Beat writer Q&A: Conor O’Neill of the Winston-Salem Journal breaks down the Demon Deacons

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on November 9, 2017 at 5:07 pm Contact Matthew: [email protected] | @MatthewGut21 Syracuse (4-5, 2-3 Atlantic Coast) kicks off against Wake Forest (5-4, 2-3) on Saturday at 3 p.m. The Orange, two wins away from ensuring bowl eligibility, lost at WFU, 28-9, a year ago. The Demon Deacons are coming off of an 11-point loss at No. 3 Notre Dame last week, while SU nearly beat Florida State on the road.The Daily Orange spoke with the Winston-Salem Journal’s Conor O’Neill, who covers the Demon Deacons.The Daily Orange: Wake Forest has turned a lot of heads this season. What’s fueling that success?Conor O’Neill: Wake Forest’s surge this season has been led by its offense and the emergence of playmakers, really for the first time in Dave Clawson’s four years as coach. Greg Dortch was fantastic for the first eight games before season-ending surgery, but he’s hardly the only standout. Scotty Washington, a 6-foot-5 receiver, is becoming a consistent threat. Running back Matt Colburn II has run for 100-plus yards in back-to-back games. And quarterback John Wolford has the highest passer efficiency rate in the ACC (161.2), with 17 touchdowns and three interceptions.The D.O.: Syracuse head coach Dino Babers pointed out the strengths of WFU’s offense, especially quarterback John Wolford and the passing game. Why has that been so effective?AdvertisementThis is placeholder textC.O.: The Deacons have implemented a heavy dose of run-pass option plays, and Wolford rarely makes a wrong decision operating them. The other part is that Wolford finally has an offensive line that can protect him and receivers that can make plays on the ball. For the past three seasons, there hasn’t been much of either of those.The D.O.: Where is Wake Forest most vulnerable?C.O.: Coming off a game in which its defense surrendered seven full football fields of offense, Wake Forest’s defense seems pretty vulnerable at the moment. Notre Dame exposed it. The Irish rushing for 380 wasn’t a shock, that’s only 64 more than they were averaging entering the game. But Notre Dame racked up 330 passing yards, 200 more than its season average. Given Syracuse’s receiver duo, that bodes well for the Orange.The D.O.: Is there a lesser-known player for WFU that Syracuse fans should watch out for?C.O.: I’d love to put Alex Bachman here, a backup receiver, but he had eight catches for 116 yards and a touchdown at Notre Dame. One glance at last week’s box score makes him a known weapon. So I’ll tell you to watch for Ja’Cquez Williams, the backup rover — Wake Forest’s hybrid linebacker/safety position. He’s seen extended playing time lately and has made an impact in coverage and stopping the run.The D.O.: How do you think the game will unfold Saturday and who wins?C.O.: I think there will be a ton of points scored and this game comes down to the wire. Turnovers and special teams could change that — Wake Forest has taken care of the ball, doesn’t commit many turnovers but has left a lot to be desired in special teams. But if those are relatively even, I think Wake Forest wins in a shootout. Commentslast_img

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