Instant Analysis: Wake Forest - Maryland

This might have been a battle for a division named the Atlantic, but on a chilly Saturday night in College Park, a Wild West shootout developed. Wake Forest brought the better gunslinger to the fight, and that's why one of the season's great stories got even better.

Yes, it's true: while Florida State, Miami, Virginia Tech, Boston College, and Clemson will stay home next weekend, Jim Grobe's Demon Deacons will contest the ACC championship against Georgia Tech. It's the most amazing thing achieved on a Winston Salen gridiron since the World War II era, and it's all because the Deacs brought the better, more reliable weaponry to an explosive, up-and-down football game between two schools typically thought of as bastions of big-league basketball.

Speaking of hoops, some roundball terminology could accurately identify the reasons why Wake Forest prevailed in this battle for the ACC Atlantic Division. For one thing, the Deacs "dictated tempo." Maryland thrived all season long in low-scoring games: grinding out 13-12 and 14-13 wins proved to be the right formula for a Terrapin team that lacked a thermonuclear offense, but was armed by a lot of resilience and a relentless defense that refused to fold up the tent throughout a long and redemptive season in the land of the Turtle. If Wake was a hare, Maryland--literally and figuratively--played the role of the Tortoise. The Terps needed to prevent the Deacons from going off if they wanted to have a good chance of snagging a division crown.

Riley Skinner, Kenny Moore, and a well-schooled offensive line had other ideas.

Wake Forest has been outflanking opponents all season by spreading out defenses, employing shotgun runs, and generally keeping defenses on a pendulum with run-pass balance and the unpredictability that flows from such balance. The Deacons turn football into something of a fast-break game with an up-tempo attack that wins with finesse more than brute strength. Against Maryland, everything came together for Jim Grobe's offense, which clinically and repeatedly broke down the Terps with their diversity and shiftiness. This leads to another basketball phrase that could apply to the night's proceedings: Wake "got the score where it wanted." Just as up-tempo basketball teams will want a game in the 80s or 90s while slowdown teams want a game in the 50s or 60s, so it was that the Deacons stood to profit from a shootout, while Maryland wanted an old-school affair in the teens. The 38-24 final score clearly indicates that Wake had the right score, and the weapons to thrive in a shootout.

Indeed, when you boil this game down to its utmost essence, the difference ultimately came from the quarterback position. While Maryland signal caller Sam Hollenbach overthrew open men on a number of occasions and tossed multiple drive-killing interceptions, Riley Skinner provided superior game management as Wake's offensive field general. Skinner didn't overthrow the home-run ball when it opened up, as shown on his 49-yard strike to Willie Idlette in the second quarter, and he only threw one pick compared to Hollenbach's three. Ralph Friedgen's offensive game plan was conceptually solid, and it gashed Wake's defense at times, but Hollenbach wasn't able to sustain drives the same way Riley Skinner did for Grobe and the Wake Forest braintrust.

Wake Forest already has the satisfaction that comes with a rise from obscurity. Now, the Demon Deacons have a much greater

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