Was a solid win on paper. Wake let up 1 conversion on third and fourth down over 7 attempts, outgained FSU, held the ball for 19 minutes more, they did what they needed to do to win here. So what did we learn?
Running Game Just Fine
An important aspect going into this game against UVA, Wake actually ran the ball pretty well. 4 yards a carry, all three running backs had their own blend of good(Ellison looked strong, Turner is a broken tackle away from breaking a huge run, CBS clearly the best back and consistently made something out of nothing), against an actually good front four I was happy with their production.
Going into UVA, who just gave up 8.3 yards per rush and just a tick under 400 yards against a UNC team missing three starting offensive linemen, that trend has to continue. Just looking at the UVA film, they are just built to give up gashes on the ground and Wake has to exploit that. I’m looking at Christian Beal-Smith to get loose on Friday.
Money Downs not a Problem
There was so much made about the performance on third downs the week prior.
It's almost like -- hear me out, here -- you shouldn't overreact to giving up third-down conversions against Norfolk State.— Conor O'Neill (@ConorONeill_DI) September 18, 2021
But that's just silly.
Was it slightly concerning? Sure, but it’s not something you yell into the void about, just keep a tab and see how it goes the next week. The next week was near perfection in every aspect. They continually stood up FSU when they tried to run it, Gavin Holmes got redemption and make a great third-down tackle, making them pay when they tried to just chuck it on third down. It was a clinic and something to watch for the next game as UVA is 57th in the NCAA in third-down completion percentage at 43.5%.
Taking Away Roberson: The Mixtape about Nothing
FSU went out there and had a game plan to eliminate Roberson, and honestly, it worked. Granted, Wake didn’t need to throw a million times so targets were limited, but they kept their guys on Roberson to try to bait Hartman into bad throws and he did not bite.
The flip side on that is they kept leaving Taylor Morin and A.T. Perry open. When Wake lost Donavon Greene, the question that emerged was, “what would happen if teams schemed to take away Wake’s best receiver?” Morin and Perry caught 7 balls each, but the rest was pretty spread out, we even got multiple tight end targets, AND catches.
With UVA alternating back and forth between a 3-4 and a 3-2-6, it gets back to my earlier point, if Wake can run the ball, it’s going to force those DBs to play closer up and we saw what happened to UVA last week when they’re having to play softer coverage.
Front Four Came to Play
I’ll get this out of the way, Jasheen Davis was not great which is why he didn’t play a ton. The rest of the line ate.
JaCorey Johns and Luiji Vilain were the 3rd and 4th highest-graded EDGE defenders last week in the country. For good measure, it was the best game I’ve seen out of the drop end position in years. They were not only disruptive, but they also finished which was the part we’ve been needing to see for years.
A smile spread across defensive end Miles Fox’s face. https://t.co/TPj0GFVavE— Winston-Salem Journal (@JournalNow) September 19, 2021
Miles Fox probably earned some money on Saturday. He kept blowing up the middle, not only resulting in 2 TFLs, but also got a sack to his name.
I’d be an idiot if I didn’t mention how Rondell Bothroyd was also in on the fun time and time again.
If that unit can get healthier, still missing Tyler Williams/Kevin Pointer/Will Smart, it’s going to be a frightening team.
UVA’s run game is abysmal. They haven’t really been able to run the ball for a while, and after the performance Wake just put up against a team that had been one of the better rushing teams in the country, it makes for a good matchup. Add in the fact that there’s a drop in running ability when going from Jordan Travis, who they largely kept at bay, to Brennan Armstrong, whose arm is lively but legs aren’t really something to write home about, and you could have your design for a win.
Wake Still a Mystery
Not to bury this, but FSU is still a bad team. They didn’t quit like I thought they would, but Wake’s defense felt like they could bully them both at the LOS and their receivers by playing a ton of man defense, and they were successful all day at doing that.
Wake’s offense is still moving at a much slower pace than they were in 2018, partially because of big leads, and also because they don’t want to tip hands while keeping their defense fresh.
I still don’t think we’ve learned all that much about this team, which is good and bad. Bad because UVA’s offense is legit, even if their defense isn’t. Good because Wake has still been able to do what they want offensive and defensively while spinning their wheels and not getting too creative on either side of the ball. The film room has to be a nightmare when evaluating Wake because it still feels like they haven’t tipped anything different or special and are still just chugging along.