It hasn’t always been pretty to this point, but Wake Forest is one victory away from tying its win total from each of the last two seasons.
Following an underwhelming 7-3 defeat of Tulane to open the year and a 24-14 triumph at Duke in Week 2, the Demon Deacons are 2-0 for the first time since 2012. Next up on the docket is a Delaware squad seeking to maintain its own undefeated record.
With a renewed energy in the program, Wake has every reason to approach Saturday’s matchup with confidence. It’s also an opportunity to keep the train rolling before rounding out the month of September at Indiana.
The biggest reason for optimism coming out of last weekend? Obvious progress on offense.
Against the Blue Devils, the Deacons produced 239 yards in the run game, an area where Dave Clawson’s team has struggled mightily over the last two-plus years. In 2014, Wake averaged 1.25 yards per rush attempt. That average increased to only 3.03 in 2015. Against Duke, though, the Deacons churned out 4.9 yards per rush.
Part of the reason for that was the staff’s decision to insert Kendall Hinton at quarterback early. Hinton’s stats weren’t exactly eye-popping — he was 6-of-11 for 133 yards with an interception while rushing 11 times for 63 yards — but he clearly outperformed starter John Wolford. With Hinton behind center, the offense was able to move the ball.
He’ll get the start against the Blue Hens.
The bigger story, though, was the emergence of true freshman running back Cade Carney.
The rookie collected a team-high 17 carries, picking up 108 yards and three touchdowns. He earned every one of those yards.
“Cade makes hard yards, and he pushes the pile forward, and it was nice to see him make an explosive play or two,” Clawson said in a Wednesday teleconference. “He’s a hard worker. He’s strong physically, and he’s faster than people think.”
While the Delaware game may look like a cupcake on the surface, rushing yards won’t necessarily be easy to come by. The Blue Hens held Lafayette College to 78 yards on 2.7 yards per carry in a 24-6 win last weekend, and they limited Delaware State to 35 yards on 1.5 yards per carry the weekend prior in a 56-14 blowout victory.
“The corners can cover. The safeties are good tacklers. The linebackers are all excellent players, and they’re very deep up front on defense,” Clawson stated.
Defensively, Wake Forest will need to account for a dangerous Blue Hen ground game. While running back Wes Hills will be out with an injured elbow, sophomore Thomas Jefferson is a ball-carrier who can break off a big play at any time. Against North Carolina last season, Jefferson plowed his way to 163 yards and two touchdowns.
“We’ve watched that tape, and just what gets you is how well they move the front,” Clawson said. “Their down blocks are good, their pullers react to linebacker flow very well, and their backs have very good vision on it.”
Shutting down the run is one area where Wake has had success to start the season. The Deacons are allowing an average of 2.38 yards per rushing attempt, giving up no more than 3.1 yards per carry in a game.
As the team continues its quest to reach a bowl game for the first time since 2011, defeating the Blue Hens is a must. Not only would a win get the Deacons halfway to that goal with nine games remaining, but it would also bring more confidence to an offense that’s finally beginning to click.