After beating Prairie View, the Owls are in the midst of a three-game losing streak after falling to Houston, Hawaii, and Southern Miss. To break that streak Rice must win in Winston Salem. Not an easy task, but perhaps doable.
When Rice Has the Ball
By now the Owl’s m.o. fairly well established, run the football, stay ahead of the chains, use play action and intermediate routes to keep defenses audience. The Owls have to stay in the game from a scoring perspective, if not they don’t have the explosiveness and playmakers to score in bunches.
Shaw Stankavage is a relative revelation at quarterback considering the position last year. He’s already surpassed last year’s total for total passing touchdowns, and in just four games he’s within 350 yards of throwing for more yards than all Rice quarterbacks in 2017. He could stand to limit his turnovers, and if he can improve his completion percentage a few points, he’ll be in above average status.
The Rice rushing one-two punch is now pretty established. Emmanuel Esukpa is the thunder, Austin Walter is the lightning. Esukpa came out of the gate quickly, but Walter might be the more important of the two, he’s a home run threat on a team of singles hitters.
Austin Trammell and Aaron Cephus are credible threats outside. Trammell seems like the kind of receiver Bill Belichick would find a use for, undersized, athletic, and smart. Cephus is getting more usage with improved quarterback play. We’d like to see Jaeger Bull, Jordan Myers, and Giovanni Gentossi more involved in the passing game.
The Demon Deacons are in a bit of turmoil on defense after Head Coach Dave Clawson fired Jay Sawvel earlier this week. Clawson isn’t naming a successor, but he did promote analyst Tom Gilmore to outside linebacker coach. We’ll find out who’ll be calling defenses as the Owls do.
Sawvel became expendable due to Wake’s issues defending the pass. Whether Rice can take advantage of that is the question. Wake Forest wants to keep offensive playmakers in front of them and force teams to drive downfield to score. Sawvel’s unit couldn’t pull that off and gave up big plays to Notre Dame and Boston College.
In their last three games, including FCS Towsen, the Deacons are allowing opponents to complete 67% of their passes for 324 yards a game and ten touchdowns.
Defensive end Boogie Basham is active on the defensive front with nineteen total tackles three tackles for loss including two sacks. At 6-5, 270 pounds he’s going to be a handful for Rice’s offensive line. Defensive tackle Zeke Rodney is the most experienced on the front with 26 starts.
Corner Essang Bassey is the best cover man of the secondary with five pass breakups and leads the team with 29 tackles.
When Wake Forest Has the Ball
You’ll hear a lot about Sam Hartman, the second true freshman to open the season as starting quarterback in school history. He came out like a house on fire, throwing for 378 yards against Tulane. Since then he’s fluttered back to earth, but the Deacons are going to ride with their young quarterback.
His favorite target, by a wide stretch, is Greg Dortch, with 34 catches, almost twice as many as the next highest receiver. But the passing game isn’t Wake’s bread and butter.
The Deacons are a high volume offense; they lead the nation in plays per game at 93, three plays per minute, or one every 20 seconds. They get up and go, but they do so with a purpose, the Deacons run the ball 54 times a game. That’s fifth most in college football behind Air Force, Army, Navy, and Georgia Tech, all flexbone/option based teams.
Cade Carney, Matt Colburn, and Sam Hartman are the three-headed rushing monster for Wake. They’ve all carried over 55 times. Carney averages over five yards a carry.
For Rice, they’ll need to limit first down success and get Wake off schedule. That’ll be the challenge for both defenses.
Rice’s pass defense is among the worst in college football, allowing 327 yards per game, 3rd most in the FBS. They also serve as a cure-all for struggling quarterbacks allowing an average pass efficiency rating of 194.48.
In term of stopping the rush, the Owls rank 84th with almost six yards per carry. If that holds to form, Wake will hammer away to their heart’s desire.
Myles Adams moved into the starting role at defensive tackle three weeks ago at Hawaii. The junior from Mansfield, taking over for Elijah Garcia. Dylan Silcox battled illness earlier this week but is still listed at starting linebacker. Transfer linebacker Blaze Alldredge got his first start at USM in place of Martin Nwakamma. Nwakamma is expected back this week, but with the pace that Wake plays, they’ll put a strain on a banged up linebacker and defensive line group.