This Saturday, the Jackets hit the road once again to take on Wake Forest.
Last season, the two teams met in Bobby Dodd Stadium in what became a particularly nail-biting contest. The game is famous among Tech fans for the gutsy call made by Head Coach Paul Johnson to allow senior quarterback Joshua Nesbitt to go for the first down on fourth-and-inches at Tech’s five-yard line. The call paid off with Nesbitt converting and scoring on a three-yard run for a touchdown on the next play. The Jackets won 30-27.
This weekend, the three things the Jackets must do to win are outrun Wake, shut down the Deacons’ offense and utilize a short passing game.
Tech and Wake Forest are currently the top two rushing schools in the ACC. Tech is ranked third in the FBS for rushing yards per game with 320.5; 15th-ranked Wake averages 238.5. As always, it will be critical for the Jackets to rack up big yards on the ground.
Nesbitt and senior B-Back Anthony Allen will need to chip away yards up the middle and exploit a relatively young defensive line. Meanwhile, the A-backs must again attempt to execute the option on the outside to gain larger chunks of yardage. Sophomore A-Back Orwin Smith, who has shown promise so far this season with his two rushing scores, may once again provide assistance in the red-zone.
Tech’s defense must step up to prevent the Demon Deacons from establishing its running game. This feat may be made easier by troubles in Wake’s offense. With four alternating quarterbacks, the team has lacked continuity with handling the ball. Freshman quarterback Tanner Price is out with a concussion, and sophomore quarterback Ted Stachitas may be a game-day decision and is still questionable to play.
Another element Tech may possibly implement against Wake Forest is an aggressive short passing game. In last week’s 31-0 shutout loss to Florida State, the Deacons were unable to stop a relentless pass attack by the Seminoles. If Nesbitt and his receivers can have any such success in the air, Wake may be unable to respond.
This game will mark each team’s third ACC matchup of the season. Both Tech and Wake are 1-1 in conference and 2-2 overall.
As Wake Forest welcomes the Jackets to Groves Stadium, the three keys for its win at home are a recovery by the quarterback Stachitas, keeping containment against Tech’s running backs and forcing turnovers.
With Price injured and out of the game, the Demon Deacons may be in trouble if Ted Stachitas is also unable to play. The other quarterbacks, junior Skylar Jones and freshman Brendan Cross, have combined for two completed passes (each for a gain of three yards) and have rushed for less than a total of 40 yards.
The instability at that position may leave Wake Forest with too few yards to outscore a dominant Tech rushing offense.
Tech under Head Coach Paul Johnson is one of the few remaining college teams to still using an option-based offense. Wake Forest’s coaching staff must be sure that the Demon Deacons are prepared to keep containment on Tech’s A-Backs to prevent huge plays down the sidelines.
The cornerbacks as a whole will have to come off blocks and must be able to tackle Tech’s running backs if they get outside the offensive line.
The defensive line will also need to stuff the middle to stop the yards typical of Nesbitt and Allen. Wake must be fastidious at all positions on defense, as the Jackets will run the ball to all gaps.
Tech will be trying hard to prevent the first consecutive losses under Johnson.
Last week, Tech had four fumbles in the first half, recovering two of them, and they were mostly self-inflicted fumbles. Wake Forest will have to force and recover fumbles in order to stop Tech’s offense.
Also, if Wake Forest is able to force turnovers deep in Tech’s territory, then it offense will have to capitalize on the turnovers by scoring as most points as possible.