2006 Football Game Preview: Virginia Tech at Wake Forest

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Saturday, November 18th, 2006, 7:00 pm


Forecast (from WeatherUnderground.com):

Click the “Winston-Salem Weather” link to the right.
Game time forecast, as of 4:00 pm Wednesday: Partly cloudy with no chance of
rain, temperature 44.

Click here for TechSideline.com’s VT/Wake Forest roster card

Game Preview: #19 VT (8-2, 4-2 ACC) at #14 Wake Forest (9-1, 5-1)

by Chris Coleman, TechSideline.com

Ever since Jim Grobe arrived in Winston-Salem, Wake Forest has been regarded
as one of the ACC’s most dangerous teams. Not that they were expected to win a
lot of games and challenge for the ACC title, but that they were the team that
could pull the upset on any given day, and maybe even knock a team out of bowl
eligibility, such as they did to NC State in 2004. But this year the Demon
Deacons are the team sitting at the top of the conference standings, and they
expect to beat Virginia Tech on Saturday night.

Wake Forest is sitting atop the Atlantic Division of the ACC, and they
control their own destiny. Even if the Demon Deacons lose to Virginia Tech on
Saturday, they will still play for the ACC Championship in Jacksonville if they
beat Maryland in the season finale.

But don’t think they’ll be looking ahead to the Terps. It’s not every
day that the Demon Deacons get a primetime, nationally televised football game.
They are going to come out fired up, and if they can beat a team with the
reputation of Virginia Tech, that’s just another thing they can point to when
looking back on this memorable season.

Wake Forest is 9-1 on the season, with their only loss coming to the Clemson
Tigers 27-17. The Demon Deacons were winning the game 17-3 in the fourth quarter
and were lining up for a field goal to make the score 20-3. But the holder
mishandled the snap, and Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams forced a fumble and
took it back for a touchdown that got the Tigers back into the game, a game they
would come back to win.

Other than that loss, the Demon Deacons are perfect. They are coming off
back-to-back impressive victories over Boston College (21-14) and Florida State
(30-0). However, they haven’t been dominant. They have won close games against
Syracuse (20-10), Duke (14-13), NC State (25-23) and UNC (24-17).

The Wake Forest Offense

Before the season started, I predicted in my preseason picks article that
Wake would finish third in the Atlantic Division behind Florida State and
Clemson. If you had told me that the Demon Deacons would lose their starting
quarterback and tailback for the season, and be forced to bench their
replacement running back because of fumbles, I would have quickly changed my
pick to something lower. That’s a lot of players to lose at key positions on

And it’s true, their offense has not been dominant. They rank near the
bottom of the league in many categories. Let’s take a look.

Forest Offense
Category Stat NCAA Rank

Rushing Offense
153.9 ypg 40

Passing Offense
140.7 ypg 108

Total Offense
294.6 ypg 101

Scoring Offense
23.6 ppg 62

The Demon Deacons are still one of the better ACC teams in rushing offense, but
overall, their offense hasn’t moved the ball very well this season. They rely
on a formula similar to Virginia Tech. They play defense and win the kicking

The Wake Forest offense is led by r-freshman quarterback Riley Skinner.
Skinner took over when starter Ben Mauk was lost for the season in the opener
against Syracuse. All Skinner has done is lead Wake to a 9-1 record in his first
season. He also leads the ACC in passing efficiency with a rating of 145.82.

Skinner doesn’t throw a lot, but he is accurate. He has completed
109-of-159 passes on the season, good for 68.6%. He has thrown for 1,259 yards,
with seven touchdowns and just three interceptions. Skinner does a good job of
running the Wake offense. He protects the ball, and he will beat opposing
defenses when he catches them napping.

The Wake Forest running game has struggled this year, at least in comparison
to past seasons. Micah Andrews was supposed to be the next great Demon Deacon
running back, but he was lost for the season in the third game of the year. Wake
has been using a number of running backs since then.

DeAngelo Bryant was the first, but he lost playing time due to fumbling
problems. Bryant has 294 yards on the year and is averaging 4.1 yards per carry.
Kevin Harris is the team’s leading rusher and starter until recently. He is
averaging 5.4 yards per carry and has 344 yards on the ground.

For the last two games, the Demon Deacons have moved starting wide receiver
Kenneth Moore to running back. Moore is still the team’s leading receiver,
with 26 catches for 253 yards. But he appears to be sticking at tailback, where
he has 50 carries for 231 yards and a touchdown.

Wake Forest will also use their wide receivers and fullback in the running
game. They use a lot of misdirection on running plays to the backs. They also
run a lot of reverses, and will even mix in a reverse pass every now and then.
Wide receivers Willie Idlette and Kevin Marion are particularly dangerous on
reverses and end arounds.

Wake’s offensive line hasn’t been as good as usual this year, partly
because of injuries. All-ACC tackle Steve Vallos had to be moved to left tackle
from right tackle because of injury problems. Vallos (6-3, 290) isn’t a
prototypical offensive tackle, but he is a very good lineman in Wake’s system.

Vallos was replaced at right tackle by r-freshman Jeff Griffin (6-3, 295),
who also doesn’t have the body of an offensive tackle. True sophomore Chris
DeGeare starts at right guard, and at 6-4, 360, he is by far Wake’s biggest
offensive lineman. The Wake offensive line won’t get much push on the Tech
front seven. Look for the Hokies to win this battle in the trenches.

Wake Forest has two efficient receivers in senior starters Nate Morton and
Willie Idlette. Morton has 23 catches for 410 yards and three touchdowns, while
Idlette has pulled in 20 catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns. Wake will
also use the tight ends in the passing game, as John Tereshinski and Zac Selmon
have combined for 20 catches on the season.

Morton is a player to watch out for on the reverse. He is a former
quarterback, and the Demon Deacons will use him on some trick plays. He threw a
touchdown pass to Riley Skinner on a reverse pass against Clemson. He has three
touchdown passes in his career.

The Tech defense matches up very well with the Wake Forest offense. The Demon
Deacons run a lot of running plays were the ball carrier runs parallel to the
line of scrimmage in the backfield. With Virginia Tech’s defensive speed and
discipline, that isn’t likely to work.

The main thing Bud Foster’s unit has to watch out for in this game is the
ever-efficient Riley Skinner. Wake will lull defenses to sleep with a lot of
different running plays, then go play action. If the Hokies stay disciplined,
Wake will have a very hard time moving the ball.

The Wake Forest Defense

The strength of Wake Forest’s team is their defense. They are more athletic
than people give them credit for, they tackle very well and they put pressure on
the quarterback. The Virginia Tech offense will face a serious challenge in this

The Wake Forest Defense
Category Stat NCAA Rank

Rushing Defense
92.7 ypg 14

Passing Defense
213.9 ypg 76

Total Defense
306.6 ypg 40

Scoring Defense
13.4 ppg 8

The Wake defense is very hard to run against. They aren’t the biggest team on
the defensive line, but they get off blocks as well as anybody. They only
average 268 pounds per starter, but they play very well.

The front four is led by defensive end Jyles Tucker. At 6-3, 268, he is Wake
Forest’s best pass rusher with six sacks on the season. A good athlete, he has
also deflected three passes at the line of scrimmage.

Wake has two tackle positions. The nose guards are the biggest players, and
we will see both Jamil Smith (6-2, 294) and Boo Robinson (6-2, 325) in the game
at nose guard. They concentrate on getting penetration in the middle of the
offensive line.

At defensive tackle, Wake Forest uses lighter, quicker players. Zach Stukes
is the starter at defensive tackle, and he measures in at just 6-2, 260. His
backup, John Russell, is 6-3, 250. But despite their size, they get off blocks
well and can make plays. Stukes has four tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks on the

The Demon Deacon linebacker are the strength of their defense. The headliner
and most hyped player is middle linebacker John Abbate, who has started since he
was a freshman. He has 75 tackles on the year with four tackles for loss. But
the r-junior might not be the best linebacker on Wake’s team.

Starting outside linebacker Aaron Curry, a redshirt sophomore, has a great
future in Winston-Salem. He started as a freshman last year, and has become Wake’s
big playmaker this year. He has 56 tackles, including 7.5 tackles for loss,
which leads the team. He also has three sacks. At 6-3, 240, he looks the part,
and he can run.

The other starting linebacker is r-sophomore Stanley Arnoux. A r-sophomore as
well, he has 47 tackles and four tackles for loss this year. With two sophomores
and a junior making up an already very good linebacking corps, Wake looks set at
this position for the next couple of years.

Wake Forest has some good players in the secondary, though you probably
wouldn’t know it from where their pass defense ranks. They have the most
experienced safeties in the country in Josh Gattis (6-1, 212) and Patrick Ghee
(6-1, 211). They are both big, physical, and they know where they need to be on
the field.

Wake’s cornerbacks are very aggressive. They tackle very well. The most
aggressive cornerback is Alphonso Smith, a r-sophomore who has 5.5 tackles for
loss on the year to go along with two sacks. He loves to come up and make some
contact in the running game.

R-sophomore Kevin Patterson and r-senior Riley Swanson are the other corners
that will see significant action. Swanson has two interceptions on the year and
has broken up eight passes. Wake’s corners aren’t big, ranging from 5-9 to
5-11, and none weigh more than 188. Tech’s bigger receivers, Justin Harper and
Josh Morgan, could have success against them.

In fact, all of Tech’s receivers could have success. The Wake corners are
very aggressive, which makes them susceptible to double moves by the Tech speed
receivers. Alphonso Smith is very aggressive against the run, so if the Hokies
can catch him in single coverage, they have the option to go after him with the
playaction pass.

The Hokies can have success in the passing game against Wake if they can
protect Sean Glennon and give him time to throw. The Demon Deacons average 2.7
sacks per game, which ranks 20th in the nation. Unfortunately the Hokies are
84th nationally in sacks allowed. But if they can manage to give Glennon a
pocket and some time, he can have success against the Wake defensive backs.

Special Teams

The kings of special teams in the ACC will play in Winston-Salem on Saturday
night, and they are not the Hokies. Wake Forest has arguably the best all-around
special teams units in the country.

Sam Swank is Wake’s placekicker, and he is deadly from long range. He is
15-of-21 on the year, including 5-of-7 from beyond 50 yards. In fact, he’s
better from extreme range than intermediate range. He is just 2-of-4 from 30-39
yards and 3-of-5 from 40-49.

Swank also handles Wake’s punting duties. He is averaging 42 yards per
punt, with a long of 86. As you can see, Swank has an NFL leg. Wake Forest is
eighth in the nation in net punting, a big advantage over the Hokies, who rank

The Demon Deacons also have solid return teams. They average 12.15 yards on
punt returns, good for 26th nationally. They are 49th in kickoff returns with an
average of 21.05 yards.


Wake Forest is averaging about 12 yards less than their opponents this
season. They don’t pass for very many yards. They don’t have much size on
the defensive line. Their offensive line isn’t especially great. They are
starting a r-freshman quarterback. They aren’t even averaging 300 yards per
game on offense. So how are they 9-1 and challenging for the ACC Championship?
Because they don’t beat themselves.

Wake Forest is 10th in the nation in turnover margin. Riley Skinner has
thrown just three interceptions on the season, a remarkable number for a
r-freshman. They also manage to win the field position game. And while they don’t
have a big passing offense, they take advantage of opportunities and are very
efficient. They are also the best red zone offense in the ACC, scoring on 25 of
their 27 trips inside the 20 yard line.

Just about every team that beats the Hokies beats them at their own game.
They win the special teams battle and the turnover battle. Wake Forest has the
exact ingredients to do just that.

That said, the Hokies do have more talent, team speed and better athletes
than Wake Forest. Of course, a lot of teams that have lost to Jim Grobe’s
squad during his tenure have said the same thing, including Florida State, who
got drubbed 30-0 by the Deacons last weekend.

What I like about the Hokies is their defensive discipline. Bud Foster is the
best defensive coordinator in America, and misdirection offenses like the one
Wake Forest runs just don’t work very well against his defenses. The Hokies
are too fast and too well-coached. Wake is going to have a very hard time moving
the chains on Saturday night.

I think the Hokies will shut down Wake’s offense, and they’ll manage to
generate just enough points through big plays in the passing game to come out of
Winston-Salem with a victory.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 13, Wake Forest 9

Will Stewart’s Take: Wake Forest has spent the last two weeks surprising
people, including me, with victories over Boston College at home and Florida
State on the road. The magnitude of Wake’s road win over FSU is stunning, and it
drives home the point that in this topsy-turvy ACC season, anything goes.
Including a Wake victory over Virginia Tech.

This one shapes up to be a defensive battle, with a couple of plays on
offense or special teams deciding the game. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist
to figure that one out. I’m going to go with the Hokies, but it wouldn’t
surprise me in the least to see Virginia Tech come out of Winston-Salem with the
L, and not the W.

Having said that, Tech can win this one the way they won the 2004 game, with
disciplined defense and an opportunistic offense. That’s what I’m going with,
and I’ll even pick the same score that the Bryan Randall-led 2004 Hokies put up
against Wake.

Will’s Prediction: Virginia Tech 17, Wake Forest 10

2006 TSL Football Game Predictions
(Through Kent State; Closest Prediction Highlighted)


(3 wins)
(3 wins)
(5 wins)


N’Eastern 65-0 63-7 49-3 38-0
UNC 23-10 27-10 24-9 35-10
Duke 34-0 30-3 37-0 36-0
Cincinnati 34-6 31-3 38-3 29-13
GT 13-16 10-17 24-9 27-38
BC 30-17 27-20 20-17 3-22
S. Miss 24-6 23-10 27-6 36-6
Clemson 16-24 10-30 22-21 24-7
Miami 17-13 16-14 20-17 17-10
Kent State 38-0 31-3 44-7 23-0

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