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Football Outlook: Not So Good

Following a 24-10 loss at Boston College in week two, the Wake Forest football team needs to make changes quickly or face a season long battle to score points.

Stud Michael Campanaro eludes BC tacklers
Stud Michael Campanaro eludes BC tacklers
Jared Wickerham

Well I'll try not to harp on the blatantly obvious in this week's post, but everyone on here knows Wake got beat up and down the field against a Boston College team which appears to be improved from last season. I was unfortunate enough to be at the game and even though it was perfect weather for football, the experience turned south pretty quickly. I got to the game five minutes late (real time, not game time) and Wake had already turned the ball over and was down 7-0 when I got into my seat. The game started off slowly and tapered off from there as the Deacs never got anything going against the Eagles.

Credit must be given where credit is due and Boston College entered the game with more fire and proved themselves to be a better coached team than Wake. Despite the slow start by the Deacs and three first half turnovers, Wake found themselves in prime position after a blocked punt by Nikita Whitlock placed the Deacs on the Boston College three yard line down 17-7. What happened next can only be aptly described by a phrase which has been all too familiar for Wake fans dating back to at least 2005: Wake was Lobo'd. The team promptly ran two option plays with some sort of off tackle component which got the team down to the one before coming out in a shotgun formation for a pass on third down, followed by another off tackle which was stuffed on fourth down. This guaranteed the Deacs would go into the half down at least two scores and sucked any momentum away that Wake might have had from the blocked punt.

I don't blame Grobe for going for it on 4th down there, but personally I would have taken the field goal. I realize hindsight is 20/20 but I said we should take the points before the play was run as well. Up to that point the defense had been playing well and with a field goal the Deacs would have entered the half down only by one possession in a solid position to make it a game in the second half. All-in-all the defense defended the pass pretty well, especially KJ and Bud, but struggled to stop Andre Williams who rushed for 204 yards. Wake limited Chase Rettig really well as he only attempted 14 passes in the game, completing seven. The highlight of the game for the secondary was KJ sprinting across the field to intercept an almost surefire touchdown pass on a slightly blown coverage by the safeties on a ball horribly underthrown by Rettig. I'm still trying to figure out which interception was worse between Tanner's pass which was almost behind the BC defender on his pick, or Rettig's which was underthrown by about 10 yards when he had a wide open receiver on pace to the end zone.

While the defense will have to improve their rush defense (even though I don't know if we will given our lack of size up front), it's almost not even worth talking about given the elephant in the room that is Wake's offense. It's been stated every where in the Wake universe since Friday but I'll go ahead and say it again - the "option" offense which the team is trying to run is just horrible. I say "option" because I'm really not even sure what it is that we're trying to do. First and foremost, we changed the offense from a more pass heavy, misdirection rush attack with an experienced QB and a top five receiver in the conference to a rush heavy attack where over half the runs are directed at the sideline. Second, we're moving guys in and out at such a pace at running back that there's not enough time for anybody to establish a rhythm. Third, there aren't enough plays downfield towards the end zone, most plays are going side to side which is making it difficult to gain much yardage. We're trying to establish time of possession but can't pick up first downs to do so. This is a losing combination.

Even though Tanner ran a variant of the option in high school it's pretty clear through two games that he's not up to par to run any sort of "option" attack in college. He's slow to make decisions, slow to read the defense, and very mistake prone. Both fumbles in the first half were because Tanner didn't just take the hit like every option QB is taught and tried to make a play instead. If you're wrapped up by the defender you can't pitch it, you have to just lose the yards. I really don't have any idea what we're doing in practice on the offensive side of the ball. I understand why we're trying to run the ball outside, at least to some degree, since the concern entering the year was the youth and caliber of the offensive line. What I don't understand is how a coaching staff with any brains whatsoever would end up with a slow developing outside run attack with a quarterback better suited to throw the football. By turning Price into an "option" quarterback we're mitigating his big experience advantage and throwing away the first three years of learning he had within the offense.

Of course Lobo pulled his typical "beat the dead horse" move, which he has done plenty of times in the past, and ran the exact same play into the ground. BC's defense made stops at the line, but it was pretty easy to do given how long it took for Wake to get the ball to the outside of the tackles. Furthermore, it seems like every time someone gets the ball they're running towards the sideline instead of running North/South. I don't blame the players for this most of the time, instead it seems to be the scheme. The coaching staff is not putting players in a position where they can be successful. The most egregious example of this was on 4th and 1 when we were driving in the 4th quarter (after we took the timeout when we were just standing around after third down looking like we were completely lost - probably because we were) and the play call was a wide receiver sweep/orbit/whatever for Campanaro to run to the sideline. It was just an effort of pure athleticism, aided by a block by Tanner which would probably be a fine in the NFL for a shot to the knees, that we managed to keep the drive alive. I have no idea why we ran that play when we could have just run it from under center to get the yard, but it was only due to Camp's general studness that we got the play. It's critical to note that the way the play was drawn up: to be run to the left side, was completely snuffed out by BC and should have ended the drive.

I've wanted Lobo fired since the 2005 season so it's not really any surprise that I feel this way, but I'm just over it. I'm not going to harp on it any more other than to just let the stats tell the story. Wake ran the ball 39 times for a total of 55 yards. That's a total of 1.4 yards per carry. That's just atrocious. You could line up Tanner under center and call a QB sneak every single play, have him fall forward every single time, and still gain 1.4 yards per carry. Not surprisingly Wake is ranked 116th in yards per carry out of 125 teams, and is in the bottom 25 of all teams in total offense yet again. The most yardage any one player had on the ground was 18 yards and it took Josh D. Harris 10 carries to get there. Orville Reynolds ran the ball four times for one total yard and Tanner ran it eight times for -13 yards.

What makes the decision to continue to run the ball "until we're good at it" even more baffling is the fact that the throws downfield were working. I think the Deacs probably only attempted a pass over ten yards four or five times, but it's sure as hell not just coincidence that the lone Deacon touchdown came on a solid throw over the top to Camp who made a great catch. The only other big play the Deacs had in the game was another pass over the top to Jonathan Williams who was basically wide open. As I said at the game it was the greatest three quarter play action set up of all time. Hell I was asleep, I know BC's secondary was asleep.

Tanner somehow threw the ball 30 times but only gained a total of 191 yards. I wouldn't have a problem with these stats if the passes were shorter slants or screens, but just like the runs we're just throwing the ball on out routes towards the sidelines. We're intentionally hindering ourselves by adding in additional defenders in the sidelines. Furthermore Tanner didn't have a great day throwing the ball and was pretty constantly missing receivers either over the top or just by being downright inaccurate. I defended Tanner in the offseason and think he's a pretty solid quarterback, but I think he's a really bad fit for this offense that we're trying to run. Most of the time we run the "option" he doesn't even dig deep enough towards the defensive end to get the end to commit one way or the other before he pitches the ball to the pitchman. This makes it easy enough to stop the "option" since the defense just has to wait for Tanner to get rid of the ball as he's hardly a threat at all to turn it upfield while he's just running at a 20 degree angle towards the sideline.

As far as I see it we have two options: we can either put Cameron in to run the "option" offense which Grobe and Lobo are apparently enamored at as this season's obsession (they always have one obsession that they drive into the ground) or we can try to use an offense which actually fits the personnel of the starters and throw the ball more. If we run this variant of the "option" it's simple: we will lose a lot of games. This offense is one of the worst I can remember ever seeing even from Lobo. I feel bad that I've complained about him in the past because it makes the complaints this time look like petty bickering, but the offense we've run the first two games have been about as bad as you could possibly have. You would almost have to try to not gain yards to be this bad.

Again I probably shouldn't be surprised given that the offense under Lobo has finished worse than 100th more times in the past five seasons (three total) than in the top half of the country (one). I can't imagine a scenario where somebody else in any other walk of life would still have their job if they were consistently one of the bottom 25% in the entire market at their job, but apparently this is different (real answer to this "question" is nepotism). Meanwhile Grobe looks equally as idiotic by telling the halftime reporter that we're going to run the "option" until we're good at it, as if it's just implicit that by continuing to run the same thing we will eventually improve. This is the definition of insanity - continuing to do the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

I don't see how we win more than two or three more games the rest of the season if we keep running this offense and the chances of us losing out are far greater than becoming bowl eligible if we run this same "option" variant. If Grobe and Lobo were at any nearly any other school fans would be egging their house after Friday night's performance. In the fan's defense though, nearly everyone at the game in the Wake section was furious with Lobo with the obvious exception of the same old fogies we have in the fan base who live in a bubble where everyone should be awarded participation trophies just for showing up. I imagine the same people who think Bzdelik should still be here are the same one's who think Lobo's offense is God's gift to earth.

Well next week we play UL-Monroe at home and opened up -3.5. The defense will have to shut down Browning who is one of the nation's top quarterbacks and I don't really have a good feeling about that. I don't know how the offense can realistically be expected to score more than a couple of touchdowns, if that, given what we've seen so far. The offense has barely been able to stay awake while "reading the defense" before every single play. Spoiler: this isn't working at all, especially when you "read the defense" and then run the same play over and over and over and over and over. I can probably call the first three plays of next week's game:

1st Down: "Option" to the weak side of the field

2nd Down: Guy in motion, fake orbit handoff, off tackle

3rd Down: Pass play where no receiver runs to the first down marker

4th Down: Punt

Speaking of punting it's officially time for this weekly article to have a Kinal Kount. This is obviously the count of how many punts he has on the year. Readers of the blog may recall that Kinal led the nation in punts last year, which is an affront to what actually occurred. Kinal had 95 punts and the next closest guy had 81. He punted the ball two times more a game than any other punter in the country. To say Kinal merely led the nation in punts last year is like saying Alabama snuck by Notre Dame in the national championship. Anyway, Kinal punted it seven times on Friday night, taking his season total up to 12 on the year. Through 14 career games he has punted the ball a whopping 107 times (an average of 7.64 per game). To break the all-time ACC record he just needs to punt the ball 5.14 times a game for the rest of his career. This is easily in reach given how frequently we punt. To put this into context Wake has punted the ball over 70 times in four of the last five seasons, averaging out to roughly 5.5 to 6 punts a game. We would have to actually be below Wake's six year punting average per game for Kinal not to break the record.

I'll quit this already too long of an article with that fun thought. My prediction for this week is UL-Monroe beats Wake 24-14 and Lobo gets booed every single time we run a play. I won't be surprised if Wake wins but I don't know how we can even score running this offense so I can't pick us to win. If we do win it will likely be because our defense shuts Browning down. As always, even in bad times, go Deacs, but let's all be honest with ourselves Lobo has to go and if Grobe doesn't get rid of him, then he has to go with him.