The Wake Forest offense came into Saturday’s game against Syracuse as the nation’s worst offense by nearly every measurable statistic. The Orange defense has been strong all season, and took advantage of Wake’s woes in their 30-7 win on Saturday.
The Demon Deacons second drive of the game went 91-yards to give them an early 7-0 lead. Other than that drive, they only mustered 79-yards of total offense. That was, in large part, due to a Syracuse defense that was flying around the field, putting pressure on the opposing quarterback, and shutting down running lanes throughout Saturday’s contest.
Stuffing interior run plays are not sexy, but Syracuse was able to do that routinely. It was a big factor in the success of the Orange defense. Wake’s leading rusher, Dezmond Wortham, picked up only 57-yards on 19 carries. Isaiah Robinson, Wortham’s backup, had only six yards on as many carries.
In total, Wake picked up only 71-yards on 36 attempts. Syracuse did a nice job of mixing up base defense with bringing pressure. When they blitzed, they got into the backfield at will, often having unblocked men to take down ball carriers or put pressure on the quarterback. Eric Crume, who was questionable coming in with an injury, played well plugging the gaps in the middle.
Syracuse also held Wake Forest to 99-yards passing, a season low for Orange opponents. The secondary covered well and were aided by a relentless pass rush that finished with three sacks.
Two big plays highlighted arguably their best defensive performance of the season. In the second quarter, with Syracuse clinging to a 10-7 lead, Wake had a 3rd and five at their own 35. Syracuse dialed up pressure. Dyshawn Davis rushed off the edge at the snap, but Wake running back Denzel Wortham does not see him. That gives him a free rush on quarterback John Wolford.
Davis hits Wolford on his blind side as he is throwing the ball, looking to complete a quick slant to pick up a first down. Robert Welsh, lined up at defensive end, drops back into coverage right where the slant was headed. Wolford’s pass flies right into the belly of Welsh, who has nothing but green in front of him. He takes it to the house for the defense’s first touchdown of the game.
“It’s funny because it was pretty similar to Penn State," Welsh said. "I dropped, good call by coach Bullough. Different call but I dropped. I actually saw Dyshawn crush him. I didn’t think he was going to get the ball off, but he got the ball off. It was right to me and I caught it.
"I saw green down the left sideline. I ran as fast as I could trying to score and I did.”
The hit by Davis also knocked Wolford out of the game.
Early in the third quarter, Wake is on the move trailing 20-7. They have the ball at the Syracuse 32, and backup quarterback Tyler Cameron was looking for a quick pass but was well covered by the Syracuse secondary. The pocket starts to collapse and he is forced to back peddle.
Cornerback Brandon Reddish is blitzing on the play, and Cameron’s inability to throw the ball quickly gives him time to get to the scrambling quarterback. Upon hitting Cameron, Reddish pokes the ball free and it bounces on the turf. John Raymon initially tries to recover it, but instead deflects the ball into the air. It happens to bounce right to Micah Robinson, who catches the ball in a full spring and takes it to the end zone.
It was a spectacular performance by the Orange defense, and one that was expected given Wake’s enormous offensive struggles this season. The Syracuse defense has been good all year, and continues to be a strong unit that should give them a chance to win in every game remaining on the schedule.
"We go into every game as if it’s a must win," Welsh said. "But, you know, we lost four in a row. That’s tough for us. Bounced back. Coach Shafe said in the second half of the season we have to be 1-0. We accomplished that goal. Now it’s on to Clemson. They’re a real good team. Try to go down there and get to 2-0.”