Do not adjust your monitors. That headline, worryingly, is factually accurate. It really was distressing to be sitting in the stands and be looking at a team that we should've been taking to the woodshed and seeing them taking us to the wire. A few guys, namely Michael Campanaro, A.J. Marshall and Tommy Bohanon, were the guys that came up huge in the end and helped the Deacs come up with the win. A lot of guys did some good things, and I'll talk about those after the jump, but those three were absolutely huge this game. There were a lot of bad things and a lot of ugly things, but there were glimpses of good things in there too.
Read more after the jump...Offensively, I have decidedly mixed feelings. On the one hand, there was solid and at times inspired play by many Deacs on the offensive side of the ball. Tanner Price was a mediocre 16/28 for 195 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT. Tanner also seemed to miss some rather easy throws. The good news is that Tanner also made some inspired plays, some of which were under pressure. There was one play in particular that saw Tanner scramble away from some blindside pressure and make a huge completion. Similarly, there were some plays from the receivers that were frustrating (dropped passes, primarily), but several of the receivers, especially Michael Campanaro, had moments of inspired performance. The rushing game struggled, but there was one major bright spot. Redshirt freshman Deandre Martin stepped up when Josh Harris suffered a concussion, ripping off 21 carries for 74 yards and one touchdown. I had actually expected the rushing game to completely stall when Josh got taken out, but Deandre stepped up huge, and I think this kid could be really special.
- Defensively, I'm almost a little perplexed. It didn't really feel like a bad performance per se, and the Deacs ended up +1 in the turnover margin, not to mention one of those turnovers being the aforementioned pick 6 from A.J. Marshall that was pivotal in the game, but they still gave up 363 yards of offense to Liberty, which is fairly inexcusable. On the other hand, the good news is that we were overall very good in deep coverage; we only gave up one huge pass play, and that was busted coverage that gave Liberty their first touchdown Additionally, the Deacs seemed solid for the most part in short yardage situations. The problems with the defense were in middle ground situations. It seemed like when it came to plays that were in a middle ground between short and long, Liberty got chunks of yardage at will. Coach Grobe actually mentioned this in his postgame presser; he said that he felt that the secondary was playing a little too far off the ball in coverage. The positive from that was the Deacs didn't give up deep plays very often. The problem is that it left the middle area wide open much of the time, which Liberty absolutely exploited. Also, Liberty's Sirchauncey Holloway had a monster game, racking up nearly 100 all-purpose yards by himself, and it seemed like if there was a big play to be made, Sir Chauncey of Holloway (little name humor in there, gotta lighten the mood somehow!) was the man with the plan. Huge respect to Mr. Holloway, he played a man's game on Saturday.
- Special Teams was the one part of the game that I really have very few issues with. Alexander Kinal did a tremendous job punting the ball (about a 38 yard average with a long of 50 and five punts inside the 20 on eight attempts), Jimmy Newman did great on kickoffs except for one that sneaked out of bounds, and while Jimmy did miss a field goal, it may have been partially blocked, so that should be kept in mind, There was a muffed snap on an extra point attempt as well, but generally speaking I thought the special teams were much better than last year. Our kick coverage was also tremendous.
- Here comes the part where I'm less optimistic. Allow me to preface this section by saying I'm positive that I couldn't possibly understand how difficult a coach;s job is. I'm sure our coaches do a bang up job for the most part, and there are things that go into decisions that they make that I'm positive I don't even consider. I have nothing but respect and love for every coach that dedicates themselves as completely to Wake Forest as our coaches do. That said, some of the calls in this game absolutely baffled me, I realize that you can't become a one trick pony on offense, so you need to mix it up with passing and running, but there were multiple occasions when I felt like we were really getting into a rhythm offensively through the air, and then we'd take that momentum and do nothing with it because we'd resign ourselves to a struggling running game. Additionally (and someone please feel free to correct me if I'm off-base here) it seems like we run a lot of different delayed run plays that very rarely work. This decision is especially baffling in say a third and 1 situation, where if the offense just lined up and tried to ram it down the throat of the defense for a yard, it seems like that would be a better idea on paper than trying to run a play where the running back is deep in the backfield and waits for a hole. This can work if the offensive line is struggling and you're trying to essentially stall the defense to give the back some time to figure things out, but in a situation where the back could probably fall forward for a first down, that decision really doesn't make much sense to me. Also, maybe I'm too much of a risk-taker, but I've always felt that if you're deep in opposing territory on a second and 1, it's never a bad idea to take a deep shot. The absolute worst thing that could happen is admittedly a turnover, but far more likely is just an incomplete pass, and then you have a short yardage situation that could hopefully be converted on third down, as discussed above. Maybe I'm out of my element here, those are just my thoughts on the matter.
Overall, it was ugly, really ugly. I was hoping it would be a blowout, and it turned out to be a game wherein the Deacs seemed on the ropes for much of the game and managed to eke out a win...against Liberty. It's rather concerning, especially given the injuries to Josh Harris, Michael Campanaro, and Sherman Ragland III (hopefully none of which are serious), but there are positives to take away. First, a win is a win. Second, I really don't think this team will play as badly as they did on Saturday in all or even most of the remaining games. Finally, there is something to be said for the fact that the team was able to finish under pressure, no matter who the competition is.
All that said, unless a different squad shows up next Saturday, UNC is going to have a field day. Here's hoping our boys can get it together. As always, thanks for reading, leave comments if you're so inclined, and Go Deacs.