What if I told you that Wake Forest could have its two best open-field threats on the field at the same time?
Is that something that might interest you? Or, more importantly, that question should be posed to offensive coordinator Warren Ruggiero.
I’ve finally gotten around to re-watching Saturday’s game. Sorry for the delay in posting this, but Sunday turned into a busier day than expected for reasons I’m sure you can decipher.
Now that I have, indeed, watched the game again, there are a ton of things that stand out. Some of them are confirmed, some of them are more revelatory. And some of them, like seeing that the ball should be thrown to Greg Dortch every time a team chooses to play soft man coverage on him on third down, are downright obvious.
What wasn’t obvious to me, though, until re-watching is that Kendall Hinton is ready to supply game-breaking plays as a slot receiver.
His first snap, he has two steps of separation on a run-pass option and nobody in front of him. Sam Hartman threw the ball behind him, but he still should’ve caught it for a big gain. If Hartman delivers it in the right place, it’s a touchdown. If Hinton catches it where it’s thrown anyway, it’s a 20-yard gain in a moment — Notre Dame had just gone ahead 28-13 — that the Deacons really needed a big play.
When Hinton did get his hands on the ball, he flashed that he still has the same elusiveness and acceleration that made him such a valuable dual-threat quarterback. It’s enticing to think about having Dortch on side of the formation, Hinton on the other, and running them across the middle.
Ruggiero and Coach Dave Clawson were planning on using Dortch and Tabari Hines together in certain packages before Hines transferred to Oregon. That was in the spring, and the plans were effectively scrapped because backup slot receiver Jaquarii Roberson doesn’t provide the same game-breaking abilities that a Dortch-Hines combination would have.
Well, now that Hinton is a receiver — he said so himself: “Right now I’ve been practicing at the slot. … As for now, I’m a wide receiver” — it’s time to revisit those pre-spring plans.
Here are the other things that stood out to me in the 56-27 loss to Notre Dame:
• Ja’Cquez Williams started at rover.
• The first series by the defense was really good: great discipline on a fake handoff, fake reverse, and then a good rush on third-and-12 by Boogie Basham.
• The early screen to Dortch on the second play was a good idea, but the Notre Dame defense wasn’t fooled by offensive line’s misdirection.
• On a five-man rush on Wake Forest’s first third down, Patrick Osterhage gets beaten to the outside when he had center Ryan Anderson as help to the inside.
• Willie Yarbary and Zeek Rodney were running a lot early, which is really going to matter later.
• Justin Strnad made a great, instinctual play for a pass breakup on third-and-8. And then on 4th-and-8 there was a three-man rush doing nothing, and Book still broke the pocket. He did the Deacons a favor there.
• Running third-down outs to Dortch on every third down until they stop it wouldn’t be a terrible game plan.
• Hartman gets drilled by four guys, and he’s barely able to sling it out of bounds. Then, after two Cade Carney runs, two designed QB runs, neither worked. Not doing your 190-pound quarterback any favors.
• Nick Sciba — I mean, there’s no excuse to not know the field goal unit is on the field. But shouldn’t have taken a timeout, he had time to get lined up.
• If Nasir Greer is going to make plays like the forced fumble, get him on the field. Ryan Smenda Jr. and Ja’Sir Taylor were tracking the play, while Greer just went and made it.
• Hartman gang-tackled, and hard, again.
• Third-and-9 throw to Dortch in the end zone, Hartman needed to step into throw, not throw a fadeaway. And he had room to step up.
• The drive that the floodgates open, Yarbary and Rodney blow up first play. And then a great play by Essang Bassey on second down.
• Quick-out on third down was a little bit of a back-breaker, first of three straight to tight end Alize Mack. On the third one, safety Luke Masterson blitzed and had no chance to get there.
• With 3:06 left in first quarter, top of the student section is already empty. At about 50 percent after Matt Colburn II’s touchdown run, which made it 21-13 with 6:26 left in second quarter. Before Wake Forest’s drive at 5:24 left in second quarter started, at about 35 percent.
• Hey, finally, there’s a Dortch sweep. It got six yards.
• Time and situation. There’s no need, with a third-and-3, to rush and run a play before the end of the first quarter.
• ABC color commenter Todd Blackledge said: “Need to score touchdowns to beat Notre Dame.” Prophetic, but not breaking any news.
• Carney with another special teams tackle. When’s the last time a Power 5 team, if ever, has had a player lead it in rushing and in special teams tackles?
• Blitzes from Wake Forest’s safeties and corners are delayed, and delayed, and delayed.
• Strnad on a slot receiver isn’t a good matchup. But especially isn’t against a player like Chris Finke.
• Wake Forest’s defensive line has zero depth, hands are already on hips and it’s barely the second quarter.
• Smenda and DJ Taylor both bit on fourth down play action — one of those guys had to be assigned to the tight end who caught the touchdown.
• The three-and-out after Notre Dame goes up 14-6, with Hartman making bad read on first down and taking sack on third down, was less than ideal.
• Horrible hang time on the punt that got returned to Wake Forest’s 4-yard line.
• Every time Hartman gets hit, it seems like it’s by at least two Notre Dame defenders.
• Jake Benzinger had a day worth forgetting. Got destroyed on roughing the passer, and got beat on sack that ended last drive. Much later, though, he paved the way for Jamie Newman’s 15-yard touchdown run (along with Loic Ngassam Nya).
• On the third-and-3 screen that broke loose for a 66-yard catch-and-run, defensive end Chris Calhoun hustled to get to outside, but doesn’t make play. Strnad crashes, should’ve audibled. Masterson with a lot of pre-snap communication.
• Holly Rowe reported that it was between 128-136 degrees on playing surface
• Blackledge says of Hartman, “he’s been hit more in this first half than he has the entire season to this point.” Well, that’s not really true, but the point remains.
• Bassey is a really good cornerback, and probably the best open-field tackler on the team other than Cameron Glenn.
• Before the last drive of first half got rolling, Hartman was 7-for-16 for 45 yards. Three of those were one-on-one, third-down throws to Greg Dortch for 32 yards.
• Steven Claude could provide further depth at outside receiver if he’s good for one or two plays a game, like the 15-yard come backer on third down.
• Horrible miscommunication, somebody wrong between Scotty Washington or Dortch, but nice play by Washington. He and Hartman have to just force themselves to develop chemistry.
• Clang. And the end of the first half.
• At the start of the second half, there might be 50 people in the three student sections. Might have been 20 people left with 6:30 left.
• ABC graphic: Yards after the catch, 134 for Notre Dame, 35 for Wake Forest. Man, 134 seems like a massive amount.
• Alex Bachman was really fired up to get a ball thrown his way that wasn’t 40 yards downfield and off target (as was the case the only two times he was targeted in the first half).
• Hartman was 2-for-11 on first-down passing. That can’t happen — though to his credit, a few of those weren’t entirely on him.
• On the 30-yard pass to Tony Jones Jr., both linebackers went with the tight end, leaving Jones wide open out of the backfield.
• Twice, Dortch caught a kickoff inside the 5 that seemed to have good hang time — just trying to make plays or instructed to do so? Players can fair-catch those and get the ball at the 25.
• Hartman took a beating — he might have been cramping up, but that certainly wasn’t the only thing wrong with him when he exited the game.
• Traveon Redd saved a huge punt return on the outside.
• The interception by Newman was under-thrown to Dortch, or he didn’t see the cornerback in zone underneath.
• Newman running keepers up the middle is a lot better than Hartman. It feels like Newman gets an extra 2-3 yards after initial contact every time.
• Phil Haynes went down, and if he misses time, that’s a serious issue for this offense. He missed one game last year, too.
• Masterson did some good things, mixed with some not so good things in his first game of the season. Two plays after I wrote that, he hit Finke at the line of scrimmage on a drag, didn’t wrap, and Finke bounced off, got to 1-yard line to set up a touchdown.
• “It won’t always be this easy for Ian Book.” — I can’t remember, but pretty sure they could’ve said last week about Anthony Brown (and it might’ve helped Brown going into the Purdue game).