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The Wake Forest defense - by the numbers!

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Wake Forest v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

We are just days away from BC football’s regular season finale against Wake Forest, and as we continue to look toward Saturday’s game, let’s take a quick look at the Demon Deacons’ defense.

Phil Jurkovec looked like a man possessed against Georgia Tech, but was contained a bit more by FSU. This likely was due to the fact that Florida State was far more effective at: 1) getting in Jurkovec’s face and putting him under pressure, and 2) containing BC’s running game, making BC more reliant on the passing game that still isn’t quite humming at 100%.

How does Wake compare?

Overall defense

As Curtis pointed out in his offense preview yesterday - Wake Forest has a machine of an offense and is likely to put up some points and yards on Saturday. However, on defense, their results have been more of a mixed bag.

In their last five games, it’s been less of a mixed bag and more just... bad. Wake has given up:

56 points (Army)
7 points (Duke lol)
58 points (UNC)
42 points (NC State)
48 points (Clemson)

Not great!

Overall, if you look at conference-only games, Wake is midpack in terms of scoring defense with 28.4 points allowed per game - but that’s a bit flattering to them, as it filters out the “nonconference” UNC game against an ACC team, and the Army game. Overall, they’ve allowed 30.8 points per game - 10th out of 14 in the ACC - a ranking that’s been on the decline in recent weeks.

Wake has also allowed 449 yards per game - fourth worst among all ACC teams.

Some of Wake’s yardage struggles defensively, especially in terms of yardage, stem from the fact that the Deacons are #13 of 14 in the ACC in terms of time of possession (27:53 per game) — their offense works quickly but doesn’t give the defense much time to rest.

Dave Clawson addressed this a few weeks back when ESPN analyst Joey Galloway called Wake’s defense “atrocious” on the CFP playoff show:

“When someone says [our] defense is atrocious – football today is different,” Clawson said on the show.

“And we run a tempo offense – and we’re really good on offense – but part of our production comes from that we play fast. So our defense is never going to have low-yardage totals because they’re going to play more snaps. And I’ve decided as a head coach, that’s how we’re going to play right now. That fits our football team.”

Rushing defense

Wake has been gashed on the ground this year, allowing 213.7 yards per game and 21 touchdowns (2nd worst in ACC). Clemson ran for 333 yards on them on 54 attempts, grounding and pounding the Deacons despite them knowing that Clemson wasn’t going to go air-raid on them at any point.

To even more of an extreme, Army ran for 416 yards on Wake (and 5 TDs) despite only attempting 13 passes the entire game.

This is the kind of game where in theory BC’s three-headed RB group (plus Jurkovec) should be able to pick up yardage on the ground when they need it, and try to control the clock and keep Wake’s offense off the field.

Where BC will need to be careful is putting the ball on the floor — Wake has recovered 13 fumbles, tied for 2nd in the nation.

Passing defense

Wake has been a little bit more stout defensively through the air than on the ground, coming in mid-pack in the ACC allowing 235.6 yards per game and 21 touchdowns via the passing game. They are also squarely mid-pack in terms of sacks (29).

Like BC, Wake has punched above its weight in terms of forcing turnovers; in addition to being great at forcing fumbles, they’re tied for 2nd in the ACC with 11 interceptions.

Bottom line

This appears to be a more favorable matchup defensively for BC than Florida State was. The Eagles are likely to be able to impose the tempo Frank Cignetti has preferred in recent weeks - grinding out first downs on the ground while also using the weapons Jurkovec has to keep the offense balanced.

Basically, I’d look for BC’s gameplan and productivity to be fairly on par with what we saw against GT, when the Eagles were able to score 41 points.

The bigger concern frankly is that with how efficient and effective Wake’s offense has been, BC’s defense is really going to have to go big on the ‘don’t break’ part of bend but don’t break, forcing turnovers and turning 7s into 3s to allow BC to be able to keep up.

But if they can do that, opportunities should be there for BC to move the ball and score.