I said before Saturday’s contest against the Syracuse Orange that the Wake Forest offense would need to score at least 24 points in order to win. I was off by more than two touchdowns, but in a good way. Wake Forest’s defense was spectacular against the Orange on Saturday night, and the defense itself surrendered just 7 points.
The touted Orange air raid attack was averaging 500 yards per game entering Saturday night’s contest against the Demon Deacons, but Wake’s defense limited Syracuse to just 326 yards. The offense was ranked 33rd in Football Outsiders’ S&P+ ratings, but the Wake Forest defense (with some definite help from Mother Nature) shut it down. Wake’s defense is now a spectacular 25th nationally, which is up 15 spots from last week.
There were times when the defense bent last night, but they never broke. In the drive to end the first half, Wake gave up a crucial 49-yard run that got Syracuse into the redzone, but on the very next play redshirt freshman cornerback Amari Henderson made a huge interception to maintain Wake’s lead going into halftime.
So many times throughout the second half the offense was unable to score, but the defense continued to respond and maintain Wake’s 5-point lead. When Wake Forest finally had “the” drive that culminated with 4 minutes to go in the 4th quarter after a Cade Carney touchdown run, that all but sealed the deal. Just in case more points were needed, Cameron Glenn put the exclamation point on the game by recovering a fumble that Brad Watson forced 83 yards to the crib. He called ahead and made reservations for six.
I also cannot praise Marquel Lee enough for his performance in this contest. During Halloween season, he was a monster. The senior finished with 15 tackles, including 5.5 tackles for loss and 2 sacks. He made so many critical tackles in space to prevent the Orange from converting on third downs.
I commend the secondary for their performance. Syracuse’s Amba Etta-Tawo was the nation’s leading receiver by a mile headed into Saturday’s game, but the secondary limited him to just 4 receptions for 36 yards. The corners provided great help, but I thought the safeties were also critical in this scheme. When I watched Etta-Tawo make huge plays in previous games it had a lot to do with poor safety play, but that didn’t happen against Wake.
With Wake’s defense, they can be competitive in nearly every game this season. Who knows how they’ll do against a supreme talent like Lamar Jackson, but that’s a topic for another week. In my opinion, there is really no defense that can stop him.
My hat is off to the Wake defense for a stellar performance against Syracuse. The defense has had a number of stout showings in 2016, but I would put this performance up against any of them. The Wake Forest Demon Deacons are 5-1, and it’s a great time to be a Deac.