Sitting at 6-3 and out of the rankings for the first time this season, Wake Forest is in a bit of a rut. Looking back on Saturday’s loss to NC State, Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson noted that his team’s effort was far different than last week’s loss to Louisville.
“I thought our football team showed up ready to play,” Clawson said. “Our guys competed with their butts. You can see that film and it was effort right up until the final whistle.”
Still, with the way the Deacs prepared, they couldn’t find a way to pull out the win.
“The bottom line is they outplayed us,” Clawson said. “And really, they made fewer mistakes than us. Those are mistakes that, if we were playing lesser teams, might not cost us the game. NC State has the No. 1 defense in the ACC. Any mistake you make against them is magnified because of how good they are.”
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Along with giving up several big plays and committing critical penalties on defense, the offense was greatly affected by the raucous crowd inside Carter-Finley Stadium. The offensive line was called for five false starts, and Sam Hartman threw three interceptions.
“Right now we’re turning the ball over too much to beat good football teams,” Clawson said. “In two weeks, we’ve gone from 6-1 and ranked 10th in the country to not being ranked. Part of our plan to win is to win the turnover game, and we’ve turned it over 11 times in two weeks. We’re not ranked right now because we’re turning the football over.”
While not ranked now, Wake Forest immediately has an opportunity to make a statement win this weekend. No. 15 North Carolina is 8-1 and more than likely ACC Championship bound. With redshirt freshman Drake Maye (29 TD, 3 INT) leading the offense, the Tar Heels will prove to be a tall test.
“He plays within the scheme of the offense,” Clawson said. “So where he just kills you is when the play breaks down and he scrambles. He beat Duke with his scrambles. Duke had guys blocking, then he made them miss and they end up being touchdowns.”
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Despite having a new quarterback in Maye under center, the Tar Heels offense is reminiscent of seasons past. In their last two meetings, North Carolina has stormed back from three-possession deficits to stun Wake Forest.
“I still have tremors from the last two years,” Clawson said. “We haven’t finished games against them.”
While Wake Forest is looking forward to this game, Clawson made it clear that there is still a lot left to play for this season.
“We’re still a good football team,” he said. “There are a lot of teams out there that want to be where we are. We have changed the standard here on what a good season is. And that’s a good thing. We want that standard, and we want those expectations. And when we win [these] games, bowl games get better and we get ranked.”
Wake Forest and North Carolina kick off Saturday at 7:30 on ESPN2.
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