Meet the Deacons of Wake Forest (again)

In the regular season write-up, I noted that Wake Forest Quarterback Riley Skinner (#11) had attempted 131 consecutive passes without an interception. He went on to throw 4 that week. Skinner (6-1, 205lb, R-Jr.) only threw 3 interceptions the rest of the season. He finished the regular season 221 of 352 passing for 2,181 yards with 12 touchdowns and the 7 aforementioned interceptions.

Location: Winston-Salem, NC
Colors: Old Gold & Black
Former Demon Deacons: Brian Piccolo - Running Back - Chicago Bears (1966-1969), Ovie Mughelli - Fullback - Baltimore Ravens (2003-2006); Atlanta Falcons (2007-present), Desmond Clark - Tight End - Denver Broncos (1999-2001); Miami Dolphins (2002); Chicago Bears (2003-present), Calvin Pace - Defensive End - Arizona Cardinals (2003-2007); New York Jets (2008-present), Fred Robbins - Defensive Tackle - Minnesota Vikings (2000-2003); New York Giants (2004-present), Ricky Proehl - Wide Receiver - Arizona Cardinals (1990-1994); Seattle Seahawks (1995-1996); Chicago Bears (1997); St. Louis Rams (1997-2002); Carolina Panthers (2003-2005); Indianapolis Colts (2006), Norm Snead - Quarterback - Washington Redskins (1961-1963); Philadelphia Eagles (1964-1970); Minnesota Vikings (1971); New York Giants (1972-1974); San Francisco 49ers (1974-1975); New York Giants (1976), Michael McCrary - Defensive End - Seattle Seahawks (1993-1996); Baltimore Ravens (1997-2002) (non-football) Tim Duncan (Basketball), Arnold Palmer (Golf)
Fast Fact:  Saturday will mark the fifth time is school history that Navy has played a team twice in the same season.  The Midshipmen played St. John's College twice in 1886, 1887, 1888, and most recently in 1907.
Fast Fact 2:  If the schedule does not change, these two programs will meet 3 times in 13 months.

Things have certainly changed for the Demon Deacons since they awoke the morning of September 27th.  They were 3-0, ranked 15th in the Coaches poll and 16th by the AP, and were coming off a 12-3 win in Tallahassee over ACC heavyweight Florida State.  But Coach Grobe's club had their season turn on the 6 turnover performance against Navy which led to a 24-17 loss.  After that game Wake Forest went 4-4 to finish the regular season 7-5, 4-4 in the ACC.

Coaching
A fact that I failed to mention in the preview for the first meeting this season was the connection between Wake Forest and the Air Force Academy.  Coach Grobe was an assistant at Air Force for 11 years.  He has fostered that connection within his staff as well.  Wake Forest currently has three Air Force Academy graduates on its coaching staff.  Offensive Coordinator Steed Lobotzke graduated in 1992, tight ends/fullbacks coach Steve Russ in 1994 and wide receivers coach Brian Knorr in 1986.  This is the largest collection of Air Force graduates on a Division I-A coaching staff at any program other than at Air Force itself.

Offense
In the regular season write-up, I noted that Wake Forest Quarterback Riley Skinner (#11) had attempted 131 consecutive passes without an interception.  He went on to throw 4 that week.  Skinner (6-1, 205lb, R-Jr.) only threw 3 interceptions the rest of the season.  He finished the regular season 221 of 352 passing for 2,181 yards with 12 touchdowns and the 7 aforementioned interceptions.  Skinner's back-up is still Brett Hodges (#6). Hodges (6-1, 197lb, R-Jr.) attempted two passes this season, both at Maryland, completing one for 19 yards.

The running game has been a major disappointment this season for the Demon Deacons.  Brandon Pendergrass (#22) leads the team with 528 yards and 5 touchdowns on 150 carries.  Pendergrass (5-9, 200lb, R-Fr.) had a breakout day against Virginia.  He finished with 27 carries for 110 yards and a touchdown.  Josh Adams (#27), the 2007 ACC Rookie of the Year, is now regulated to a backup role.  Adams (6-0, 182lb, R-So.) missed two games due to injury and finished with 389 yards on 115 carries with a pair of touchdowns.  Last season, Adams set Wake Forest records for most rushing yards (953), rushing attempts (219), receptions (34), rushing touchdowns (11) and total touchdowns (12) by a redshirt freshman.  Starting fullback Mike Rinfrette (#44) was a fullback in 2006, converted to linebacker during 2007 spring practice, and returned to fullback this spring.  Rinfrette (6-3, 265lb, R-Jr.) has 22 carries for 52 yards and a touchdown and 8 receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown on the season.

Entering the season lack of experience at wide receiver was a concern for Wake Forest.  D.J. Boldin (#4) has relieved that anxiety.  Boldin (6-0, 220lb, R-Sr.) has 77 receptions for 782 yards and 3 touchdowns on the year.  His older brother, Anquan Boldin, who plays wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals, must be proud.  Marshall Williams (#8) finished second on the team with 25 catches for 383 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Williams (6-1 193 R-So.) only has 2 starts on the season, but has proven to be a big play threat, averaging a team high 15.3 yards per reception.  Chip Brinkman (#88) has started every game this season.  Brinkman (6-1, 195lb, R-Sr.) finished the regular season with 20 catches for 200 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Tight end Ben Wooster (#85) is third on the team with 23 catches for 203 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Wooster (6-5 235 R-Jr.) is also a deep threat.  He had a 43 yard touchdown reception in the season opener verses Baylor.

The current Demon Deacons offensive line is very different from the one that faced the Midshipmen in September.  Joe Birdsong (#76) is the only player starting in the same position.  Birdsong (6-4, 290lb, R-Jr.) has started every game this season at left tackle.  Jeff Griffin (#64) started the first 11 games at right tackle.  Griffin (6-3, 292lb, R-Jr.) has moved to right guard in place of the injured Barrett McMillin (#61) (6-3, 285lb, R-Jr.).  Doug Weaver (#62) is now the starting right tackle.  Weaver (6-8, 290lb, R-Fr.) made his first career start against Vanderbilt.  Russell Nenon (#72) was recruited as a center.  Nenon (6-4, 285lb, R-So.) started the first 6 games of this season at left guard, but has moved to center in replace of the injured Trey Bailey (#67) (6-2, 290lb, R-Jr.).  Given his proclivity for redshirting, it is somewhat supervising Coach Grobe has turned the left guard position to Joe Looney (#78).  Looney (6-3, 295lb, Fr.) did enroll early in order to participate in spring practice, but he is still a true freshman.

Defense
The Wake Forest defensive line is lead by 6th year senior defensive end Matt Robinson (#42).  Robinson (6-2, 248lb, Grad.) was granted a 6th year of eligibility by the NCAA due to the fact that a broken kneecap suffered in the 2005 season finale caused him to miss the entire 2006 season.  The injury required him to undergo three surgeries in order to return.  Robinson is tied for the team with 4 sacks.  The other end position is manned by Kyle Wilber (#97).  Wilber (6-5, 230lb, R-Fr.) took over the starting role in week 7.  He finished the regular season with 37 tackles, 3 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss.  Nose guard Boo Robinson (#96) leads the line with 42 tackles on the season.  Robinson (6-2, 325lb, R-Jr.) is an accomplished run stopper with 104 career tackles including 15 tackles for loss.  Defensive tackle John Russell (#51) has been struggling with a shoulder injury all season, but has started all 12 games.  Randolph (6-4, 278lb, R-Jr.) finished the regular season with 35 tackles, 7 tackles for loss and tied for team high with 4 sacks.

Strong side backer Aaron Curry (#59) won the 2008 Butkus Award as the nation's best linebacker.  Curry (6-3, 247lb, R-Sr.) leads the team with 101 tackles and 15 tackles for loss.  He added 2.5 sacks, 3 pass breakups, 3 fumble recoveries, a forced fumble and an interception.  Middle linebacker Stanley Arnoux (#43) has made 41 career starts.  Arnoux (6-1, 240lb, R-Sr.) is second on the team with 82 tackles.  He has started 28 consecutive games in the middle of the Demon Deacons defense.  Chantz McClinic (#39) is on a streak of 20 straight starts.  McClinic (5-11, 225lb, R-Sr.) has 46 tackles on the season.

All Star cornerback Alphonso Smith (#2) and strong safety Kevin Patterson (#10) have started all 12 games this season.  Smith (5-9, 190lb, R-Sr.) has 20 career interceptions and is one of five finalists for the Bronko Nagurski Award, which is given annually to the nation's top defensive player by the Charlotte Touchdown Club.  Patterson (5-10, 191lb, R-Sr.) is fourth on the team with 51 tackles and second with 4 interceptions.  Chip Vaughn (#9) has started the past 11 games at free safety.  Vaughn (6-2, 215lb, R-Sr.) has recorded 79 tackles and 2 interceptions.  Cornerback Brandon Ghee (#17) has played very well opposite Smith.  Ghee (6-0, 191lb, R-Jr.) missed 2 games with a foot injury, but has returned to start the final 4 games.

Special Teams
Sam Swank (#38) is one of the best kickers in college football, but has struggled with injuries this season.  Swank (6-2, 201lb, R-Sr.) missed 6 games but returned for the final two.  He is 1 of 3 on field goal attempts since his return.  Swank also served as the Deacons' punter, but since his injury Shane Popham (#14) has taken those duties off his plate.  Popham (5-11, 192lb, R-Fr.) has 50 punts on the season for a 39.1 yard average.

Superstar corner Alphonso Smith is Wake Forest's primary punt return man.  Smith has 21 punt returns for a 5.1 yard average.  Reserve wide receiver Devon Brown (#3) and reserve running back C.J. Washington (#14) also return kicks.  Brown (5-9, 185lb, R-Fr.) has returned 14 kickoffs this season for a 21.9 yard average while Washington (5-8, 160lb, R-Fr.) has 8 returns for a 12.9 yard average.

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