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Virginia Players to Watch

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Which Cavaliers should you pay close attention to this Saturday?

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Deacs are coming off a pretty bad loss to Army last weekend, but they have another great shot at becoming bowl eligible against 2-6 Virginia this week. While Virginia’s record isn’t very good, they are coming off an impressive performance in which they were about 30 seconds away from upsetting 5th ranked Louisville. If Wake Forest wants to pick up win #6 and get bowl eligible, they’ll need to slow down these players:

Offense: Kurt Benkert | Jr. QB | #6

Benkert is a graduate transfer from ECU, where he was forced to miss the whole 2015 season due to a knee injury. This season, he is 183-314 (58%) for 2097 yards, 17 TDs, and 9 interceptions in his first year in Bronco Mendenhall’s offense. Benkert is great at getting out of the pocket when the protection breaks down while still keeping his eyes down the field looking for an open receiver. His ability to throw on the run helps him make plays even when the pocket starts to collapse. Given the trouble the Deacs have had in the secondary this season, they may be in for a long day against against the pass heavy Cavalier offense (Benkert is 11th in the nation is pass attempts). It will be imperative that the Wake Forest D-line put pressure and Benkert and bring him down in the backfield rather than allowing him to use his legs to escape and throw the ball down the field. The Deacs may have an advantage here, as Benkert has been sacked 19 times already this season.

Defense: Micah Kiser | Jr. LB | #53

Kiser is having a phenomenal year for the Cavs this season. The 2015 All-ACC 1st Team Defense selection leads the UVA defense in total tackles with 91, tackles for loss with 8.5, and sacks with 5.5. He also ranks 4th in the nation in total tackles per game with 11.4 tpg. He picked up a career high 18 tackles against Duke this season, and is coming off an impressive 14 tackle, 2 sack game against Louisville. He will likely finish the season as the ACC’s leading tackler for the second year in a row. The 100+ yard rusher trend continued for the Deacs after last week’s loss to Army. The Deacs remain 4-0 when they have a running back go for over 100 yards, and move to 1-3 when they do not. That being said, it’s becoming pretty clear how crucial being able to run the ball is to Wake’s success. A linebacker like Kiser that is so good at getting to the football and making stops is someone that could prevent the Deacs from getting the ground game going. If that happens, Wake Forest could be in danger of dropping 2 straight at home.