When you boil it down, football is about blocking and tackling. Can you block your man, and can you make the tackle when you need to?
While this weekend doesn’t have the allure of a 2-0 FSU team coming to town, or even a 1-1 team that played it close with a top 15 team, the implications are all the same: it’s the first game of the ACC schedule in what appears to be a put up or shut up year for Wake Forest.
Matchups to Watch
Rondell Bothroyd/Jasheen Davis vs Robert Scott Jr./Darius Washington: According to PFF, Darius Washington hasn’t allowed a QB pressure through 2 games. On the other side, Robert Scott has allowed 4 out of the FSU’s 14 QB hurries.
Bothroyd has looked like a different person, both in camp and games, since shedding over 10 pounds and moving full time to the Field End position. In roughly 5 quarters, as he missed the first half of ODU and didn’t need to play the 4th against Norfolk State, Bothroyd has already picked up a sack, 2 QB hurries, and 4 run stops. Behind him is Davis who in 1 game picked up a sack, 3 QB hurries, and 6 run stops. The main thing about Davis was you could just see that his motor was just different than players we’ve seen come through Wake, regardless of opponent.
If Bothroyd and Davis can continue to wreak havoc, and people hold contain, it creates a nightmare scenario where McKenzie Milton constantly doesn’t have time. Milton is a rhythm guy, the second you can disrupt that and continue to flush him out of the pocket, it’ll be a long day for FSU.
Miles Fox and Dion Bergan vs FSU’s interior OL: Miles Fox is coming off an All-ACC year and has shown he can be a disruptor, not just against bad teams. Dion Bergan has had the light click on and shown himself to be ahead of Sulaiman Kamara, which has done nothing but bolster the depth of the DTs.
FSU interior has had... issues. Out of the 15 penalties committed by FSU’s offensive line, 9 of them are on the three starting interior linemen. They’ve had issues snapping the ball. Center Baveon Johnson is the only one graded above a 53 in run blocking(comes in at 62.7, Wake’s lowest starter is Michael Jurgens at 70.6). We’ll see if Maurice Smith is ready to go come Saturday, but it doesn’t seem likely at this point.
Zach Tom and DeVonte Gordon vs Jermaine Johnson II: There is no way around it, the UGA transfer Jermaine Johnson has been an absolute workhorse and has shown to be the best player on the defense so far. Johnson has more sacks through two games than FSU’s ends had all of last year. Watching him work against Zach Tom, who will probably be off to the draft himself next year, is going to be such a fun matchup, even if you don’t watch a lot of offensive line play. I think Tom can hold his own as he has constantly the last few years, but it’s something I’m keeping an eye on.
Now when he goes up against DeVonte Gordon is the trouble spot. It’s not that I have zero faith in Gordon, he’s just never gone up against a player of this caliber. He’s green and I expect Norvell and defensive coordinator to try to exploit that when they get the chance. I also expect Warren Ruggiero to slide over Brandon Chapman or Blake Whiteheart to ensure that he’s appropriately dealt with. If they can keep Johnson relatively at bay, Wake’s chances of having a good day exponentially increase.
Wake’s Wide Receivers vs FSU’s Defensive Backs: There’s yet to be a defensive back(or linebacker) that’s been able to shut down Jaquarii Roberson. I expect Ruggiero to just spam getting him open and Sam getting easy throws to him. However, Roberson alone won’t be enough and this is a great chance to instill some more confidence in the other guys. Donald Stewart has made some eyebrow-raising catches, Taylor Morin is going to test the DBs’ discipline with his crisp route running, while on the other side A.T. Perry will be testing FSU on deep balls, which they haven’t done well against this year.
FSU’s DBs haven’t been able to be an impact group like Wake’s DBs have. 1 interception, on 12 defended passes, is a bit worrisome when one or two could completely change the game. My thought process is, especially with losing a coverage linebacker for a half, is they’ll try to adjust and clog up the middle of the field to try and take away Roberson, challenging guys like Perry and Stewart to beat them. If Wake can get them to respect the deep ball, Roberson will have a field day.