Exactly one week ago, in this very article as well as on the Wake Forest message boards, I told you all that the Wake Forest defense would not in fact give up more than 50 points against Clemson due to experience and athleticism.
Maury delivering the lie detector results
Wake Forest's defense took the test against Clemson's offense and our lie detector determined......that was a lie.
If you watched the first 46 seconds of the football game you could have turned the tv off and gone about your day - resumed your regularly scheduled Saturday activities if you will. If you stuck with it and decided to give the defense another shot, you didn't have to wait more than six minutes into the game to watch Clemson score more points than Wake would throughout the afternoon.
I was relatively optimistic after the Army game last week, even though I noted that I didn't think Army was very good, but pretty realistic about the matchup against Clemson. Army actually ended up rolling over Louisiana Tech this week in Dallas and my prediction about the Clemson game being ugly wasn't even a remotely close description to the pathetic effort we displayed on Saturday. I actually thought the coaches might have come in with some sort of game plan which would mitigate Clemson's offensive and defensive attack. I really thought the players would take it upon themselves to show up against a top 5 opponent and give it everything they had. I legitimately thought that we could keep the game close through one half and make Clemson beat us rather than just rolling over. I was completely wrong on every single account.
Normally I save the awards for the end of the article but given the result of the game on Saturday there's really only one way to start it: giving away Lobo's Headset. This is likely a play which everyone remembers clearly since, you know, it was the third damn play of the game: Clemson's first touchdown. For those of you who are new to the blog, this dubious distinction is given away on a weekly basis to the play which was the most ridiculous, the most idiotic, the weirdest, or any sort of play where something odd or wacky happened. I could legitimately give the entire Wake team Lobo's Headset this week and call it a week, but that would be too easy and would deprive us of a solid look at the defense's play early on in the first quarter.
I'm quite prone to hyperbole as everyone who knows me will eagerly attest to, but I think that this play might have been the worst defensive play in the history of football at any level. Let's set the scene. Clemson got the ball on the opening kickoff and returned it to their own 18. They opened up the game with a 12-yard gain for a first down followed by a six yard scramble by Tajh Boyd to set up second and four from their own 36. What happened next should never again be spoken of by a Wake Forest football fan.
Clemson came out in a set which put one receiver on the left, Watkins wide on the right, a tight end on the line and Boyd in the backfield with a running back. Upon thorough review, after watching this play literally no fewer than 15 or 20 times, I determined that Wake came out in some sort of cover one. Wake was in a 3-4 and brought the two outside linebackers on a blitz, the two inside linebackers came on about a two second delayed blitz. Wake inexplicably had single coverage on the outside two receivers, both lined up an absurd 8 yards off the line (on 2nd and 4 no less), a safety - who appears to be Ryan Janvion, covering the tight end, and senior A.J. Marshall on the other side watching the running back come out of the set.
Now before the ball is even snapped you can see that this is an interesting scheme choice. I can't imagine that manning up on the line but eight yards away with a legitimate deep threat on the field in Sammy Watkins and no help over the top is a great idea. I love Bud and KJ as well, but I don't want anybody on our team going one-on-one against Watkins, a sure fire first round pick whenever he comes out. Furthermore in this set you're left with single coverage if the QB looks deep over the top. The safeties are committed to stopping the shallow routes across the middle of the field with the tight end and the running back and can't provide any assistance if the receivers break free. I said last week to let our defensive guys make plays on defense, but at the same time you can't give up short routes AND get beat over the top. We have to mix up plays where we get into receivers on the line with other times where we sit off the wide outs a bit.
The ball gets snapped, Wake brings the blitz and the tight end rolls out on a route to the middle of the field. KJ actually appeared to have the top receiver covered, but then Boyd pump-faked (in a relatively slow manner), Watkins ran a stop-and-go and Bud basically fell down. In the process of falling down, Bud grabbed Watkins and received a pass interference call. Bud slipped trying to catch Watkins and couldn't make the tackle. Marshall then came in on a really bad angle when he saw the back wasn't going out on a route and appeared to slow up when he saw the flag thrown and Bud diving at Watkins. Watkins walked in for six.
There was not one single thing about this play that was positive. The blitz would have been effective if the middle linebackers hadn't been delayed getting into the backfield, but the defensive line didn't get any substantive pressure on Boyd at all on the play. Bud committed pass interference and still got beat, Marshall took a bad angle, and there was no other safety valve to help out because lo and behold, we were in a soft man coverage well off the line. I'm no football guru by any means but I can't possibly believe this is the type of defense you want to run against Clemson. I imagine we thought they were going to try to throw a lot of screens so we thought we wouldn't need help over the top that much, but if this is the case then why are we lining up our guys eight yards off the line instead of jamming the receivers and throwing off the timing of the offense? Also we know Watkins can go deep, he's blazing fast. Poor planning.
Even if I'm wrong about the kind of defense that we were in, which is always entirely possible, I just have no idea what the hell this defensive scheme was. It was effectively turned into a cover one even after the running back didn't go out which is just a miserable play call. With the running back and tight end going out together on routes there would have been zero help over the top. Marshall did a good job of getting back up field on the play actually and I thought the play was a cover one the first few times I saw it because of where A.J. ended up positioned at the end. I've been very vocally critical of Steed Lobotzke on offense because, as I discussed in a comment on another thread, he's a metronome of garbage as far as play calling goes. However the defensive schemes from Brian Knorr are arguably worse than anything Lobo has trotted out on offense this year.
I could write a single article solely about this play. I watched this play on rewind so many times it's stuck in my head. It was so pitiful it was funny. Lobo's Headset goes to everybody associated with the defense on that first touchdown, from the coaches to the players to the manager who gave the players water before and after. Please people, watch this play and please, please, PLEASE find something positive for me and let me know about it in the comments. I cannot find a single positive thing. This was what I imagined Brian Knorr to be doing in the press box while calling this play:
Since I've entered full blown rant mode at this point I'll try to move on to something else more productive to talk about. There wasn't really anything too positive about the game in general, but I did think the defense showed some resolve after giving up three touchdowns on the first three drives. The offense was able to put together a solid drive at the end of the first quarter and a nice play to Sherman Ragland III AKA MANLAND caught a solid pass from Tanner Price to cut the lead to 21-7. The Deacs managed to get the ball back a couple of times with a chance to get back within a possession, but even after a roughing the punter call gave us a first down near the first down line, we were unable to convert much.
I was disgusted again, per usual, with the opening play calls on offense. Unless my memory deceives me we came out in a shotgun and ran two zone reads on first and second down. The first play went for, shockingly, zero yards. The second play went for, even more shockingly, negative-one yard. Third and 11 is difficult to convert and we clearly did not do so. On the bright side, we were able to get our boy ALEX KINAL out onto the field a lot, but more on that later.
I thought Tanner played pretty well in the first half and he went 14-22 with a touchdown and no interceptions. There were still a couple of throws which he looked rushed on and should be completing as a senior, but it was hard to criticize him too much. The offensive line still looked abysmal and it showed on the stat sheet as we were only able to gain 60 yards on 31 attempts. Wake is now averaging 2.97 yards per carry, which is good enough for 117th (out of 125 teams) in the country. The scoring offense is 106th in the country with an absurdly low 18.4 points per game, the rushing offense is 108th in the country with 109.4 yards per game, the passing offense is 95th at 202.8 yards per game, and the total offense is 116th with 313.2 yards per game. On the bright side we're still averaging twice as many points per game than the Jacksonville Jaguars. Moral victories for the win.
I see both sides of taking the starters out at halftime when the score is 35-7, but at the same time it's only the fifth game of the year. It's basically just throwing the towel in. Now we certainly were not going to win this game by any means after going down by four touchdowns, but at least leave the guys in to get some more reps. I have the feeling that we're going to be seeing the end of the Tanner Price era pretty soon. If Wake loses next week, there's no reason not to install Cameron as the starter over the bye week and throw him out there against Maryland at home. You don't want him getting his first start on the road and with a 2-4 record, needing six to make a bowl, the season is realistically over given who we still have to play (Miami, Maryland, Florida State).
Now this is not to say that I think Cameron should be starting, what I think we should be doing is actually creating an offense which fits our experienced personnel but obviously this is well beyond the qualifications of our coaching staff at this point. If we're going to run this ridiculous "option," as Lobo has continued to show he's going to do, then you may as well do it with an option quarterback. Cameron has a lot of upside and more experience this year can only help going into next year, regardless of who the coach may or may not be. I like Tanner a lot, but his days have to be numbered at this point. He did play pretty well given what else transpired in Death Valley though.
I'll also admit I stopped watching the game halfway through the third quarter since the coaches also threw in the towel, so I don't know what happened after Clemson's sixth touchdown - other than two more Clemson touchdowns. I felt like watching the starters was enough. That may be the sign of a bad fan, but I just wasn't interested in watching any more of the beat down when there were more productive things to do (namely watch other football games). The worst thing about not continuing to watch was missing Kinal boom a few more punts. I guess it's time to update the Kinal Kount and throw out some ideas I've been working on over the past two weeks for the world to see.
The best player on Saturday was probably Alex Kinal, but even by his standards it wasn't a great performance. Entering the year he had only allowed one punt to be returned due to his high booming kicks, but he allowed four returns in Death Valley. None of them went for too much yardage, but it was nonetheless uncharacteristic. After the Army game I was a little bummed that Kinal didn't get more work to add to his impressive total. Let's be honest, four punts just isn't get the job done. In fact it tied for the second fewest punts in Kinal's brief Wake history. The fewest in one game occurred last year also against the Army Black Knights. I guess that makes the Black Knights the Kinal Killers since he's only been able to bring out the boot seven times in two games against them. The key for Kinal's gaudy numbers is for the offense to have as many three and outs as possible and for the turnovers to be kept to a minimum. So far so good on that front for the Deacs.
So Kinal had an incredible 10 punts against Clemson, which is now a four-way tie for third in his career. He punted 13 times against FSU last season in what I can only imagine was some sort of Wake Forest record, 12 times against N.C. State, and then 10 times against UVA, Notre Dame, and Clemson last year. If Army is the Kinal Killer, then that makes Clemson the Kinal Enabler (ran out of "k" puns, I know you're disappointed) as he has punted 20 times against Clemson in two games. That accounts for nearly 15% of all his punts in a Wake uniform.
Punts in the 2013 season: 35 (through four games)
Career Punts: 130 (through 17 games)
Punts Needed for Ryan Quigley's ACC Record: 155
Punts Needed for Nick Harris' NCAA Record: 203 (record is 322 by Nick Harris of California between 1997-2000)
Kinal's Yearly Average: 91.8 (including this year)
Quigley's Yearly Average: 71.0
Harris' Yearly Average: 80.5
If you take his average punts per game through his first 17 games (7.65) and multiply it out over four years (48 games, assuming we're not going bowling anytime soon), he is on pace for an incredible 367 punts. This would break the current record by almost a punt a game. He's going to be more than halfway to the ACC record in somewhere around three or four games. Yes, this is in fact the bright spot of the season.
My idea is to have an actual Kinal Kounter at the home games. I will personally be there for Homecoming and can get this thing kicked off (I know, another great pun) when I'm there OR other people can get it started. The way I see it there are two ways to handle this: first and foremost you can have a poster board with Kinal Kount at the top and then have numbers with you which you can put on the poster board each time he punts; the second way would be to have a lot of "K's" written on paper and put them on something as he adds a punt each game akin to spectators at baseball games when pitchers record a strikeout.
The benefits of the first one are that it's easy to do: you have a poster board and you make some numbers. Plus you can have the running count for the year. If somebody wants to do this for the State game you just make some 3's, 4's and then numbers for the ones position and start at number 36 for the season. Hell if you're super ambitious (or have a good sized poster board) you could start at his 130 number and go from there. There are plenty of options. The second one has a lot of cons in that there is nowhere to easily affix these numbers unless you sit on the front row of the stadium, plus people might not have any idea what it is. No matter what ends up happening I wanna hear some ideas from you guys. You guys are smarter and a lot of you probably have marketing backgrounds so let's hear your Kinal Kount ideas for a Kounter during the game.
Finally we turn to the Sam Swank Golden Boot given out to the best play, best player, or best effort of the week. I'll be honest, there just wasn't too much to choose from here. As mentioned, I thought Tanner did a good job against the Clemson defense and Campanaro caught seven catches for 75 yards in his usual studly manner, but I think the one play which stood out the most for me was Sherman Ragland's touchdown catch. Aside from being the only time we scored, it was an impressive play. The route was crisp, he took a few steps pivoted quickly and went up with both hands to catch the ball. After he caught it he turned quickly, made himself small and had the presence of mind to know where the goal line was to get the ball across despite contact from the corner. This was a solid effort and it makes me wonder what we've been missing by having him in Grobe's so-called Dog House, which by this point has to be the size of a Dog Pound if every player I've heard rumored to be in Grobe's bad graces are actually there. Kudos to you Sherman AKA MANLAND on your effort and YOU GET A GOLDEN BOOT.
So let's look forward to the State game next week. Wake hasn't lost at home to N.C. State since I believe 2001 and I think there's good reason to believe this streak ends on Saturday. Wake isn't going to be favored in any more games and they opened up +9.5 against State in the hypothetical land where gambling is legal. State has played what can only be considered a cupcake schedule as they are 3-1 with wins against Richmond, Louisiana Tech, and Central Michigan. They also played Clemson tight at home, but are 60 spots below us in the SOS rankings and we all know how easy Wake's schedule as been. As mentioned above, Army beat Louisiana Tech by three touchdowns last week after we beat Army by two touchdowns. State beat them by four touchdowns. If you carry the one, it's obvious that Wake will win by 12 touchdowns this week.
All joking aside, Central Michigan and Louisiana Tech are hall of fame bad. We're talking bottom 15 in the FBS. Richmond is without a doubt the second best team they've played and Wake is most likely slightly better than they are (Wake is 104 in Sagarin, one spot worse than Maine, but eight spots better than Richmond. I know right...Maine...who even knew man. Go Black Bears!). State needed a long last-second field goal to beat Richmond at home so they're certainly beatable. They do appear to have improved slightly though and Wake will need a good game plan to beat them, something we're almost certainly sure not to see given what our coaches have produced thus far through five games.
State also continues their fascinating streak of having not played a game outside the comforts of North Carolina, and they do not do so for another three weeks or so when they travel to Tallahassee for a matchup with Florida State. As Rob mentioned in his power rankings it's no wonder why State calls it #ourstate, they don't ever leave it. I really truly want to pick Wake to win this game. I have no idea who will win it but I do know Wake fans will talk up State as being the greatest thing since disco to make us all feel like we're really really bad. Trust me guys, we don't need to do that; we are in fact really bad. State is also probably not very good, but that may not matter given how we've played so far. State isn't very good on the road normally and I think Wake can certainly win this one especially since their starting quarterback is still out.
But as I like to say all the time fool me once shame on you fool me twice I'm a complete moron and I cannot in good conscience pick Wake to win. Nothing we've done all year has indicated we have any idea what we're doing scheme-wise and we just generally look like a dumpster fire. As I saw one comment on facebook, calling it a dumpster fire might be rude to dumpster fires. I'll take State to win this 23-21 as Wake grasps defeat out of the jaws of victory in true Wake Forest fashion. I think we have trouble keeping their defensive line out of the backfield and Tanner is on the run all day. I don't know how we will score 21 points, but I'm optimistic on that front I guess. I do think Wake covers and I do think Wake fans will see a better product than they did on Saturday.
I've also heard that a few fans hired an airplane to fly a banner calling out a certain member of the Athletic Department for an hour before the game. I don't know if this is true or not and I'm not going to get into a discussion of whether or not I think it's a good idea, but if someone sees this while tailgating before the game please take a video and post it on here or on youtube.
Well I think that pretty much wraps up this edition of Couldn't Be Happier. I realize that these articles are getting a little bit longer each week and I'll try to make a conscious effort to keep my rambling to a minimum, I just love you guys so much that I want to talk all day long. As my girlfriend tells me though I could probably carry on a pretty solid conversation with a rock. In defense of rocks they do have great personalities. If you have questions, comments, sports rants, humorous musings, or just want to have a discussion with fellow Wake fans about how solid our athletics are right now please drop me a line here. And as always, Go Deacs.