WATCH: Layne Herdt and Tim Linafelt break down FSU’s game at Wake Forest
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Wake Forest will hardly be the first run-heavy team that Florida State has played this season.
Five of FSU’s first six opponents rank 65th nationally or better in rushing offense (including three in the top 28), and Wake, at 33rd, falls right in line.
The Seminoles (3-3, 2-2 ACC) will meet Wake Forest (5-1, 1-1) Saturday at 7:30 p.m. inside BB&T Field, and FSU head coach Willie Taggart knows just what to expect.
“They’re going to run the football,” Taggart said.
What separates the Demon Deacons, though, is the manner in which they run the ball.
Described by FSU head coach Willie Taggart as “unorthodox” and “unique,” Wake Forest’s running game is option-based, and typically sees the quarterback and the running back wait until the last possible moment to determine who will carry on any given play.
It looks unusual at first. But there’s no denying its effectiveness. The Demon Deacons run for nearly 210 yards per game.
💫 The Eternal Mesh Point pic.twitter.com/uxy9phqtpk
— Coach Dan Casey (@CoachDanCasey) September 25, 2019
Wake Forest can pass out of it, too – on run-pass option plays, the quarterback will hold the ball near the running back’s grasp while receivers take off down field. If defenders commit to the run, the quarterback will then pull the ball back and deliver a potentially devastating throw.
Wake Forest stays at the Mesh Point forever on RPO’s! pic.twitter.com/auzU6vQ79Y
— Coach Dan Casey (@CoachDanCasey) October 28, 2018
No wonder, then, that in a conference filled with high-powered offenses (notably the one in Clemson, S.C.), the Demon Deacons boast the ACC’s highest-scoring attack at 39.7 points per game.
They do it in a hurry, too. Wake Forest ranks first nationally with an average of 87.4 plays per game.
“You’ve got to be disciplined,” Taggart said. “If you get out of a gap, the running back’s going to crease you or the quarterback will take off and run.
“And then they do a good job of that with tempo and going fast. You get somebody out of a gap, if you’re not lined up, it can hurt you big time.”
FSU’s defenders echoed Taggart’s sentiments – that the Demon Deacons want to draw the Seminoles away from their assignments and take advantage of any players who can’t resist the urge to do so.
The Seminoles believe that if they simply maintain their discipline, and not fall for any of the tricks or misdirection coming their way, they’ll be OK.
Or they could subscribe to defensive tackle Marvin Wilson’s theory: That if the Seminoles’ front seven can dominate the line of scrimmage and stop those option plays before they have time to develop, the whole thing might fall apart anyway.
“We’ve got to get after their offensive linemen and knock things back,” Wilson said. “Make things real complicated for them to read. Attack guys on the perimeter. The back end will have to play very, very aggressive. We’ll have to play very, very smart and fast.”
How well the Seminoles do that could determine their track for the rest of the season.
They left No. 2 Clemson last week disappointed after a lopsided defeat, but they’ve also got a stretch of games Between now and a bye week that figure to be competitive, if not outright winnable.
After their visit to Wake, the Seminoles return home for games against Syracuse (3-3, 0-2 ACC) and Miami (3-3, 1-2), then close their conference slate at Boston College (3-3, 1-2) before hosting FCS Alabama State in their home finale on Nov. 16.
FSU would of course love to take a five-game winning streak into an open date on Nov. 23, and even more so into the trip to Gainesville, Fla., that follows.
The Seminoles haven’t won five straight games since 2016.
No, beating Wake Forest on Saturday won’t guarantee results in any of FSU’s remaining games. But it would set a fine course.
“It’s important for what we’re trying to get accomplished,” Taggart said. “We have a chance to go on the road, win an ACC game on the road again. It’s something we haven’t done this year.
“But again, for what we’re trying to finish and do as a program, it’s huge to go out here and get a win. That’s what we’re focusing on, playing really good football.”
Odds and ends …