Boston College was able to hold off a furious rally from the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in the second half to move just one win away from bowl eligibility. With the loss Wake fell to 2-6 and now must win out, including a Thursday night matchup in a week and a half with Clemson, in order to make a bowl game. In the interest of candor, this may be one of the most ridiculous games I have ever seen in my entire life. For the first half, Wake Forest looked utterly overmatched, completely uninventive on offense, and to be honest just not particularly interested in playing football. This all changed in the second half as Wake fell just short of completing a remarkable 20 point comeback and knocking off Boston College at home.
The first half, a half where Wake managed to gain a total of six (yes....six......6) yards of offense was hands down the worst half of football I've ever seen Wake play. Wake's first five drives - all in the first half - went for a respective 23, 1, 2, 8, and -3 yards but all but six of those yards were gained through penalties and Wake was only able to get one first down on their own accord in the half while failing to advance past their own 37 yard line. The defense did not have their best effort of the season, allowing Boston College to seemingly keep the ball for the entire first half and move the ball with ease while driving out to a 17-0 lead.
Wake's offensive effort appeared to be a combination of different problems, beginning with non-existent pass protection but wholly extending to poor management by the coaching staff in putting players in a position to win games. I understand the limitations that the offense is dealing with this year (again, primarily because of the offensive line's deficiencies) but it's absolutely unacceptable to continue to run slow developing run plays on first down which puts the offense behind the eight ball to start with, prior to being overly conservative on third and long to ensure that there are no turnovers deep in your own territory. I understand the concerns of the coaching staff given the offense's proclivity for making poor decisions and inexperienced mistakes with the football so far this season, but at the 2-5 juncture of the season when nothing else is working it's simply time to open up the playbook and come up with some new tactics.
This is not meant to be overly critical of Clawson or the staff, it's merely commentary pointed at the level of frustration most of the fan base felt during the first half against a BC team which I honestly thought looked relatively beatable throughout the game. As was discussed over the weekend by some of my colleagues at Blogger So Dear, this was indeed an example of the cliched "tale of two halves" and some of the adjustments that were made at the break were simply fantastic in my own opinion.
First and foremost, it appeared that Wake made changes on the offensive line at the half that facilitated John Wolford's ability to have time in the pocket and get passes off. After going a comical 2-4 in the first half for 9 yards, he bounced back and went 20-26 in the second half with 233 yards to give Wake a legitimate shot at winning in the fourth quarter. The noticeable changes appeared to be swapping freshman A'lique Terry with Corey Helms at center, while flipping Will Smith and Antonio Ford on the left side of the line. The changes allowed an actual pocket to form and provided time for the receivers to run their routes rather than cutting them off in an attempt to aid a scrambling quarterback.
Wake appeared to be pretty fired up, taking after Head Coach Dave Clawson who went absolutely crazy following referees waiving off what appeared to be a shot to the head of Wolford. I watched the replay a few times after the flag was picked up and I don't necessarily think it was roughing the passer, but I absolutely believe it was a blow to the head of the quarterback after seeing it a few more times. Indeed, Clawson wasn't necessarily arguing for a roughing the passer penalty but thought the BC defender should have been ejected for targeting/a blow to the head, while referees should not have said "there was no roughing the passer" while waiving a flag off that was already thrown. His intensity with the officials, at one point appearing to be almost a third of the way onto the field, seemed to carry over to the team and light a fire under their collective butts to put the offense into gear for seemingly the fifrst time all year.
The Demon Deacons also sought to get the ball in the air more, ending with a more balanced attack in each of the final two quarters (10 rushes v. 12 passes in the 3rd, 8 rushes v. 14 passes in the 4th). Following a quick BC touchdown to start the 4th quarter to go up 23-3 after Wake appeared to have some success moving the football towards the end of the third, a lengthy 15 play, 75 yard drive capped off by an E.J. Scott touchdown run cut the lead back to 13 points. This was the second best drive of the year for the Wake offense, behind only the second drive of the game last week against Syracuse, and indicated that Wake at least had a pulse on that side of the football.
The momentum swung harder back towards the Demon Deacons after a blistering hit off the right side forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, which gave Wake the ball in Boston College territory. The Wake special teams has simply been unbelievable so far this year, as they forced the aforementioned fumble and blocked the BC extra point within seven minutes of each other to help keep Wake in the game. Wolford found Jared Crump across the middle to get the ball to the one on a massive third down play and one play later Wake got within a score with over 6 minutes left in one of the more unpredictable manners imaginable.
Indeed, entering the fourth quarter of the game Wake had recorded one offensive touchdown in fifteen quarters of ACC play - an unfathomable statistic but proceeded to score twice on offense in just over 90 seconds to put the team in a position to win. Following a Josh Okonye stop on third down, Wake got the ball back with just over two minutes with the freshman Wolford in a position to lead Wake on a lengthy drive to secure his first ACC win as a Demon Deacon.
On first down, Wolford had time in the pocket and unleashed an absolute cannon across the middle to E.J. Scott for a 27 yard gain. This was an absolutely beautiful throw and only further solidified my trust in Wolford as the future quarterback of this football team. He was finally given time to get comfortable in the pocket and Scott found the gap in the defense between the second and third levels and Wolford put the ball perfectly in his hands. It was the best throw I've seen Wolford make through eight games and he should be damn proud of that toss. Of course on the next play, Wolford reminded everyone that he is in fact a young player with room to grow by throwing an ill-advised back shoulder pass which even he admitted they never tried in practice - a pass which was intercepted effectively sealing the game after Wake could not force a Boston College three and out, even with three timeouts.This was not the best throw he's ever made but that's just a mistake you have to shake off as a quarterback and move on to the next game.
Wolford ended up having one hell of a game, going 22 for 30 with the lone interception. Crump emerged as a favored target for the freshman, hauling in 6 passes for 60 yards and showing a knack for getting open in tight coverage. On the other hand, the Wake rush attack was completely horrid yet again and showing once and for all why we "boast" the worst rushing attack in FBS football at an absurdly low 34.5 rushing yards per game. You don't have to know much about football to know that these types of numbers are not good:
Robinson: 8 rushes for 10 yards
Wortham: 15 rushes for 4 yards
Scott: 1 rush for 3 yards
Wolford: 9 rushes for 2 yards
So our "leading" rusher in attempts gained four yards in fifteen attempts. I don't even know how you could be that bad at running the football, or why you would run the ball with your running backs 23 times for only 14 yards other than just trying to pretend to not just come out and throw the football. Wake will likely not finish the season with another game over 100 yards rushing (we've only done it once, going for exactly 100 against Army) and the team has only gained 102 rushing yards in 4 games against ACC opponents. Yikes.
Moving on to my favorite part of the article, let's look at the #KinalKount. The game started with such high hopes for the count as Alex got off an impressive four punts in the first half, but then shockingly only recorded one more: on the first possession of the second half for a meager five punts overall. The five punts are the second fewest Kinal has had in an ACC game (tied with a couple other ones, including Miami last year and Boston College two years ago). It indeed appears that Boston College is complicit in making sure Kinal doesn't break their beloved Ryan Quigley ACC record but at the end of the day it will almost certainly all be for naught.
Let's check out Kinal's career stats:
Punts in the 2014 season: 53 (through eight games)
Career Punts: 234 (through 32 games)
Punts Needed to break Ryan Quigley's ACC Record of 284: 51
Punts Needed to break Nick Harris' NCAA Record of 322: 97
Kinal's Yearly Average: 87.75 (including this year)
Quigley's Yearly Average: 71.0
Harris' Yearly Average: 80.5
Kinal's Current Final Pace: 351 punts
Kinal is within the century mark now of the all-time record and after the game in a couple weeks against Clemson will be within 50 punts of breaking Quigley's record with 15 games remaining. It does not however appear that Kinal will do the unthinkable and lead the nation in punts for three consecutive years unless he picks up the pace a bit. With 53 punts he is currently ranked fifth in the nation in punts and is only four behind but he has some staunch competition as he is surrounded by the punters from Hawaii, Tennessee, UTSA, and Utah State. The good news for Kinal though (and bad news for Wake fans) is we have the worst offense in the country by far so he should theoretically continue to get plenty of looks.
With no game next week look to Blogger So Dear for an increased amount of basketball coverage as the Deacs play their one and only preseason game a week from Friday against Young Harris in Winston-Salem. The opener is one week later against UNC-Asheville. That wraps up this week's version of the article and let me know if there are any questions, comments, or concerns and we will be more than happy to discuss anything that's on the minds of our readers. As always, go Deacs. Bart analyzes Wake Forest's 23-17 loss to bitter rival Boston College while discussing the optimism the second-half comeback brings to team for the upcoming bye week.