BLACKSBURG — Halloween has come and gone, but Virginia Tech has spent the week watching a series of horror films — hours of Wake Forest (7-1; 4-1 ACC) tearing apart opposing defenses.
Or as coach Justin Fuente put it…”one of the better offenses in America.”
The numbers speak for themselves with Wake Forest averaging 38 points (No. 17 out of 130 FBS teams), 510.6 yards per game (No. 7), 323.6 passing yards (No. 9) and 26.4 first downs per game (No. 4). The Demon Deacons are on pace to set program records in all those categories.
Wake Forest also has plenty of talent in the backfield with veteran running back Cade Carney, who rushed for 1,000 yards in 2018, anchoring the group alongside talented freshman Kenneth Walker. Quarterback Jamie Newman has some athleticism as well, which the Demon Deacons aren’t shy of taking advantage of.
“Heavy into the RPO game, the quarterback run game, running the ball on the inside and the outside and then pretty darn good throwing it around,” Fuente said.
Wake’s tempo adds another degree of difficulty for opposing defenses.
“They are operating at a high, high speed,” Fuente said.”They are really pushing the tempo every single down, every single play. I did not look up how many plays they are averaging a game, but it’s a lot, watching the film. You combine that with the formations and the unbalance and the quads and all that sort of stuff, it can make it difficult for you communication-wise, getting lined up and having a chance to be sound against both the run and the pass.”
It isn’t an ideal matchup for a Virginia Tech defense that’s given up plenty of yards (and points) this season. The Hokies have given up 359.8 passing yards in their last four games — New Mexico has the worst passing defense in the country and is giving up 340.4 yards per game — and 12 touchdowns.
“You’ve got a group that’s very experienced, playing with a lot of confidence and a lot of talent,” defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. “...So it concerns me a lot of things. We have to be able to stop the run but their passing game concerns me because they do it so well and they’ve got such big targets and their very explosive in a lot of things that they do.”
Those big targets include Sage Surratt and Scotty Washington. Surratt is the ACC’s leading receiver by a wide margin with 948 yards and nine touchdowns while Washington is also in the top 10. Tech will need to lock them down early in the game without starting defensive back Jermaine Waller, who will serve a targeting suspension in the first half.
“It’s a two-headed monster,” Fuente said. “It’s not just the passing game. They can run the football as well which creates one-on-one matchups. Those guys have been really good in those situations.”
But the player at the center of Wake’s rise remains Newman, who leads the ACC in passing yards per game (294.1) and completion percentage (67.2%). He has thrown 20 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Newman missed a game with a left shoulder injury in October, but didn’t show any signs of the injury last week when Wake Forest beat NC State 44-10.
Newman was 25 of 38 with 287 yards and five touchdowns (three passing).
“I tell you what, the quarterback is dynamic,” Foster said. “The Newman kid is just playing extremely well. He’s big, he’s athletic, he’s got a live arm. He’s very accurate.”