their opponents to one of those mystical occurrences called a "three-and-out." Good job, defense. I'm glad we got one before halftime.
I'm now completely convinced that the couple behind us has never, ever been to a football game in their lives. I mean, they seem to know who the players are but they have no idea what's going on. They just make stuff up. Great. Heath is oblivious to them as he is busy staring maniacally at the Wake Forest sideline. It's not halftime yet and he's already homicidal.
The 20,000 or so assistant coaches braving the weather are voicing their displeasure with regard to Lobo's unwillingness to try and drive 70 yards with 20 seconds to go in the half. This is what I call the "Madden Effect." In other words, when I'm playing Madden on my Xbox I don't punt. Nobody punts. However, there is only one play for the Deacons here...take a knee. For the love of God, take a knee.
Sigh. That was a very Wake Forest way to end the first half. Tanner Price intercepted on an awkward-looking heave well short of the end zone. It's still raining.
On third and nine, Sean Renfree torches the Wake secondary and completes a pass down to the Deacon 13-yard line. Thankfully, this one is nullified by a hold that I didn't see. Our defense isn't very good. Heath (the human silver lining) says, "There is nothing to mitigate how open that guy was." He's right. I hate football. I'm taking my poncho off and turning my hat backwards to change the mojo. It's now third and 19. Timeout, Duke.
First down, Duke. That's the difference between college football and Wake Forest football, at least this year's version. The Deacs are now oh-fer facing third-and-forever situations today.
The Wake Forest defense steps up and saves a touchdown...by ripping off the Duke tailback's helmet as he was heading for the end zone. My goodness.
It's now officially a Wake Forest football game. And I quote: "Pull the entire starting 11 off and send out the second team. Make a statement." Heath is angry. You wouldn't like it when he's angry. Duke leads 20-10 with 9:12 left in the third quarter. Wake cannot tackle to save its life. Worse yet, we've somehow managed to miss the absence of Wake receiver Michael Campanaro. A quick check of Twitter reveals that he has a broken hand and will miss the remainder of the game. I hate football.
Wake lives! All is forgiven! Deacon fullback Tommy Bohanon runs a go route (!) on third-and-l3 and catches a thirty-yard touchdown from Tanner Price. Here we go. The Deacs are within three with 2:26 remaining in the third quarter. One stop and it's a whole new ballgame.
Well, that was quick. Sean Renfree gets popped while throwing the ball and Zach Thompson pulls the pigskin out of the air. First down, Demon Deacons! Oh, wow. Renfree is hurt and Anthony Boone is warming up in earnest. Wait a second. This is the same guy that crushed us out of the read option last year. Uh-oh.
Tie ball game. Wake Forest scores 10 points in less than two minutes. I'm impressed. Anthony Boone takes over the controls for Duke with 17 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Miracle of miracles, the defense holds again! Wake Forest is getting the ball back to take control of this game. Right? Right?
"That's a catastrophe." - Heath
Tanner holds onto the ball a couple of seconds too long and turns it over. Duke takes over deep in Wake Forest territory. This is just not meant to be. I can feel it. This streak is over today.
Catastrophe complete as Anthony Boone takes it in himself and the air has been let out of the Wake balloon. At least the couple behind me left 45 minutes ago.
With just over nine minutes remaining in the game, down one score, Wake fans are heading for the exits. Yep. That's how we do it around here. I'm not saying that the game is NOT over (it is), but man that's early.
After another Deacon hold on defense, a pass intended for Terence Davis deflects into the hands of a Duke defender with six minutes to go. Duke takes over on the Wake 37.
The Duke rushing attack (!) gashes the overmatched (!) Wake Forest defense and tallies another six. Heath gets up and heads for the exit. Remember what I said about the walk back to the car? Ugh. Oh, and it started raining again.
As frustrating as the whole experience was, the only thought running through my head during the long walk back to the car was, "Good for them." Twelve years is a long time, and David Cutcliffe is a seemingly good guy and a very good coach. The Devils dominated the game and brought the intensity for the full 60 minutes. Eventually, the tide was going to turn the Devils' way. Saturday was that day.
Before the season began, most coaches and pundits agreed that the Wake Forest defense would the team strength until the young offensive line began to gel. So far, that's not the case. The most frustrating thing to watch is the tackling. Now, I never played a snap of tackle football and was never trained in proper tackling technique. What I see, however, is that the Deacs seem to be missing a large number of tackles, especially after failing to wrap up after the initial collision. Additionally, the veteran Wake Forest secondary has been a disappointment. There is no way you can give up three (at least I stopped counting after three) third-and-forevers and expect to be competitive. Also, the seeming inability to stop the rush has got to have offensive coordinators salivating at the thought of running trap play after trap play. Failing to stop the Army's triple option attack is one thing...failure against Duke is another.
On the offensive side of the ball, it was alarming to see the dropped passes continue to litter the field of play. This was an issue during preseason camp and continues to be a problem (with receivers not wearing jersey number 3). Terence Davis, in his first opportunity to play injury-free, is showing the effects of his inconsistent playing time throughout his career. In addition, once Camp was sidelined the Deacon wide receivers had all kinds of trouble gaining separation from the Duke defensive backs. Read that last sentence again.
At this point I'll put the poison pen down and hope for the best during next week's visit to College Park. Despite all our shortcomings, I'm reminded and comforted by the fact that Wake Forest still has one of the best coaches in America. More often than not, the ship has been righted over the last decade when faced with adversity. Now is another opportunity to get better and get back to what makes Wake football great: WF means, "We Finish."