WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Jessie Bates completely changed the game last week with an end zone interception against Indiana as the Hoosiers were driving to take a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.
It was the first of five picks caused by the Wake defense.
On the flip side, however, IU quarterback Richard Lagow finished with 496 passing yards and three touchdowns.
For the Wake secondary, it's been feast or famine.
“Obviously we had some great moments. When you get five interceptions in a game, that’s a positive,” Wake Forest defensive coordinator Mike Elko said. “We gave up way too many explosives. He gave up four explosive passes, and three of those went for touchdowns. That’s not good, and we have to get a little more consistent back there and play the deep ball a little better.”
Just two weeks prior, Duke freshman quarterback Daniel Jones went for 332 yards on 31-of-48 passing. Jones was leading an effective drive deep into Wake territory late in the fourth quarter when Brad Watson picked off a pass to seal the Demon Deacon victory.
“The Duke game was a little different. Duke became so one-dimensional that they threw the ball every play in the second half,” Elko said. “When you take two running backs that are as productive as they are, and they’re not getting the football — we viewed that as a positive. There were two explosive passes that we didn’t like. I didn’t feel like Duke was similar to Indiana.
“Duke threw the ball so many times that they were bound to get some yards, but it made them so one-dimensional it made it tough for them to score, which they didn’t.”
Wake has stuffed the run game so far this season, and rank No. 12 nationally in rushing defense. Part of the heavy-passing attack late in games also is because the Deacs have carried two-score leads.
“We are playing four-quarter games with a lead. In the fourth quarter, people are throwing the ball repetitively and repetitively. In both those games, Indiana got 121 yards in the last two drives when we were up two scores,” Elko said. “Duke got close to 100 in the fourth quarter when we were up two scores. Some of those yards are a little hidden in that regard.
“I’m not turning away from our flaws. We’ve got things we need to clean up and get better at. There’s no doubt about it.”
“For the Wake fan who hasn’t seen us play with a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter for a long time, it probably looks a little different than what they’re used to seeing,” Elko said.
Elko said the key moving forward will be consistency from the young players in the secondary.
“When you look at Amari Henderson, Dionte Austin and even Jessie Bates, who had a great day at times, but also didn’t finish occasionally. We’ve got guys that need to learn to play football consistently play-in and play-out,” Elko said. “That’s hard at this level. That one snap you don’t do well can be 65 or 75 yards. Learning how to be consistent for four quarters is a challenge, and that’s what they’re learning right now.
“I think their highs are higher than anything we’ve seen around here. I think there are too many lows right now. We have to get them to be consistently high, and if we do that we’ll have two really good football players.”null