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Wake Forest-Army football: Here's what the beat writers are talking about

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Wake Forest’s football team made it through the first half of its season without a blemish on its record.

Now, after an off week, the final push begins. The No. 16 Demon Deacons head to Army and one of the most heralded settings in college football for a non-conference matchup.

Wake Forest entered their game break after two nail-biters in ACC play: a 37-34 win against Louisville with help from a Nick Sciba game-winning field goal and a 40-37 victory at Syracuse thanks to a three-touchdown day from wide receiver A.T. Perry. The Deacons are still the highest-ranked ACC team are one of the 10 remaining undefeated teams in the nation.

The Journal leaned on the expertise of Sal Interdonato of BlackKnightNation.com for the breakdown of Army, which features some familiar foes for this Wake Forest coaching staff.

EJ: First off, I look at this game for Wake Forest – Coach Dave Clawson mentioned that off weeks aren’t advantages for the teams coming off them – they’re going on the road, they’re going against an Army team that seems really physical this year. For this to be a game where Wake Forest gets caught off guard, what would have to go right for Army and their game plan and the way they play on Saturday?

SI: They have to start off strong, they have to get off to a good start. They have to have their defense make some plays in this game. And make some turnovers. The last time Army played at home, they played against Miami of Ohio, and they weren’t able to create the turnovers that they’re accustomed to. That kind of sets the tone for the offense when you know the defense can get off the field, create a turnover, get the offense on the field, that the offense take up a huge chunk of time, drive down the field and get touchdown drives. They only had two touchdown drives against Wisconsin on Saturday, and those were in the fourth quarter. So they need to start off strong. And Army’s defense has played really well to start the games. They haven’t allowed a point in the first quarter and five of the six games they played this year. So the only one that they did was when they played Ball State. So they usually get off to strong starts; they’re going to have to do that. And you’re going to have to establish the fullback. The fullback is their bread-and-butter and this offense. They didn’t really get the fullback going against Wisconsin. Wisconsin had a lot to do with that. They have a really good defense. So they really need to get the fullback going. And they need to keep the offense from obviously giving Wake Forest extra possessions. So the offense needs to play turnover-free.

EJ: I hear a need to create some turnovers for the defensive side. And one of the things that you can point to for Wake this year is they really have played a lot of turnover-free football. And when they have turned it over, they’ve responded really well to it. Has that been a point of emphasis this week as maybe a strength of that offense, or what’s been seen as the strength for the Deacons?

SI: Coach (Jeff) Monken talked a lot about Sam Hartman, his ability to kind of run the offense and make plays. I mean, he makes plays with his arm. So he really talked a lot about Hartman’s abilities. But he also said that they’re also an offense moves the football well. Army played one offense that moved the football well, consistently well, and that was Western Kentucky. And other than that, they really haven’t faced an offense that’s really going to challenge them. Wake Forest will challenge this defense. Army’s really good at stopping the run. So they can’t really lean on one of their strengths. They really have to play kind of a complete game on defense. They really have to lock in. This is a team, this is a defense that can do it. They were really good last year. They’re just as good this year. And if they can get Wake Forest into a passing situation, then that’s when Andre Carter (a 6-foot-7 linebacker) comes into effect. And if Andre Carter can get some pressure on Hartman, maybe have a forced throw here or there, the secondary can jump on that.

EJ: Clawson mentioned Nate Woody this week, calling him one of the best defensive coordinators that Wake Forest has since he came to Winston-Salem. Woody was the D.C. for App State in 2017 when the Deacons outlasted the Mountaineers, 20-17, in Boone. That was actually my first game with the Journal, funny enough. Tell me about what the Army version of Nate Woody’s defense looks like.

SI: If you ask him, he’ll tell you that he tries to keep it as simple as he can for a defense so they can just go out and play. So as far as schematically, what he does well is he moves the guys around, like an Andre Carter, and he also has situational guys that will come in and make plays. A guy like Nate Smith (an outside linebacker), he may not appear all over the stats. He may not be Army’s leading tackler, but he has come up with some big plays and some big sacks and some tackles for loss. ... They’re kind of a swarming defense, and they really are built around that nose tackle Nolan Cockrill. And that’s where Nate’s really found – he zeroed in on the strength of this defense and he really is letting them play.

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@ByEthanJoyce

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