Much of our analysis about the Wake Forest football team this year has centered around the team's youth. Most of that youth is on the offensive side of the ball. However, after a shutout victory over Boston College, the more veteran players on defense deserve to be commended.
Brandon Chubb, captain and senior linebacker, led the way with nine tackles. His performance also include three tackles for loss, a fumble recovery, and a quarterback hit. He was also one of the last people to be involved in the game-ending-pile-up, and was the first player to recognize that the clock had expired. That's senior leadership, and that's tremendous awareness.
Duke Ejiofor missed the first five games of the season due to injury, but made his presence felt in his season debut. The redshirt sophomore from Texas recorded six tackles, including one sack. He adds a pass rushing element that the Wake Forest defense was lacking earlier in the season.
This defense had not forced a turnover all season, but in a game where the Wake Forest offense only earned five first downs, the defense forced four huge turnovers. In the third quarter, graduate transfer Zach Dancel forced a fumble that was recovered by Brandon Chubb at Boston College's 5-yard line. That recovery ultimately led to the only points of the game. Dancel's forced fumble was textbook helmet-on-ball.
Dancel later made a huge fumble recovery late in the game after Wendell Dunn forced a fumble. The fumble did not prove to mean much, but if you watch the replay, you will see that Dancel was essentially the only person aware that the ball was loose. Zero Boston College players make an effort to get the ball. Senior Hunter Williams made a game-saving tackle when he stopped Boston College's quarterback on the 1-yard line. He extended his arms, and barely grabbed him, but he got the job done. Another great play by a veteran.
Wake Forest is now 3-3, and has a number of winnable games remaining. So much of the talk about Wake's football program is about the future, and I'm as guilty of this as anyone else, but the veterans on this team are making plays that are helping Wake Forest win now.
The Dave Clawson rebuilding project may take place even earlier than expected. I personally did not anticipate making a bowl game until the 2016 season. Wake Forest still has a long way to go in 2015, but a bowl game is not impossible at this point. Still, regardless of what happens the rest of the season, the veterans on this team are part of the reason this program is going to be successful moving forward. I give them a tremendous amount of credit for embracing the coaching change, and working as hard as possible. They may not necessarily see the payoff this season, but they know their program will be better for it in the long-term. They are setting a great example for the many young players on this roster, and that is accelerating the rebuilding process.
Credit to the veteran defensive players for their performances on Saturday. They came up big when this team, and program, needed them the most.