1. What is the most encouraging thing that happened last week against Utah State?
Riley: The defense continues to play well and give the team a chance to win games. John Wolford looked composed in the third quarter despite a shoddy offensive line. I also thought the staff made good adjustments at halftime in switching to three-step drops and quick passes. Shows that they understand the personnel and what they need to do to give Wolford a chance.
Samuari: Defense, easily, but also just the fact that the team as a whole kept playing. That team very easily could've crumbled and gotten blown out very badly, but despite flaws in all phases of the game, the entire team managed to not only backdoor cover, but also essentially turn the game into a "if a few more plays go differently we might have had a shot" type game, rather than an absolute dumpster fire. That's a pretty big difference.
Bart: I think the start to the second half and the intensity with which we came out after going down big to cut into the Utah State lead was really promising. The defense looked good at times across the board and during segments of that third quarter our offense even got going a little bit. While we ultimately fell short, it was a nice change of pace to be the team surging instead of the team fading - even though it did take us falling way behind first. I think Clawson is a pretty good motivator and has the guys buying into what he's selling.
2. What was the most disappointing thing that happened last week against Utah State?
Riley: It's pointless to keep talking about the offensive line, so I will say that I thought the defense did a poor job of extending to the boundaries and lost contain a lot in the secondary. The trick play over the top is understandable, but it seems that Utah State saw a weakness in our team with either lack of discipline, or inability to stop the perimeter. The jet sweep motions and pre-snap movement did a lot of damage against the D. Need to get that fixed moving forward.
Samurai: So as to not belabor other points, I'll add turnovers as a disappointment. Our D is doing a good job of causing them, but the offense isn't necessarily doing all they should to prevent them on our side. Dropped and tipped passes, needed improvements in John Wolford's internal clock, and not trying to do too much are all important pieces to limiting offensive mistakes.
Bart: I was a little bit frustrated with the play of the defense, mainly because of the relative expectations. We forced some turnovers and I realize that our offense wasn't on the field too much thus forcing our D to make stands, but all-in-all it just felt like we were letting the Aggies gain a whole lot of yards and that some of those drives were going on forever. At the end of the day we gave up under 400 yards to a team while losing the time of possession battle by nearly ten minutes, which in and of itself is pretty impressive. I think I just have heightened expectations for the defense provided what the other unit is currently bringing to the table.
3. What unit(s) do you believe is/are the most important to Wake's success this weekend?
Riley: Defensive line play, and really the front 7 is the most important facet by far in my opinion. Stopping the option attack requires a complete defensive effort, but especially in the trenches. I think that Marquel Lee and Brandon Chubb are up to the task at the linebacker positions, but the defensive ends will have to do a great job of reading the plays and shutting down the outside runs.
Samurai: It sounds trite perhaps, but I think just continuing the course and seeing improvement from the young offense while the defense keeps doing their thing.
Bart: Against Army the top unit/section is always going to be your front 7 (or in our case front 6). You have to get a team prepared for a style of football that college-level teams really don't run all that frequently and it truly requires a specialized level of defensive play. Our run defense has looked relatively decent so far this year (ranked 38th albeit against a weak schedule) and our guys just have to make sure that they don't over pursue while sticking to their gaps. One player straying from his area and one missed tackle can be a massive gain for the triple option.
4. Who wins this game and why?
Riley: I think the Deacs will win this one. The defense sets up well to do well against the triple-option and I think they limit the run game successfully. I'm looking for improvement from the offensive line in this game and hopefully any semblance of a run game. I'll take the Deacs 27-17 in an offensive showcase (by Wake standards).
Samurai: I think Wake wins this one after a tight first half that opens up more for the Deacs in the second. If there's any X-Factor for the Black Knights, it's that the Deacs struggled with speed on the edge against Utah State, something that could prove difficult when battling Army's option attack. I'll say the game ends up 27-17 Deacs.
Bart: I believe that Wake wins this game. First and foremost I think Wake has more talent than Army but ultimately I also believe that their offense is going to struggle to move the football for sustained periods of time against our relatively stout defensive front. I believe Army is a slight favorite at this juncture after Wake opened as a home favorite and that the O/U started at 47 (which I personally think is easy money to take the under - in a hypothetical world where these kinds of morally depraved shenanigans are acceptable). Wake has beaten Army seven straight times in the matchup (last loss was in 1989) and six of those seven wins have been by double digits. I think Wake wins 21-17 and the game is a physical slugfest.