Assignments Crucial as Rebs Eye Upset

Wake Forest thrives on opponent miscues, so the Rebels need to be prepared mentally and physically Saturday at 2:30 p.m. Go inside for more.

It's methodical instead of mesmerizing. It's patient and also plentiful. And on Saturday, it will test every facet of the Ole Miss defense.

The Wake Forest offense, like the Rebels' past opponent in Memphis, is considered a spread attack, but the scheme doesn't center on pyrotechnics and downfield spectacles. For the Demon Deacons, precision is key.

Armed with one of the more underrated quarterbacks in college football in Riley Skinner and a team filled with veteran upperclassmen, No. 20 Wake – the only ranked team out of the ACC - has a knack for being frustratingly efficient while looking for any small crack in a defense's discipline. The Deacs (1-0) take what is available and are comfortable waiting for an opportunity to stretch the defense.

Ole Miss' mental game could be just as important as its physical one this weekend. The Rebels (1-0) have a mix of young and old, while every Wake offensive starter has been redshirted and nine of the 11 have been in college four years.

"They are one of the more disciplined teams you will ever see," Houston Nutt said. "They are extremely well-coached, and it will be imperative to limit mistakes. All assignments have to be taken care of, while also trying to knock them off their game."

"Wake has good receivers and running backs, but it is the quarterback that makes them go."

Skinner is coming off a stellar performance against Baylor, when the junior completed 27-of-36 passes for 220 yards and three scores to earn ACC Offensive Back of the Week honors. The 2006 ACC Rookie of the Year completed 12 of his first 13 passes, and it was the first time he has thrown for three TDs in a game.

But while Skinner is usually sharp, he is prone to mistakes when flustered. As a sophomore in 2007, Wake's QB encountered a rough stretch where he rushed throws and uncharacteristically made poor decisions. For the year, Skinner finished with 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

"It is a two-part process to stopping them through the air," Dustin Mouzon said. "We need excellent initial coverage off the line of scrimmage, and we have to do whatever it takes to pressure him. You can't let them sit back and have tons of time. And they look for any coverage lapses right after the snap as well."

Said linebacker Lamar Brumfield: "We have to take advantage of opportunities and stop them on third down."

The Rebel defense didn't register a sack in the season opener, but Wake will hold the ball longer than Memphis. A zero in the sack column this Saturday means trouble. Pressure and penetration is necessary to disrupt Skinner and also to limit success on the ground.

At full strength the Ole Miss defensive line would have a decisive advantage over the Deacon OL, and even with Peria Jerry limited and Greg Hardy still out, this battle can be a victory for the Rebs.

The most inexperienced group for Wake is in the trenches.

"We know we have to be better about getting in the backfield and pressuring after last week," Marcus Tillman said. "It is all about working hard and sticking with assignments. They use some misdirection so staying in gaps is important, but you have to get some tackles for loss.

"They don't use as much slide protection (as Memphis), and we are confident that our play will be improved."

Rushing had for a long time been Wake's strongsuit, but with Skinner leading the Deacs to an ACC title in 2006 and nine wins in 2007, more of an emphasis has been placed on passing. However, Josh Adams returns at running back a year after receiving ACC Rookie of the Year accolades, and Wake is excited about redshirt freshman Brandon Pendergrass.

Adams and Pendergrass, who rushed for 37 and 34 yards respectively against Baylor are the only two scholarship tailbacks on the Demon Deacons' roster, although 5-8, 160-pound walk-on C.J. Washington led Wake with 63 yards on the ground. But for Washington, that total came on just two carries, the final two plays of the game before Jim Grobe let the clock expire.

"They are a good team, but that just means more of a challenge for us," Mouzon said. "We know we can cover well, tackle well and make them one-dimensional.

"We know we can win."

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