The Virginia Tech Hokies (5-3, 2-2) return to action on Saturday afternoon as they host the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (7-1, 3-1) in ACC play. The Hokies are coming off a gut-wrenching one-point loss at Notre Dame, in which Tech allowed the game-winning touchdown with just under 30 seconds remaining. The Deacs are coming off a 44-10 blowout win over N.C. State in Winston-Salem.
This is going to be a major test for Virginia Tech. The Demon Deacons are probably the best team the Hokies have faced to this point. Yes, that includes Notre Dame. Wake is a bit of a secret for a multitude of reasons. One, they play in the Atlantic Division, which is dominated by Clemson. Secondly, they aren’t a traditional power in football and stay under the radar.
Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente and defensive coordinator Bud Foster certainly know what they are up against, per Mike Niziolek of The Roanoke Times.
They are operating at a high, high speed, they are really pushing the tempo every single down, every single play. I did not look up how many plays they are averaging a game, but it’s a lot, watching the film. You combine that with the formations and the unbalance and the quads and all that sort of stuff, it can make it difficult for you communication-wise, getting lined up and having a chance to be sound against both the run and the pass.
Foster echoed similar sentiments.
You’ve got a group that’s very experienced, playing with a lot of confidence and a lot of talent. So it concerns me a lot of things. We have to be able to stop the run but their passing game concerns me because they do it so well and they’ve got such big targets and their very explosive in a lot of things that they do.
The coaches are correct. This Wake Forest team is potent on offense and it all begins with quarterback Jamie Newman. A 6’4”, 230-pound redshirt junior, Newman is quite possibly the most unheralded player in all of college football. He could potentially be a first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Newman does everything well. He has a strong arm, extremely accurate and is a threat on the ground, too. With all of the RPO stuff, Newman is the ideal signal-caller fir that type of offense. It is the kind of production the Hokies hope they get from Hendon Hooker and Quincy Patterson over the next few years.
On the year, Newman has completed 67 percent of his passes for 2,059 yards, 20 touchdowns and just five interceptions. He has also rushed for 305 yards and another score. He is first in the ACC in both completion percentage and passing yards per contest.
This is the finest display of high-level QBing I’ve seen from a college (draft-eligible) passer so far this season.— Chris Trapasso (@ChrisTrapasso) November 7, 2019
Pocket patience. Progression reading. Arm strength. Accuracy. Awesome stuff from Wake Forest’s Jamie Newman. pic.twitter.com/mZ73pL2eeL
And it’s not like this is a one-man show. The Demon Deacons also have a solid backfield in Cade Carney and freshman Kenneth Walker. Walker and Carney are tied for the team lead with 383 rushing yards apiece. Walker is more efficient, averaging over seven yards per attempt, while Carney churns out the tough yardage. Walker has a 96-yard touchdown run this season and the two have combined for six rushing scores.
It doesn’t end there for the Deacs. They boast the ACC’s leading receiver in 6’3” sophomore Sage Surratt. He has caught 62 passes for 948 yards and nine touchdowns. He is a true No. 1 receiver and Caleb Farley should see plenty of him. Scotty Washington has 35 receptions for 607 yards and seven scores and is WF’s big-play threat. Kendall Hinton is second on the team with 43 receptions and has 497 yards. Tight end Jake Freudenthal, from Richmond, has 22 receptions and four scores.
It’s important to note that the Hokies will be without starting corner Jermaine Waller for the first half. As you may remember, Waller was called for a targeting penalty in last week’s loss at Notre Dame. That means Armani Chatman will be thrown into the fire. Chatman handled himself well in recent weeks and should have been awarded an interception last week but it was nullified due to a bogus penalty on Eli Adams.
Virginia Tech CB Jermaine Waller has been ejected for Targeting. pic.twitter.com/qz7a1b7TKv— NCAAF Nation (@NCAAFNation247) November 2, 2019
Virginia Tech quarterback Hendon Hooker should be ready to go this week. Fuente was more open about his availability this week and really appeared torn on whether or not to play him last week. Fuente noted if Hooker had more experience under his belt he probably would’ve played despite the lack of practice time. I do expect we’ll see packages for Quincy Patterson, too.
The Hokies should also be healthy at the other skill positions. Both Tre Turner and Damon Hazelton will be on the field. Freshman running back Keshawn King is also on track to return. While Deshawn McClease has played well, getting King back should give this unit a boost.
Defensively, Wake Forest is led by junior defensive end Carlos Basham, Jr. If that name sounds familiar, it is because the 6’5”, 275-pound junior defensive end is from nearby Northside High School. Basham leads the Demon Deacons with six sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss.
Senior cornerback Amari Henderson leads Wake with four interceptions, while senior linebacker Justin Strnad paces the Deacs with 69 tackles, including 5.5 for loss and two sacks. All three players could be All-ACC performers this season.
Another defender to watch is sophomore defensive end JaCorey Johns. The 6’4”, 245-pounder is an athletic pass-rusher who has accounted for seven TFLs this season.
The key matchups in this game will be Newman against Tech’s secondary. The Hokies haven’t been very good against the pass and it becomes even more difficult against an opponent like Wake with Waller down for the first 30 minutes. Foster needs to call another great game in order to mix things up and get Newman uncomfortable.
On offense, Tech’s young offensive line must continue to mature as a unit. Luke Tenuta has played well at right tackle and he should get the call again this weekend. That means three freshmen and two sophomores will man VT’s offensive line. Having Hooker back, along with Patterson mixed in, should help Tech get the ground game going. With a potent offense on the other side, having a strong running game is a major key to victory for the Hokies.
So, who wins? We’ll have our predictions out early Saturday morning.
As for this game, it kicks off at 3:30 pm on the ACC Network. The school has advised fans to be in their seat by 3 pm as it plans to honor Foster and no one wants to miss that. Be loud, Hokies. Show your respect for Coach Foster.