In an attempt to limit my long-windedness I've decided to adopt a Jim Grobe-esque strategy this week and MIX THINGS UP. I figured I rambled in the past because I had limited structure, so this week I'll be hitting on five talking points before moving on to the awards. If things end up too long again, that's just too bad.
1. Wake Forest is NOT who we thought they were (actually they are if you paid attention to who we actually had on the roster in the offseason).
The Wake Forest team that we saw on Saturday, in what can only be described as a dominant performance over in-state rival N.C. State, looked almost nothing like the Wake team we saw over the first five weeks of the season. Wake's offense has definitely had a few games in previous seasons where they've overcome ineptness and put up a solid performance, but this week was a piece of art. I don't remember seeing the offense clicking in a manner like they were Saturday since the second game of the 2012 season against North Carolina.
The offense abandoned the option offense which had caused the Deacs to stumble to a 2-3 start against a relatively weak schedule, and moved to a more pass heavy style which looked to the more traditional pass game first and foremost. Tanner looked like the senior quarterback we all knew he could be, and utilized his receiving weapons in a masterful performance. Tanner gets two gold stars from me for this week and has now thrown for 9 TDs against only 3 interceptions on the season. Price is going to end his Wake Forest career second in nearly every single passing category, behind the one and only Riley Skinner. Price has taken a lot of heat from the fanbase over the course of the season, some deserved and some as a byproduct of being the QB for the offensive coaches, but he deserves big ups for his stats against State. Kudos to Grobe for finding two quarterbacks who were four year starters and able to bring some semblance of stability to the program. The downside to this over the past few years however, has been getting the right play call out there to let the gunslingers do their business.
For as much as I've criticized the Wake offense in the past, I have to give major props this week. I don't know who was doing the play calling (more on that in a later point), but the guys were moving the ball from the start. Campanaro was an absolute STUD, yet again, and I think State's cornerbacks just allowed him to catch another pass as I write this article. The option run had not been working and the coaches appeared to make a conscious effort to scrap it and try something new. This offense looks like the one we have run occasionally in the past and the guys looked really comfortable in it. While I did think that this was a relatively clear-cut frontrunner for how the offense should have looked all season, I'll stop there and say that the staff did finally make adjustments and the offense was clicking. Keep it up staff.
2. Michael Campanaro should be first team All-ACC when this season is finished
I can already hear the excuses now coming from the ACC and national media: "it's hard to evaluate a guy who played for Wake in that offense," "if you look at the entire body of work though Campanaro didn't quite have what it took," "we really have to value guys on teams in the top 10 over guys who play for Wake." I'm preempting these bogus arguments right now. Campanaro is the best route runner in the league hands down. It's not close. He might be the best route runner in college football and is clearly top five or ten. There are guys out there who are more athletic and do play for better teams, but Campanaro has the football intelligence, the speed, the work ethic, and the skill set to piece it all together.
Camp is first in the ACC in receptions (44), first in the ACC in yards (582), tied for fourth in the ACC in touchdown receptions (4), and first in the ACC in receving yards per game (116.4). He also ranks seventh in the nation in receptions, tenth in the nation in receiving yards and tenth in the nation in receiving yards per game. Campanaro is the complete package and the real deal. Without Mike on our team the offense would be floundering with no lifeline in sight. Camp is one of my favorite Deacons of all-time and his contributions to the team have been nothing short of astounding. I am proud to call him a Demon Deacon.
In summary, this is why I wanted to put this all out there right now. I'm going all-in on the Michael Campanaro for All-ACC and maybe for recognition from a couple of All-American teams. While we're on the topic, go check out this site and get your votes in for Camp for the Paul Horning Award for best all-around player. Vote once a day EVERY DAY. I understand that Sammy Watkins is a stud, and I know that Pitt has a couple of good receivers, but there is no excuse for Campanaro not being first team All-ACC at the end of the year. The campaign kicks off now #CampforALLACC. Let's get it done media, do the right thing.
Additionally, Camp was named ACC receiver of the week for his 12 catch, 153 yard, 2 TD performance against the Wolpfack. We're going to have a piece up focusing primarily on Camp over the bye week so stay tuned. In the words of the infamous Bart Scott "CAN'T WAIT."
3. This defense came back with a vengeance.
After giving up 56 points in embarrassing fashion down in Death Valley, the defense came back strong and really contributed a lot to get the Deacs a win. State was only able to score 13 points and even more importantly the D held State to two critical field goals down in the red zone. I really talked the defense up after the first four games of the year and then took some flak for it after the performance against Clemson. Rightfully so, but at the same time that Tajh Boyd-led Clemson offense is going to do some damage to almost every defense they play. Wake has now played six games and ranks in the top 50 in scoring defense, passing defense, and total defense. Even the rushing defense, which has faced off against the nation's top rusher in Andre Williams and the triple-option Army attack, is ranked 65th.
While it is still true that the bulk of our schedule has been played against weak teams (Clemson is the only team that is even average according to most statistical metrics out there who the Deacs have played) you can only play against the teams on your schedule. Nikita Whitlock has been a defensive stalwart and has constantly been in the backfield in nearly every game. His 10.5 tackles for loss in the 2013 season ranks third nationally. Furthermore Wake has three guys in the top 100 in the nation in tackles as Mike Olson has 44, Ryan Janvion has 42, and Whitlock has 40. A lot of this is due to the large number of plays offenses have run against the Deacs, but a lot of it has to do with our guys knowing where the football is going and wrapping up.
Wake's defense could have easily thrown in the towel after the Clemson game, but fought back hard against State and earned a lot of respect back from the fan base. Stellar performance for the Deacon defense.
4. Coaching, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing (sometimes).
According to multiple sources, the Wake coaching staff employed a silent practice on Thursday where guys were allowed to just do their own thing. I took enough statistics classes to know that correlation does not equal causation, but it's interesting that Wake's best overall performance in over a calendar year came on the heels of having coaches not do much during the last practice before the game. Coach Grobe had consistently said throughout the year that he didn't know how to get through to the guys as practice was not translating to the gridiron on game day. He went far enough to say that this was the best he had ever had a team practice in his career. I don't know about all that, but I do sympathize with the fact that perhaps this team learns differently than other teams he has had in the past.
Grobe found a style which appeared to light a fire under the team and Wake got it done on Saturday. Grobe is the best coach in Wake Forest history and while results over the past few years haven't been pretty, it hasn't changed the fact that Grobe knows how to get the job done. Perhaps an even bigger change however, was the rumor floating around that Lobo wasn't actually calling the plays during the State game. This would make a lot of sense given the drastic difference in the looks throughout the game, but a very intriguing revelation nonetheless. Commentators earlier in the season mentioned how Lobo called a run on each play while Elrod called a pass on each play before one was chosen (presumably by Grobe or by Lobo - the offensive coordinator), but the aftermath of the State game appeared to reveal that Elrod was given the primarily play calling responsibilities in Winston on Saturday.
Without getting into too much speculation about who called the plays, it really does make a lot of sense. Wake came out about as different as one team could from a week ago. Last week we opened up the game in Death Valley with two straight option run plays and were basically beat from the get-go. This week the Deacs pieced together an 80 yard touchdown drive on the second offensive possession behind 12 passes and only five rushes. The passing game featured a larger number of intermediate routes which provided Tanner with more options down field. Price also showed his ability to get out of the pocket and make plays with his legs when need be. Whatever the play calling was this week needs to remain the rest of the year.
5. Big picture: can Wake make a bowl?
Just when I was about ready to throw in the towel on Wake football this year the Deacs pull out a dominant win. The big question now, with half the season remaining, is can Wake get to the magic number six and reach a bowl game? The schedule is certainly more difficult than the first half of the season, but we still play in the ACC so it couldn't be too tough. There are two games Wake just isn't going to win: Florida State and Miami, so Wake needs to go 3-1 in the remaining four games against Maryland, Duke, Syracuse, and Vanderbilt.
Taking a look at Sagarin (divert your attention now if you think stats are phony or something like that because STATS ARE COMING YOUR WAY), these teams really just aren't all that good but still provide a challenge when compared to the first half. Here are the respective Sagarin rankings of teams Wake has played (out of 252 Division I football teams and using the aggregate of the two rankings - one accounts for scoring margin, one does not):
235. Presbyterian (they're absolutely awful)
72. Boston College (not good)
149. Louisiana-Monroe (better before Browning got hurt, but still pretty awful - may be Wake's worst loss under Grobe)
117. Army (who improved roughly 25 spots in the last two weeks)
78. N.C. State
33. Maryland (they're overrated still and I expect will level out around 50)
73. Syracuse (winnable road game)
3. Florida State (hold me)
So looking at the remaining games, Wake still has three matchups with teams outside the top 50 in the country. That's the good news. The bad news is they have two games left against top 20 opponents, one game left against a top 35 team in Maryland who is probably still slightly overrated. The worst news though is Wake is 91st in Sagarin - the worst in the ACC. Now this ranks what has happened on the field and therefore is accounting for the five games where we employed what can only be described as one of the worst offenses known to man. With a shift to the offense we used against State, Wake could very well keep moving up in the rankings. The only way to improve in the rankings is to improve on the field.
I think Wake can easily dispatch Duke and will be competitive against Vanderbilt, Syracuse, and Maryland. It's tough to say if we get three more wins, but it's an uphill battle. Grobe needs to keep looking for more answers and get the guys ready to play each week. I think we can maybe get it done.
So I still managed to ramble a considerable amount despite having the constraints of the numbered topics, but we've made it to the awards section. If you're still reading go ahead and take a gold star - certified by the one and only BJohnston of Blogger So Dear fame.
I put a lot of thought into who would win this week's coveted Sam Swank Golden Boot award, because honestly there were a lot of good efforts. I thought Ryan Janvion looked solid with his 11 tackles, I thought Tanner was great going 24-39 with 268 yards and 3 TD's, and I thought Camp was an absolute stud, but I had to go with a specific play this week given how it all went down. This was mentioned on Roll The Quadcast, which you should check out on the front page if you missed it, but the touchdown pass from Price to Campanaro to end the first half and give the Deacs the lead was an absolute beauty.
Camp ran a gorgeous route to find space across the middle of the field and Price was given enough time to step up into the pocket, make a good read, and find his star receiver in the end zone. It was the kind of zip we were used to seeing from Tanner early on in his career as it worked its way through two State defenders to find an unmarked Camp. Campanaro was basically unguardable throughout the day and this play above all others really showed his skill in finding room in the middle of the defense.
It was actually pretty difficult this week to find a "winner" for Lobo's Headset. I thought long and hard about trying to find something which made me laugh or cringe while I was watching the game and finally found it: the winner this week is N.C. State's discipline. N.C. State really didn't commit that many more penalties than the Deacs, but the ones they did commit were absolutely atrocious. They held the Deacs to a field goal on a 3rd and 8 from the 11, but then roughed kicker Chad Hedlund, basically just handing the Deacons seven points. To Wake's credit, the offense was able to take advantage of the situation and stick it into the back of the end zone.
Another situation, which again was touched on by the RTQ crew, was a play early in the game where Campanaro got absolutely lit up in the backfield on a screen pass. Unfortunately for N.C. State, the team was called for a taunting penalty in what was a pretty bizarre penalty given the time and place of the play. It was almost as if the State defense was a little too fired up and lost their minds over that one play. I'll take yards however I can get them, but you know Coach Doeren is calling up the windsprints after those two plays. As Grobe says they were being a bunch of knuckleheads.
AHHHHHH another week, another chance to update the one and only Kinal Kount. Even in a solid offensive effort, Wake still finds PLENTY of time to get punter Alex Kinal out on the field, and Kinal didn't disappoint booming another six punts against the Pack. With the six punts against State, he is now up to 41 punts on the year.
So even with "only" six punts, Kinal didn't really lose much off his yearly average and it dropped less than a punt per year. With seven more punts, Kinal will be more than halfway to Ryan Quigley's ACC record and there are still six games left in the 2013 season. I know I stress it a lot, but Kinal is going to absolutely crush Quigley's record barring some sort of unforeseen circumstance. We do put the #KinalKount on a bit of a pedestal, but stepping back and looking at it objectively you can really see how many times the Wake offense has brought up 4th down and been forced to punt over Kinal's year and a half at Wake.
Well with no game next week this brings the weekly article to a close. If there are any questions or comments please let me know, and keep reading Blogger So Dear throughout the bye week as we're working on putting together some really good stuff to keep content flowing. The Deacs are halfway through the 2013 football season already, and while it's hard to believe basketball season is just around the corner (for better or for worse). Basketball content should start slowly trickling out soon from the site, but with the win over State I wouldn't expect the writers' attention to turn whole-heartedly to basketball just yet. As always, go Deacs!