For nearly the first 29 minutes of the game, the Wake Forest Demon Deacon defense played well enough to keep the high-octane Florida State offense from getting into the end zone. Before Jameis Winston scampered in for a two yard touchdown to give the Seminoles a 10-3 lead, and effectively finishing off a Wake Forest team who was unable to get any meaningful yardage with both teams' top units still in the game, Wake looked to be clicking on all cylinders defensively and played well enough to give even an average offense a shot at keeping Wake competitive well into the second half. Alas, the offense laid another goose egg and you have to go back over two games, nearly 127 minutes of game time, to find the last time the Wake offense found the end zone.
To be clear, and this is not intended to be a sleight against this Wake team, the Demon Deacons never had a chance to beat the Seminoles. Despite taking a 3-0 lead at the end of the first quarter and performing about as well as possible on the defensive side of the football, there was simply no hope that Wake was going to be able to match Florida State punch for punch over a sixty minute football game. Only compounding the overall offensive troubles, Wake turned the ball over three times and allowed FSU to salt the game away with two touchdowns in fifteen seconds towards the end of the third quarter to take a commanding 30-3 lead.
There really isn't that much more I personally take away from this game. I thought Wolford looked rattled at times (tuck the ball away young man) but also has consistently shown a willingness to stay in the pocket and deliver the ball in a timely manner. He's making some throws that you simply cannot make at the FBS level, but he's also doing it behind one of the most porous offensive lines in the nation. I was particularly interested in how running back Dez Wortham played when he got some time in the second half, as he ran for 68 yards on 12 carries to singlehandedly prevent Wake from gaining negative rushing yardage for the fourth time in six games. Wortham was rumored to be the most impressive back coming out of the preseason practices and he showed an ability to find some open space and gain some good yardage on the ground.
One more thought from the difficult road loss was my shock in seeing Kevin Sousa out on the field again in a Wake Forest uniform. I tweeted about this Sunday afternoon and received a lot of negative feedback, but I'll repeat what I said again on here which is I am utterly shocked that we saw him play this season after getting arrested for a DWI for driving a car onto the Quad. I know that a lot of players get into trouble and we never hear about it because it's kept under wraps, but the decision to allow Sousa to come back three games after committing an obscenely idiotic offense does not send a very good message about personal responsibility, particularly if we're kicking guys off the team for smoking pot a couple of times without any other negative conduct attached. I'm all for guys paying a penalty and getting back out there, but a three game suspension seems pretty lenient to me given the gravity of the situation. If you have different thoughts let me know about it in the comments because we always love to hear other people's takes on situations like this.
Since we're at the halfway point of the season - which I can't believe, it seems like the season just started yesterday - I'm going to give each of the three units (offense, defense, special teams) a ranking and talk little bit about what I've seen and what I'd like to see moving forward into the heart of the ACC season. Let's jump right in with the offense:
Offensive Midseason Grade: F
I don't mean to be overly harsh or overly critical of what is going on out on the field, but to give the offense any grade other than an F would be offensive to the concept of earning a passing grade. The offense currently ranks 123rd in the nation in scoring offense (aided by a perfect field goal kicker and three non-offensive touchdowns), 128th in the nation in total offense (last, by almost 17 yards a game), 128th in the nation in rush offense (last), and 125th in the nation in pass offense. So of the four major offensive statistics, we rank 6th to last, last, last, and fourth to last in the nation.
Similarly, the offensive line has yielded 24 sacks through six games (third worst in the country), the team has turned the ball over 14 times (seventh worst in the country), has only held the ball for 27 minutes and 25 seconds per game (good for 112th in the nation), and has gained 3.35 yards a play (currently the worst in the country, and the worst overall yards per play of any team dating back to at least 2008). Tomahawk Nation wrote an article last week talking about the offense being "historically bad" and there's really nothing to bring to the table to refute that. There is nearly no chance of the offense getting anything going, even against bad defenses (see: Louisiana-Monroe), and the protection is so weak that Peyton Manning couldn't get much done in the pocket.
That being said, the team is young in a lot of skill positions and there is a lot to be optimistic about moving forward. I've talked about it before, but I'm very impressed by Wolford's composure and if he continues to evolve and learn from his mistakes I believe he has a very bright future. Similarly freshman Cam Serigne has had a great season so far from the tight end position and I've similarly been impressed at intervals with younger running backs like Isaiah Robinson (Army game he showed flashes of a solid running game) and Dez Wortham (played well against Florida State in the second half).
The rest of the season I would like to just see week-to-week improvement and just have enough of a game management scheme to put the team in a chance to win in the second half. The defense has been pretty solid throughout the entire year and despite the comically bad offensive numbers seen above, the Deacs have still been in striking distance at the half every single game this year. Let's try to avoid gaining negative yards on the ground at any point this season, let's try to continue to get the offensive scheme ingrained in the younger players, and let's put them in a position to steal a game or two down the stretch. That's pretty much all we can ask for at this point because all-in-all there's just not much going on here. On the bright side the only place to go is up.
Defensive Midseason Grade: B
Despite giving up 24 points a game, ranking only 58th in the nation, anybody who has watched Wake play this year knows that the defense has done a phenomenal job provided the amount of time they've spent on the field in bad situations. Overall the Deacs are 38th in the nation in total defense and with the caveat that having Army has one-sixth of your statistics skews these final two stats, Wake ranks 19th in total pass defense and then 79th in rush defense.
The secondary has been as impressive as we expected coming into the year as seniors Bud Noel and Kevin Johnson have done a great job matching up with the opposing wide outs. Thomas Brown has been a pleasant surprise and is seemingly all over the field, while Ryan Janvion continues to just rack up the tackle counts as the season rolls on with a whopping 56. Alongside Janvion, Brandon Chubb is also ranked in the top 30 in the nation in tackles with 58 and Zach Allen has 9 tackles for loss - good for a tie for 5th overall.
Entering the season I expected the defensive front to be a problem but they've risen to the challenge and been able to put consistent pressure on quarterbacks throughout the season and rank 19th in the country in sacks with 16 through six games. If Wake is going to continue to stay competitive as the ACC season continues, it is going to be extremely important to not let opposing quarterbacks get comfortable in the pocket and lead long productive drives down the field. While it is assuredly a drain to continually force stops only to be back on the field 45 game seconds later after the offense goes three and out, I've been impressed with how the defense has fought to hang in there and make sure Wake doesn't get utterly blown out (the last game against the top-ranked Seminoles not withstanding).
Special Teams: A-
I struggle to even find something negative to talk about in the special teams area. As we will get to shortly, we've done a good job getting punts off and have only allowed eight total returns on the season none of which went back for a touchdown. Perhaps the worst part of the special teams is the kickoff coverage, where we're giving up 23 yards per return, good enough for only 100th in the country. Fortunately we have not allowed a touchdown on any kickoffs either.
Freshman Mike Weaver remains perfect for his career (unlike Roberto Aguayo - tsk tsk) at 8 for 8, including a long of 43 yards, and is 10 for 10 on extra points this year (yes we only have ten total touchdowns). On the other side of the ball, the punt block team recorded our first touchdown of the year against ULM and it was almost enough to sneak the Deacs out of Louisiana with a victory were it not for a paltry 94 yard effort on offense. Last but not least, junior punter Alex Kinal is averaging 43.3 punts on the season and as mentioned earlier has only allowed eight returns overall.
It's hard to rate the team much higher than a C- when the offense is in the bottom twenty of any remotely meaningful statistic, but even at 2-4 overall the Deacs have had spurts where they have looked relatively decent. The defense and special teams sectors have really done a good job of keeping us in the games and moving forward I expect Wake to pick up one, maybe two more wins the rest of the season. Again, for me it's all about week-to-week improvement so the end of year overall grade will be based on how we look relative to right now rather than relative to the rest of the nation.
Which FINALLY brings us to the most important part of the weekly article, the #KinalKount, which has two pieces of exciting news. First and foremost we've been joined in the Twitter world by a fantastic account which simply goes by @KinalKount providing some insight from everyone's favorite Aussie punter throughout the game and chronicles Alex Kinal's momentous ascent into a punting legend. Second, and probably more importantly, with nine punts against Florida State Alex Kinal has now punted the ball more than any other single player in Wake Forest football history. In only thirty games, Kinal has punted the ball 221 times and with the ninth and final punt of the previous game he broke Ryan Plackemeier's record of 220 punts. Let's jump in and see what's next for Kinal now that he has a taste of record-breaking history!
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>The record breaker is another punt inside the 10 for 53 yards. I have now kicked more punts than anybody else in Wake Forest history.</p>— The Kinal Kount (@KinalKount) <a href="https://twitter.com/KinalKount/status/518531706002100224">October 4, 2014</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Punts in the 2014 season: 40 (through six games)
Career Punts: 221 (through 30 games)
Punts Needed to break Ryan Quigley's ACC Record of 284: 64
Punts Needed to break Nick Harris' NCAA Record of 322: 102
Kinal's Yearly Average: 88.40 (including this year)
Quigley's Yearly Average: 71.0
Harris' Yearly Average: 80.5
Kinal's Current Final Pace: 354 punts