ACC Notebook: Waking Up The Demon Deacons' Option Attack
Wake A Work In Progress
Wake Forest's final drive of the first half of its 24-10 loss to Boston College on Friday was a metaphor of sorts. With the ball on the 3-yard line, the Demon Deacons handed it off to Josh Harris on three of the four plays, including fourth down. The result: a turnover on downs and a deficit that remained at 10 points headed into half.
The sequence showed everything that has and may continue to hamper the Demon Deacons' chances at success: the desire to rush the ball without great execution.
Jim Grobe wants to utilize an option attack similar to the one employed in the days of Cory Randolph and Ben Mauk. A few pesky problems persist early in the season, especially in the loss to Boston College. The Demon Deacons don't have Chris Barclay in the backfield like those teams. Also, most importantly, it should be noted that those option attack teams from 2003-05 never had great success in terms of wins and losses. It wasn't until Grobe chose — or more accurately, was forced by Mauk's injury — to move away from the option-style offense that Wake Forest succeeded.
Nonetheless, the option attack is back, and based on early results it needs work.
They were able to move the ball on the ground in their opener, but that was against Presbyterian. Even in that effort no player broke the 40-yard mark. As soon as they faced ACC competition the rushing woes returned.
The Demon Deacons rushed the ball 39 times for 55 yards, below the team's average of 45 rushing attempts in 2012 and 15 fewer attempts than the week prior. Falling behind early also contributed to fewer rushing attempts, but the offense still didn't have the look of the drastically-different attack raved about in the offseason.
In addition, the 55 rushing yards against a Boston College team who gave up 197 a week earlier against FCS opponent Villanova isn't a good sign. The Eagles also finished last season with the second-worst rushing defense in the conference. The competition will get tougher for Price and company. So far one of Wake Forest's progressions is the number of failed option pitches resulting in turnovers, and that will have to change.
On The Hunt
Syracuse didn't get the memo. Almost every other ACC school facing a non-conference opponent this weekend earned a win (I will touch on Virginia later this week). Syracuse bucked the trend and fell to 0-2 on the season. Suddenly it appears all the depth the Orange have at quarterback may come in handy.
Drew Allen hasn't looked sharp. He collected six interceptions in the two losses, including a four-interception performance this weekend. I'm generally not big on giving quarterbacks the quick hook; however, it may be time for Terrel Hunt to see some action. Hunt doesn't have to be named the starter, just give him some action to further assess the quarterback situation before conference play.
Such drastic action isn't an overreaction in this case because the Orange don't have much time to right the sinking ship before ACC play. Teams like Clemson, the first conference opponent for Syracuse, will make them pay for those turnovers.
Connette Takes Over
The Blue Devils' first 2-0 start since 1998 came at a price. Anthony Boone broke his collar bone and will miss some action. With Boone gone, Saturday's hero Brandon Connette will become the starter.
Luckily for Duke, Connette showed he can be effective. Most of his action at the position has been in a running capacity, but he showed off his arm a bit in the 28-14 win over Memphis. The change won't affect the tempo or balance of the offense. Cutcliffe said he doesn't feel the need to change the playcalling to adjust. It will be noticeable that Connette is a bigger running threat than Boone.