Looking to bounce back from a disappointing first loss of the season last Saturday against North Carolina, the Virginia Cavaliers welcome the Wake Forest Demon Deacons to Scott Stadium on Friday night.
For Bronco Mendenhall and the Wahoos, Wake Forest has proven to be a tough opponent to beat. “It’s not hard [to take Wake seriously] because we’ve played them twice in my tenure here and they’ve beaten us both times in really hard contests.” He adds that “the story,” of how good the Demon Deacons are, “has already passed from the older players to the younger players.”
In terms of where Bronco sees Wake in the broader picture of college football, he notes that “I don’t know how the rest of the world views Wake (Forest), but in the ACC they’re a good football program, and they win a lot, and they do it at a place that’s pretty challenging.”
“We have plenty to work on,” he says, before continuing to emphasize “this opponent we’re viewing just like we always have because they’ve beaten us twice. They’ve earned our respect.”
In terms of Wake’s high powered offense, Mendenhall points out how the Deacons “have a really complementary style, meaning the defense fits with the special teams which fits with the offense, so it’s difficult to prepare for.”
Schematically, he notes that “it’s pretty simple; there’s a player in conflict most all the time if you choose to play zone, and if you choose to play man, they like the personnel they have at wide receiver, running back, quarterback, so they like their matchups.”
Of course, at the head of the Wake offense is senior quarterback Sam Hartman who is one of the most experienced quarterbacks in college football. Mendenhall says that “[Hartman} has a great idea of how to run their system. He knows exactly where he’s to look, and he knows what decisions to make, and he does it in real time.”
Here’s one of the things I love about Sam Hartman: He has a ton of arm strength to drive the ball to his target.— ACC Content (@ACContent__) June 14, 2020
Check out this long touchdown pass to Greg Dortch in his freshman year. pic.twitter.com/MUGglEUH1Q
He adds that “capability [as well], an active runner, he’s tough, he’s competitive, he throws the ball well, so when you add the right system to a quarterback that can do all that, then yeah, you end up scoring a lot of points, which they are.”
On the other side of the ball, Mendenhall emphasizes that everything about Wake Forest’s defense and defensive scheme is “very intentional,” as he adds that “they don’t do anything randomly, and each thing they do complements something else. So if you overplay or overemphasize one part, there’s an immediate complement that they look to and know they have an answer for.”
In evaluating how the Demon Deacon defense held Florida State to 14 points and caused six turnovers, Mendenhall says that “I think basically they just played really physically, so when they were tackling, and sometimes [it was] an intentional strip, but they were just playing more physically than their opponent and jarring the ball loos on a number of occasions. That usually means they’re trying hard and they’re confident.”
Surely, Wake Forest will prove to be a stern test for the Wahoos on Friday as they hope to rebound and improve to 3-1 on the season and 1-1 in conference play. Be sure to stay tuned to Streaking the Lawn for coverage heading into Friday night’s 7pm contest on ESPN2.