The Syracuse Orange football team isn’t in a great spot right now, but at times in the past, one cure for that has been a game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. It’s not as if SU’s dominated Wake every time out, or anyone even cares about this series outside of these fan bases. Or the games are even interesting to most. They’re just weird and decidedly dumb — which is probably where a constant sense of hope in this matchup springs from on both sides.
Since we’re not Wake Forest fans, we went ahead and asked on about what to expect in this game. Blogger So Dear’s Cameron Lemons Debro — who you can follow on Twitter — joins us to talk about the Demon Deacons. You can check out those responses below. We also provided some notes on Syracuse over there, which you can check out here.
The season got off to a rough start for Wake, but things have seemingly settled in since. What’s been the biggest change from the first two games to the last three?
The defense by far (also not playing Clemson). Clemson has their own challenges but it doesn’t help when you have roughly five total DBs that are healthy and then start blowing coverages. Against NC State things felt better as they started getting turnovers but just got continually gashed over and over on the ground. The defense still wasn’t healthy or that solid vs Campbell or the first half against UVA, but since the 2nd half of the UVA game on, Wake has allowed 20 points total in six quarters. No one is asking this defense to be UGA and limit people to 150 yards total, and that showed against VT, but now that they aren’t trying to hide their corners, the run fits have been better, the defensive line has played better and the outside corners have played phenomenally relative to expectations.
What are your expectations for the Deacs this year? Do you feel those have changed since early September?
Pissed was my early sense on this schedule. Wake was the only North Carolina team to get Clemson, and OPENED with them, alongside getting Notre Dame in the first four weeks, Miami and Louisville. I would’ve put the barometer about 5-6 wins. Beat Campbell/NC State/Duke, toss up games against UVA/Cuse/VT and then try to steal a game vs UL/UNC. Now, I have it at a minimum of seven wins. I don’t think any game left on the schedule isn’t winnable, but they need to take two out of three against Syracuse/Duke/UL, and then play their cards right in the UNC/Miami/ND games. Given how this year has gone, I’ll take that in a heartbeat.
Wake got to host College Gameday for the first time earlier this season — but without fans. Was it worth it? Or did it not matter much because of a lack of fans?
I had a virtual blast. It was great exposure for the team, a fun experience for the fans as much as it could’ve been, and even though they lost, you still like the exposure. Hopefully it’s an emphasis to not waste opportunities in the future and have a chance to get Gameday back again in Winston-Salem
How much does Wake Forest miss Sage Surratt in this offense?
A lot, in my opinion, and that’s not to say the offense has been bad. With Donavon Greene, AT Perry, Jaquarii Roberson, and the thunder and lightning combo that is Christian Beal-Smith and Kenneth Walker the III at RB, the offense has weapons. The outside receivers have had their fair share of issues both injury-wise and consistency. There just isn’t a lot of snaps there and having someone like Sage ease them into the year and 2021 would’ve been very helpful. The talent is there but you always would’ve liked another weapon, including one that’s a borderline first-round talent to be there.
Obviously the Orange-Deacons series is the weirdest and dumbest in the ACC. What’s your favorite weird and/or dumb aspect of it?
That might be my favorite thing, how dumb it is. It never feels like a “high-stakes” game like one with the Tobacco Road schools, or the always “biggest game of the season” that is usually FSU, but it never disappoints with moments. You have games like in 2017 that it combined for 107 points, that was also the game where Cameron Glenn literally german suplexed a player, you have last years heartbreak(or amazing ending depending on which side you were on), the absolute hurricane that was 2016, there’s always SOMETHING that happens in this game and I love it.
Describe what went through your mind on the last play of the 2019 finale. Confusion? Horror? Or just par for the course when these two teams play?
Kendall Hinton is a friend of mine so knowing him personally I was just stunned. That game was weird from the get-go with Wake sleep walking, Syracuse letting them back in the game, Nick Sciba missing his first field goal in a billion tries, the play before that Hartman JUST missing ending the game, and then that. It just was so Wake Forest it hurt.
Sam Hartman has played pretty well against Syracuse in two tries. What aspect of his game do you feel has flummoxed the Orange most?
Gun-slinging. One of the biggest reasons why he won and kept the job in 2018 (until he broke his leg against Syracuse) just being able to make quick decisions and fitting the ball into tight windows. He’s grown into an accurate passer more and more and the thing about Syracuse year after year is that they have a bunch of ball hawks waiting to capitalize on every mistake you make.
Is there an unsung Deacons player that SU fans should get more familiar with?
Before the bajillion awards he got, I was going to say walk-on freshman Nick Andersen. Since he’s a bit more noticed now, I’m going to stay on that side of the ball and give some love to Traveon Redd. The 5th year senior has made some major strides the last couple of years and become a very good player at Rover (which is a hybrid safety/linebacker position) but now with all the injuries at safety, he’s now having to move from the box to a true safety role at times and made a huge impact keeping Khalil Herbert in check last game
Any specific Orange player that has you very concerned going into this game?
There’s two: On offense Taj Harris is always scary. I think he’s a very good receiver and the first few games (or the middle finger) don’t really do hm justice. He’s in the upper echelon for receivers for me in the ACC and this secondary is still very raw outside of Ja’Sir Taylor. On defense it’s Garrett WIlliams. He’s been so good as a freshman and if Sam does make a mistake, he’s not going to let him get away with it. The outside receivers have to be on their game
Prediction time: Who wins this one and how?
As much respect as I have for Syracuse, I just think Wake has too many weapons and is finally showing up on defense at the right time. If Sean Tucker plays it makes the game a bit more interesting but I think Wake uses the same gameplan from last week and shuts him down while forcing Rex Culpepper to beat him, which I don’t think he can do. Give me Wake 35, Syracuse 14.