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Wake Forest Football: 3 Keys to Beating Virginia Tech

How can the Deacs secure a victory in week 7?

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Wake Forest Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The Deacs have lost two games in a row and are still looking for their first conference win of the season, but they have a solid chance to get off the schneid this weekend against Virginia Tech. The Hokies sit at 2-4 on the season with wins over Old Dominion and Pittsburgh, but anyone who has seen a video of Lane Stadium rocking to “Enter Sandman” will tell you that Blacksburg is no easy place to come away with a win—Tech is 2-1 at home this season with the sole loss being the 5-hour weather delay game against Purdue. Let’s check out the 3 keys to getting a win on the road against the Hokies on Saturday.

Beat the Blitz

The secret is probably out on the Wake Forest offense this season—they don’t seem to have any answer to being blitzed. Clearly, Clemson realized this when checking out the Georgia Tech tape (where the Deacs were sacked 8 times), because the Tigers basically sent the house on every single 3rd third down against the Deacs. Clemson constantly put 7 or 8 guys on the line of scrimmage and completely telegraphed that they were bringing an all-out blitz, and Wake still couldn’t punish their aggressiveness. The result was Mitch Griffis taking hits all game long and the Deacs finishing the game 2-12 on third down.

With 4 more sacks allowed against the Tigers, Mitch Griffis has now been sacked 22 times for 136 yards in just 5 games. That puts the Deacs at 4.4 sacks allowed per game, the 4th most in the nation behind Old Dominion, Colorado, and South Carolina. Despite 3 of Wake’s first 5 games coming against traditionally weaker teams in Elon, Vanderbilt, and Old Dominion, Griffis is currently on pace to be sacked 52 times this season, which would be more than the abysmal 48 sacks the Deacs allowed in Clawson first season as the head coach (the year Wolford finished with -151 rushing yards).

When the blitz becomes a low-risk, high-reward play because of the offense's inability to beat it—even when they know it’s coming—there is basically no reason for the opposing team to ever stop sending 5 or more guys at the QB on every single play. Until the Deacs show that they have something in their arsenal to punish teams for sending the house, I would expect that they will continue to face extra rushers at an extremely high rate for the remainder of the season.

Contain the QB

The Deacs have not really faced an elite runner at the quarterback position so far this season, but they will get their chance this weekend. Virginia Tech’s Kyron Drones, who stepped in for the injured Grant Wells, has run the ball 14 or more times in all 4 of his starts this season and leads the Hokies with 4 rushing touchdowns. He has elite speed and plenty of size at 6-2, 234 pounds to make him difficult for opposing defenses to bring down. While he throws a solid deep ball, Drones is completing just 55% of his passes this season, so forcing him to stay in the pocket and win the game with his arm should be advantageous for the Deacs. Wake will definitely want to have someone accounting for the QB scramble on every play, because if Drones breaks contain, he can get down field in a hurry.

Find Tuten

NC A&T transfer Bhayshul Tuten has been an absolute weapon for the Hokies this season. The junior running back is an extremely versatile playmaker and can basically line up anywhere on the field and make something happen. Through 6 games this season, Tuten leads the Hokies with 5 total touchdowns and 330 rushing yards, while also being 2nd on the team with 16 receptions. His 487 scrimmage yards rank 51st among all players in the NCAA so far this season. Tuten is also an elite special teams player—he is averaging the 6th most yards in the nation per kickoff return with 31.6 yards and is 1 of 17 players in the country to run a kick back for a touchdown this season. Whether he is in the backfield, lined up out wide at receiver, or standing in the endzone waiting for a kickoff, Tuten is a threat to score, and the Deacs will want to make sure they know where he is and account for him at all times.