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Three Up, Three Down: Syracuse

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Lordy lordy, what a game that was.

NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

I just...I’m happy, everybody, but I’m having trouble grasping the fact that Wake Forest is 6-0 for the first time since before my dad was born. It feels so...weird.

The Ups

A.T. By God Perry. The huge Wake Forest wideout has 23 catches, and 7 of them have been touchdowns, including all three of his receptions in this game. Not only did Perry have a killer 69-yard grab and jaunt earlier in the game, he had one of the more spectacular catches I’ve seen from a Wake receiver in a long time on the amazing walk-off game winner in overtime. Not too many other things to say about that particular piece.

Sam Hartman’s Second Half. Sam had a rough start to the day for sure, but his day ended with an undoubtedly impressive stat line. 330 yards on 19-32, 3 touchdowns, and one pick. The pick was an ill-advised throw, but also involved a pretty insane pop up and catch on the part of the defender.

The One Forced Fumble. The defense had a pretty brutal day (more on that later) but they did come up with a huge play when needed. Traveon Redd forced a fumble late in the 4th with the Deacs up 7 that was recovered by the sure-handed Ja’Sir Taylor. Granted, that could very well have iced the game in regulation for Wake Forest if the offense had delivered at all in response (again, more on that later), but that takeaway was still a big, big deal, and I love seeing our defense continue to embody that turnover-heavy mentality. I imagine it will continue to serve us well moving forward.

The Downs

Defense. All I can say is oof. 514 yards, 354 rushing. 6.1 YPC on the ground. 37 points. That is not a good day defensively, but it was especially rough on the last defensive drive of regulation. Syracuse went 94 yards in a little over 2 minutes with one timeout to tie the game and force the overtime, and it was just a brutal series. The drive included an uncharacteristically sloppy hit out of bounds by the tremendous Luiji Villain to spot Syracuse 15 free yards with the clock stopped, and just a complete defensive breakdown on the game-tying 28 yard touchdown pass. I’m extremely glad we’ll get some returning defensive power after the bye week, because we almost certainly need it.

The Last Offensive Drive of Regulation. If you get one first down there, this game is a sleeper down the stretch. Just a single first down, and Wake can go into victory formation up 7 points in regulation rather than the overtime thriller. I feel like I’ve said this a LOT under this regime, but I don’t understand why we don’t do more with things like quick slant routes and very simple, rapid-fire passes that would be almost an extension of the running game, especially in situations like that. In clock chewing situations, Wake Forest NEVER passes unless it’s say, 3rd and 6+, which I understand the conventional wisdom behind, but especially on a day when the rushing attack could only tally 96 yards on 37 attempts, use what works, especially with weapons like A.T. Perry, Jaquarii Roberson, and Taylor Morin, among others.

Sam’s First Half. There were a lot of issues, but primary among them was the number of underthrown passes by Sam Hartman. Several of them were rescued by the receivers, but it was a noticeable issue. I don’t know if it was nerves, or if Sam was a little bit dinged up somehow or what was going on, but I certainly hope it’s something can get fixed up down the stretch.

The Bottom Line

6-0, 4-0 in the ACC, #16 in the nation Wake Forest Demon Deacons. For any flaws, any warts, any obvious weaknesses in the program, if you had told me that was even PLAUSIBLE to start the season, I’d have taken it with no hesitation, and here we are. The next game @Army is a bit scary, but there’s a non-zero chance that Wake Forest could end up 8-0 if they can handle Army after the upcoming bye week, because they should be very heavy favorites in the subsequent home game against Duke.

What a game, and what a first half to the season. We’ll see if Wake Forest can finally get from Good To Great, but they’re certainly on track to do that so far. On to the next. Go Deacs.

—SF