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Thoughts on Wake

Last night's win over Clemson was unspectacular for the Demon Deacons. They thoroughly outperformed the Tigers offensively, yet had to scramble to pick up the victory. Their defense was solid, though you had to wonder if it would have been as effective had Clemson had any semblance of an offensive line with which to work.

Let's start with the Wake offense. Quarterback Riley Skinner displayed quick feet and an elusiveness in the pocket. He ended the night with 11 carries for 73 yards and not all of those rushes were unintended. Coach Jim Grobe said the game plan was designed to use Skinner more as a runner. He said he told Skinner before the game that defenses were able to hone in on Wake's passing attack because they knew Skinner was no threat to run the ball. Last night's game plan was an attempt to change that. One of Skinner's running plays stood out in particular. With about three and a half minutes remaining in the first half, Skinner took off on a first and ten at the Clemson 29. He spun 360 degrees counter-clockwise to avoid an oncoming defender and slid into the turf six yards later to avoid a hit for the second time. The play demostrated impressive athleticism on Skinner's part, and it probably had Grobe wondering why he had not asked Skinner to develop into more of a dual-threat quarterback sooner in his career.

Skinner had an efficient night passing the ball, as well. He finished 22 of 34 for 186 yards and a touchdown. Here was the intriguing thing about the Wake offense. It operated smoothly for a majority of drives and then would sputter once it got into the red zone. Tight end Ben Wooster said Clemson did a good job of stuffing the middle late in drives, which forced the Deacons to go more outside in the red zone. But at least in the early going, that simply wasn't true. Skinner frequently lined up out wide in the first half, and it may have hurt the Deacons once they got into scoring position. Grobe admitted that when they line Skinner up at wide reciever, Clemson knew Wake wasn't going to pass the ball with running back Josh Adams lined up at quarterback. That meant Clemson could flood the box and stop the run. Many of the runs during Wake's first two red zone drives were carries up the middle by either Adams, D.J. Boldin or Brendon Pendergrass. Their were stopped for short or no gain on many of those attempts because Clemson knew what was coming. The idea of lining up Skinner out of position is effective every once in a while, but wouldn't you want your best decision maker operating out of the shotgun in the red zone than a running back with little to no throwing ability?

When Wake's drives stalled, as they often did, the Deacons were left to turn to backup kicker Shane Popham, who made two of four attempts in place of the injured Sam Swank. To be fair, one of those misses was not Popham's fault. The hold on the first attempt was mishandled, which threw off Popham's timing on the kick. Regardless, it is clear Popham, a redshirt freshman and former walk-on, is not yet of the same ability as Swank, one of the top kickers in the nation. Swank missed the game due to a strained right quadriceps. Grobe said he hopes to have Swank back next week against Maryland and that he is considering splitting duties between Swank and Popham to ease the burden on Swank's leg. He said having Popham punt and Swank kick field goals is a definite possibility.

Defensively, there is no doubt Wake has a solid unit. Aaron Curry is one of the hardest-hitting linebackers in the conference, and cornerback Alphonso Smith is a ruthless ball-hawk. With Clemson clinging to a 7-3 lead late in the game, Smith came up with an interception at the Clemson 25 and set the Deacons up for another field goal to bring the decifit to one. The pick was the 17th of Smith's career and it put him in a tie for first all-time on the Wake career interception list. Wake held Clemson to 21 rushing yards. The Tigers had just six rushing yards at halftime, and that was with both James Davis and C.J. Spiller in the backfield. Spiller did not return in the second half after leaving with a left leg injury. The only question I had about Wake's defense was how much Clemson's dilapidated offensive line had to do with the Deacons' effectiveness. Clemson was playing without three of its typical starters heading into the game and lost two more during the first half. Wake created ample pressure on Clemson quarterback Cullen Harper, which frequently forced him into poor throws.

So here are a few critical points for Maryland heading into next week's matchup:

The offensive line must play better. The Terps were supposed to have one of the best fron lines in the conference heading into the season, but it has not lived up to the billing. Wake will make Maryland pay if Edwin Williams & Co. do not show up.

Chris Turner needs to spread the ball around. Throw some passes to Darrius Heyward-Bey, certainly, but don't just hone in on him and ignore other options. Alphonso Smith can cover only one receiver at a time (I think), so look for Dan Gronkowski, Danny Oquendo, Torrey Smith, etc.

The Terps pass defense needs to have the performance of the season. It has been shred up so far by quarterbacks of far less skill than Skinner. If he gets into a rhythm early, he will pick Maryland apart all day. The Navy game was an abberation. This guy will not throw four picks in a game again. He has an accurate and strong arm, which could signal major problems for the Terps secondary.

That said, Wake is far from unbeatable. Even if Swank returns next week, he likely won't be at full health. And if the Deacons make him attempt six or seven field goals because they cannot finish drives in the end zone, his sore right leg will wear down. It will be a challenge, no doubt, but Maryland already has proven it can win games it probably shouldn't (see: Cal, Clemson). The game likely will be decided based on which Maryland squad shows up. The one that looked impeccable for four-fifths of the game against Cal? Or the one that looked apathetic for the entire game against Virginia.

For those of you who saw the Wake game last night (and even for those of you who didn't), what were your impressions of the Deacons? And your early thoughts on Maryland's chances next week?

By Steve Yanda  |  October 10, 2008; 8:45 AM ET
Categories:  Football  
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Comments

Wake is a tough, gritty football team that knows how to win close games. They have an outstanding D-Line and secondary, and one LB (Curry) that is a stud.

We are gonna HAVE to find a way to run the ball effectively against Wake. It will be tough, but it's time for the O-Line to step it up and create some holes. I would even look to spread the 'D' a little to run the ball, like run the inside handoff from the shotgun. Perhaps even put Da'Rel and Heyward-Bey on opposite sides of Turner and run a "triple" option.

If Turner has to drop back and wait for receivers to get open consistently, the pocket may not hold for him, and it could be a long day. Wake's corners play up tight, so WR screens should be excluded from the gameplan. We need some slants if we want short passes.

In the end, MD will be Wake because they have all the motivation in the world. After that horrible UVA loss and the fact that Wake is ranked and the game is at noon all plays into the Terps' hands. And if MD doesn't win this game, Wake has all but sewn up the division. This is a must-win game for the Terps!

Posted by: Sam | October 10, 2008 9:59 AM | Report abuse

loved this result.

Virginia -- 31
Maryland -- 0 (zero - zip - zilch - nada)

Maryland's - Defensive and Offensive lines and Linebacking corp are the worst in College Football.

I have seen harder hitting teams in powder puff leagues.

Maryland's recruiting efforts are going to take a major hit with this result.

Prediction:

Wake Forest -- 34
Maryland -- 10

Maryland will finish with a 5-7 record.

I am happy that Maryland is no longer recruiting Tavon Austin.

Jelani Jenkins, Travis Hawkins and Isaac Holmes will be signing with the University of Florida.

Go Tar Heels !

Posted by: Gary | October 10, 2008 10:43 AM | Report abuse

Each year, at least under RF's tenure, Wake becomes the litmus test where the Maryland season should be measured.

The years the Terps beat Wake usually end with winning records and mid to major bowl bids. The years the Terps lose to Wake often result in losing seasons.

So I believe once again this game will mean the most on the Maryland schedule.
The Maryland season may rise or fall based on the outcome.

Posted by: Charles | October 10, 2008 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Jim Grobe, whether you like or hate Wake, has done a masterful job. He probably gets more production out of mediocre talent than any coach in the ACC.

No one would compare the talent WF has to Florida State, Clemson, or Maryland.

Posted by: Charles | October 10, 2008 10:54 AM | Report abuse

In response to Charles-

Hasnt Wake beaten Maryland the past two years and then the Terps have gone on to winning seasons?

I think regardless of the game's outcome, Maryland will end the year in Boise, D.C. (Congressional Bowl), with the Car Care Bowl in Charlotte being the likely ceiling for Maryland this year.

Posted by: RM | October 10, 2008 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Last year's 6-7 record can in no way be construed as a winning season. Even if you exclude the bowl game for some bizarre reason, 6-6 ain't winning, it's just nonlosing.

Posted by: Andrew Zitnay | October 10, 2008 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Having watched Wake Forest all season (they have had all of their games on National TV), they starting to remind me of a certain NFL team that won Super Bowl XXXV. Ooops, that team is from Maryland....Seriously, Wake has a very stingy defense, and yes, if the Offensive Line does not control the line of scrimmage, the game will end in the first 7:30. I am not kidding. When Chris Turner gets time, he CANNOT lock in on throwing to one receiver, I do not care who it is. It is a bad habit that young has, and he has to break it to improve his play. Coaching wise, Coaches Friedgen and Franklin absolutely MUST find a way to get the ball to Heyward-Bey, land, sea, or air. If they don't, it will be too much weight Da'Rel Scott and Devin Meggett will have to carry, and it will be a tough day for Maryland running the ball on the Deacons.

This game is the defining moment in the Friedgen era. The last game was probably the WORST performance I have witnessed (and I have seen several in following this college program in 35 years) ever. The fact that it was National TV made it hard to stomach (I was eating dinner through that crap). A loss here in game where we usually show up because of the time (12 Noon), will probably be the beginning of the end for Coach Ralph. NO MORE EXCUSES AND STATEMENTS OF NOT REACHING PLAYERS. IT'S TIME TO WIN. WIN OR GO HOME! FORGET THE BOWLS!

Posted by: Elwood | October 10, 2008 2:59 PM | Report abuse

FIRE FRIEDGEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | October 10, 2008 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Fire Friedgen.....Hire Lane Kiffin. No chance it will happen but it would be the smartest move MD has ever made. Kiffin would actually know how to use the talent they have instead of wasting it every year like Friedgen does.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 10, 2008 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Wake is beatable, but the Terps will have to play awfully well to do it.

Posted by: Terpin | October 11, 2008 1:34 PM | Report abuse

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