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Wake, Virginia looking for signs of improvement

Wake, Virginia looking for signs of improvement

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Taylor Morin

Morin

WINSTON-SALEM — Virginia will be looking to put a poor performance in the rearview mirror when it plays at Wake Forest today. The Demon Deacons are happy to have a chance to play again.

The Cavaliers (1-2, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) turned the ball over four times, had a punt blocked and an interception returned for a touchdown in a 38-21 home loss to North Carolina State last weekend. They also may be without quarterback Brennan Armstrong, who is in the concussion protocol after taking a hard hit to the head in the game.

For Virginia, one problem seems obvious, the answer clear. They have allowed at least 10 points before scoring in each game, have a 34-0 deficit in the first quarter and were down 24-0 against the Wolfpack before they began mounting a rally.

“It’s just the urgency that we need to come out with that we’ve been playing with in the second and fourth quarters,” linebacker Zane Zandier said. “... Urgency, mindset, coming out, especially in the first quarter since we’ve been struggling a lot. We should be able to come out and start firing right away.”

The Demon Deacons (1-2, 0-2) hope to do the same in only their second game, and first ACC contest, in four weeks. Since losing 45-42 at N.C. State on Sept. 19, they had a game against Notre Dame postponed because the Fighting Irish had COVID-19 issues, moved up their nonconference game against Campbell from Oct. 9 to Oct 2, and then had another weekend off last weekend. Their game against Notre Dame will now be played Dec. 12.

The light game load has allowed Wake Forest to get younger players more experience, and some early season nicks to heal.

“We’ve been able to focus on ourselves in the bye week, try to reflect on our first three games, try to grow, try to become an ascending football team,” wide receiver Taylor Morin said.

With two of their last three weekends off, and a 66-14 victory over Campbell in the middle, Wake Forest comes into the game with the same 0-2 mark against common opponents — No. 1 Clemson and N.C. State — and determined to avoid the same tendencies that have plagued Virginia so far.

“We can’t beat ourselves," Morin said. “We’ve got to eliminate turnovers, do our job and really just play sound football because if we give them opportunities, they’re gonna take ’em, and we don’t want to get behind against a team like that.”

Some other things to watch when Virginia plays at Clemson:

WHO IS THE QB?

Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall expected to learn late in the week if Armstrong would be able to play, but said if not, he’ll go with Lindell Stone again. Stone, who had been working mostly to help the Virginia defense in practice, threw 53 times against N.C. State, completing 30 with three TDs and one interception.

PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE

Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson gave his team a few days off during their bye week last week, and one day gave the veterans the day off to work with younger players exclusively. The Demon Deacons have nine new starters on offense, and logically, nine more new backups behind them.

“Sometimes the difference between an average player and a good player is 5,000 reps,” he said.

KICKING GAME

The Virginia-Wake Forest series has featured many close games of late, which could make the kicking game key. Virginia’s Brian Delaney has converted 15 consecutive field goal tries, while Wake Forest’s Nick Sciba has missed three of six, including from 28 and 31 yards.

CASHING IN TURNOVERS

The Demon Deacons have only turned the ball over once, are one of just four schools that have yet to throw and interception and have converted five of their six takeaways into touchdowns. Virginia has turned it over nine times and taken it away eight, but has converted those takeaways into just three touchdowns.

WAKE ROLLING

Virginia leads the all-time series 34-15, but has lost its last three meetings, matching its longest losing streak in the series. Mendenhall and Clawson have gone head to head once, in 2016. The Cavaliers held Wake Forest to just 83 passing yards, but Clawson and the Demon Deacons prevailed, 27-20, at home.

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