The Wake Forest Demon Deacons had a 17-13 halftime lead over Syracuse, but failed to score again and ultimately lost 30-17. What were the biggest takeaways from Wake's week two performance?
Wake Forest's passing attack is dramatically better than it was a year ago.
Quarterback John Wolford threw for 373 yards on the afternoon, which marks the second consecutive week that Wolford has thrown for over 300 yards. His 40-yard touchdown strike to KJ Brent was a thing of beauty. Wolford consistently stood in the pocket and made throws, or evaded the rush to find his receivers. He was very impressive on third downs, and he has improved so much from a year ago. The pick-six, however, was unacceptable. He has to learn when to just take a sack. Our turnover margin was -3. We don't have anywhere near the talent to win a road game despite having three more turnovers than an opponent.
Young playmakers continue to impress
I tweeted during the game that I love Tabari Hines, and I think all Wake fans share that sentiment. The true freshman had seven receptions for 77 yards, including a long of 39 yards. Wake now has a player who can make people miss. Chuck Wade continues to prove that he was an underrated recruit. The freshman finished with five receptions for 82 yards. Redshirt freshman Cortez Lewis had five receptions for 48 yards. The problem, however, was that he followed up a first down reception with a 15-yard personal foul for unsportsmanlike conduct. Like the turnover battle, teams with Wake's talent level cannot do that and expect to win. That penalty was more infuriating, because it's so easy not to do. I don't want to overreact, but I believe that without that penalty, Wake goes on to score a touchdown that drive and quite possibly wins the game.
The offensive line must improve
The offensive line allowed John Wolford to be sacked four times, and also had two false starts. This doesn't even mention the lack of leverage that the line was able to generate in the run game. John Wolford did throw three interceptions, but I certainly think the first one is on the line for allowing Wolford to get hit as he was throwing. It seems clear that the line has some promising players, but it's going to have to improve at run blocking if Wake Forest is going to be able to consistently run the ball.
Wake Forest has to start forcing turnovers
Wake Forest was actually able to have a few sacks this week. By the way, Thomas Brown was fantastic. The defense still needs to force turnovers and help flip the field. On the Brad Watson corner blitz, he did an excellent job of making the sack, but ideally he is swinging and trying to strip the ball out of the quarterback's hand.
This game was still fairly encouraging. One year ago this team absolutely crushed us at home when we had two weeks to prepare. This year is still about improvement, specifically with our young players. As long as players like Hines, Wade, and Lewis continue to show a lot of potential, then it will be encouraging. Moving forward, the main positions I'd like to see improve are on the offensive and defensive lines. I'm starting to believe that we will be more competitive this year than I originally anticipated. It's going to be fun to watch the development process of a very young Wake Forest team.
The Deacs will head to West Point next week to take on Army. Wake Forest will be favored, and is one they have to win.