The Orange are pretty good at shooting themselves in the foot.
For two weeks in a row, while Syracuse was down, they very much were within reach of their opponents in the second half. Against the Clemson Tigers they were within a score late in the third, then the Tigers picked up another touchdown on a fumble return and the ensuing drives sputtered.
This week, in the second quarter, Rex Culpepper again fumbled at an inopportune time, a linebacker coming hot from the outside to strip the quarterback and give Wake a short field. That didn’t turn into points, but forced the Orange defense to the field again, further tiring a depleted squad.
In the third, the secondary, which had held strong to this point, blew coverage against the Demon Deacons and gave up an 80-yard touchdown to a wide open Jaquarii Roberson. That put the Deacs up 17. The immediate play after was a mis-read interception to Gavin Holmes, which was returned for the touchdown. The 14 point swing took the game from reasonable to come back, all the way to completely out of reach very quickly.
Be it offensive false starts, holding, or pass interference penalties the Orange seemed to keep shooting themselves in the foot, with 7 penalties for 76 yards. Both sides of the ball had very inopportune timing on their miscues.
Tony White’s defense is still evolving
To start the game, the run defense was definitely quite shaky. Over the course of the game, White settled in to what he was calling, as well as the defense settling into what they were seeing. That said, they gave up 188 yards on the ground. While that is better than they had seen the past few weeks, they also gave up some plays in the air, including the 80-yard broken play for a touchdown.
As the game went on, the amount of pressure being brought and where it was coming from were being varied. The cornerback blitz by Garrett Williams that ended in a sack as well as some of the pressure brought from the linebackers were new looks that added complexity to the defense and helped them out.
That said, the defense still gave up over 400 yards of offense, again and has some improvements to make, like Aman Greenwood’s repeated penalties in an otherwise solid game. In the end, the young defense and young signal caller are still evolving and it will be interesting to see how they handle Phil Jurkovec and Boston College next week.
Young players and some veterans showed growth.
Jacobian Morgan got his first meaningful action on the year and made the most of it. He started his career with a ten play, 80-yard drive that finished off with a touchdown to Luke Benson. While this was against some of the Wake second string and the Orange were well out of the game at that point, it was still a bit of promise, putting the ball on a dime and completing passes while rolled out.
Cooper Lutz showed that he has progressed as a player, with 15 rushes for 87 yards on the day. He was able to grind it out between the tackles and also broke some runs outside. Nykeim Johnson also showed some much better return instincts and had some grabs early, as well as lining up at running back for a nice cut up the middle. They both stepped up and looked like different players than we’ve been seeing.