Don’t let a recalibration of expectations turn you into a fool.
Coming off the heels of a 48-27 loss to Clemson, Wake Forest finds themselves at 5-6 with a game at Chestnut Hill on tap in order to...
producer hands me a new script
Oh, wait... Wake Forest is 9-2(6-1 in the ACC) and controls their own destiny going into #TheRivalry against Boston College on Saturday. From the looks of comment sections, message boards, and social media, you’d think this team has fallen apart, can’t be fixed, and needs to fire the entire coaching staff, and send half their team to the transfer portal.
In reality, yes, it was a pretty pitiful performance in Death Valley. The offense never really found a consistent groove(if you try and throw injuries as the reasoning, then you aren’t allowed to be upset at the defense during the Syracuse, Army, and UNC games), the defense allowed an offense that had been abysmal pretty much all year to run all over them and just bludgeon them from the beginning of the game, and special teams even looked horrific but was saved by a close fair catch call.
With all that being said, Wake’s defense forced a fumble to give the team a fighting chance to tie the game early in the third quarter. What followed was: offense fumbling inside their own 20, defense giving up a short field touchdown, offense marching down for a field goal, probably the worst defensive play of Ja’Sir Taylor’s career resulting in a long touchdown pass, offense fumbles inside their own 20(again), defense gives up a short-field touchdown.
In six drives and nine minutes of game time, Wake Forest went from having the ball down seven to having the ball and being down twenty-five. That’s not my opinion of what happened. “I thought the sequence in the game that really cost us, is they were going in on the 20-yard line, and we got the fumble. So we have the ball down seven and we’ve been moving it, but then we fumble on the next play. Then we’re down 14. Against Clemson if you do that, you’re going to lose the game” spoke Clawson after the loss.
This team has shown cracks on both sides of the ball, although the cracks on defense have turned into a complete chasm.
What strikes me the most, even more than the defense(I know, I know), is just how this team has gotten away from what makes them click. The entire premise of the team is this: have an explosive offense that can score basically at will, have a defense that bends yards wise but doesn’t break getting off the field on third downs and force turnovers for the offense to capitalize.
Wake has forced eight turnovers the last three games. The offense following said turnovers: Punt, Interception, Touchdown(after receiving the ball on the 5-yard line), Interception, Interception, Punt, Interception, Fumble. Seven points on eight turnovers while turning it over 5 times is the antithesis of how this team operates. Is it blaming the offense? No, so go ahead and stop writing that comment below, but when a team that’s built on offense and defense to win in a very specific way has their plan come crashing down, it’s next to impossible.
Wake’s defense was impossibly bad in the second half against Clemson, there’s not really an excuse for that at all. When you take a step back and see that four of Clemson’s scoring drives required them less than 45 yards of offense, what on earth do you expect? At the same time... you couldn’t hold them to only one field goal and give your struggling offense a chance to figure things out?
I’ll also say it here: if that was any team without the Clemson branding, that would’ve been a ranked loss for Wake. There’s not really an argument they’re not a top 25 team, or even top 20.
Regardless of this, again Wake goes into a game as a 4.5 point favorite on the road against a BC team that has struggled this year, both with and without their quarterback. Injuries have to go out of the window, there’s no excuse for playing scared, nervous, or sloppy on either side of the ball. Not a single sane person or one acting in good faith can say that this team hasn’t been playing sloppy, on either side. Clawson was the first to mention the inefficiencies against UNC on offense. There were missed throws, turnovers, and drops galore in the NC State game where if that was cleaned up in the first half, that game was a blowout given how the defense played in the first half. I shouldn’t have to tell you how sloppy that team looked against Clemson: missed assignments, turnovers, obnoxious penalties when they’re begging for a first down.
I’d be surprised if we didn’t see a new defensive coordinator once Wake finishes up their season. Firing a defensive coordinator in a 9-2 season with a game for the ACC Atlantic on the line makes absolutely no sense from any sort of logic. Something of that magnitude would cause more distractions than helping, and it’s not as if Wake is clinging on for dear life fighting for a bowl game and trying to turn around their season. That’s not my opinion, that’s the reality of the situation. If Dave Clawson gets the extension we all assume, I’d expect a new defensive coordinator who also will be taking over the safeties. You’re only allowed 10 coaches, so unless you part ways with someone like Ryan Crawford who is heading over the nickelbacks as well as Special Teams under Wayne Lineburg, there’s not room to simply demote Hemphill who actually has a good track record recruiting and developing safeties. The simple matter is there just appears to be a need of a different voice in the room. Even with the injuries, they had a relatively healthy team on Saturday and the inconsistencies were still there. At a certain point, the message just isn’t getting across to guys and you can’t have that.
The question that remains is can Wake find the complimentary football they’ve severely been lacking all year since the UVA game. In stretches of games we’ve seen one side of the ball perform for stretches while the other side can’t find their footing and vice versa. It’s happened in essentially every game but Army. This can’t be a team that gets turnovers and don’t capitalize on them. They also can’t be a team that scores at will but can’t buy a stop even if it was at the dollar store.
Doom and gloom isn’t necessary for the players or the fans. If you asked anyone going into the season if you’d take Wake going 9-2 and control their destiny for a berth in the ACC Championship game, 10/10 people would take it, run, and never look back. It’s not saying you’re not allowed to be disappointed with a loss. Losses suck. But context and perspective are necessary and a loss to a Clemson team that frankly just out-athleted Wake shouldn’t sour the fact that they have a golden opportunity facing them.
Don’t let a recalibration of expectations turn you into a fool.
Now the question is, what Wake Forest team shows up on Saturday?