The Defense. Lordy lordy, our defense went HARD. Tulane was 8-20 on third down. 1-4 on fourth down. It's also worth noting that many of those were short-yardage situations against a run heavy squad with veteran running backs. Sure, there were some infuriating plays (notably the 3rd and 22 and then a 4th and 10 conversion in a high stakes situation), but given how often the defense was out there and how much they had to buckle down, they did an absolutely awesome job. And it wasn't all the players, I think the defensive coaching was as well done as some of the other coaching decisions were questionable. Gotta give fair dues. Special props to Jessie Bates. The freshman DB had 8 tackles, 7 solo, and really just seemed like he was all over the field. It was an awesome performance.
Dom Maggio is a Boss. So he shanked one, but Dom's performance was insane. The freshman punter had 8 punts, a long of 53, and average of 40.8 yards, and many pinned extremely deep. One was even inside the 1-yard line. Not only that, he salvaged a botched snap that easily could've resulted in major disaster, caught it one handed in the end zone, and managed to punt it on the run It was pretty incredible.
A Few Glimpses On Offense. The offense was putrid, but there were flashes of things that either worked or came very close, and I could see those working as the season goes on. In terms of an actual drive, there was a series late in the first half where we went into a bit of a hurry-up offense and John Wolford and his receivers connected on several very nice quick hitter passes. Also I'd be remiss if I didn't point out Kendall Hinton's absurd athleticism and the fact that he pulled off some amazing stuff.
That Offensive Playcalling. Seriously, what? Constantly switching quarterbacks, making things extremely predictable (because Hinton almost never threw when he was in the game; he had 4 passes and 8 rushes), and never mixing things up. Now, let me be perfectly clear about something. I think with a few minor tweaks things could have been much, much better. Concrete example: the one touchdown drive we had, our QBs threw the ball twice on first down, Same with the drive towards the end of the first that I mentioned, which came extremely close to resulting in points (it stalled on the Tulane 39). One of the only other first down passes I remember was a deep bomb to Steven Claude which was admittedly near-successful; it was saved by a nice pass breakup by Tulane's Perry Nickerson. However, I don't understand why we didn't mix in more quick hitter passes on first. Also, when he had a 3rd and 2 at the end of the game wherein a first would have iced it, we tried to get the first on a Wolford rush. Why? I'd have preferred to see Cade Carney or Matt Colburn try to bull their way through the pile just enough rather than getting excessively cute. Even if it had failed, I wouldn't have been as frustrated. There were very few plays I would have called flat out awful, it was more the timing and context of them that I question, as well as not sticking to things that worked.
Cam Serigne: Three Targets? This is kind of an extension of the last one, but how on Earth do you only give Cam Serigne three targets? The dude is a monster and out-muscles even many ACC defenders. If we had used him more last night, he probably could have feasted on Tulane with short to mid-range quick routes, which would have fit well with the last point, which is...
O-Line Got Very Little Push. To be entirely fair I personally noticed things getting better on this front for the most part as the game progressed. John Wolford had plenty of time and a good pocket for several deep bombs that JUST missed, and unless I'm mistaken, I believe John only took one sack, and that was very early in the contest. Also only one pass of John's got batted at the line, which was a CONSTANT vexation last season. That said, I hope the O-Line has better games this season, especially in up-front run blocking, because yikes. I can't recall a single deliberate, clean running lane established all game from the line of scrimmage. That's an issue that needs to get a lot better if we're going to have any hope at all of the season many of us projected.
The Bottom Line
I'm going to keep it real. I was there live for every snap of the game. I felt sick watching much of it. Wake Forest has retained its undisputed championship of Winning Awful Football. That said though, I think it's a little early to shovel dirt on the season and especially Coach Clawson's tenure just yet For one, a win's a win. For another, as much as we were a couple plays away from losing, we were very much a couple plays away from scoring more and making this game nowhere near as close,
We do need to be more clear in our QB choice one way or the other. There are glaring issues with this team. That said though, that defensive effort was pretty incredible, and a very small part of me would almost prefer winning a nail-biter against an FBS team no matter how bad than blowing out a nothing FCS squad. Now this team knows they can execute when it matters (on defense and special teams, at any rate), and now they know it from game one. I will say it now and if I'm wrong, call me out on it, but I believe when the season is done, this game will be an anomaly as far as how putrid the offense was. That said I'd be shocked if the defense plays that lights-out all year, so it will probably even out somewhat.
Credit to Tulane for one heck of a fight. I didn't give them nearly enough credit. This team needs to improve big time. But I think they will, and hey, a win's a win. On to the next. Go Deacs.