Over the course of the last six years, Boston College football head coach Steve Addazio and Wake Forest’s Dave Clawson have squared off five separate times, and the results have been nothing but sporadic.
There was the infamous 3-0 win for Clawson’s side back in 2015, one that had everyone clamoring for Addazio’s firing after poor time management. Three years later, it was BC getting the last laugh, riding a career-best performance from Anthony Brown to an offense-dominated 41-34 win with a hurricane bearing down on Winston-Salem, N.C.
Now, the pair meets again, with the Demon Deacons (4-0, 0-0 Atlantic Coast) looking to claim their first conference win while the Eagles (3-1, 1-0) are seeking to leave the Kansas debacle further in the rear view window after a bounce-back win over Rutgers.
“Dave and I have known each other for a long time,” Addazio said in his weekly press conference on Monday afternoon. “I’ve got a lot of respect for Dave Clawson. Dave is a classy guy in our business, sharp guy. I think he’s done a fabulous job with their program, and I think that they’re well put together.”
BC will surely have its hands full with Wake Forest, which is off to an undefeated start, albeit with three wins coming against non-Power Five opponents. The Demon Deacons are surging behind an explosive offense that is averaging 330 passing yards (15th in the country) and 203.8 rushing yards (40th).
The star of the show is quarterback Jamie Newman, who took over for Sam Hartman last season and has taken off. Through four games, Newman is leading the ACC in passing yards (1,278), touchdowns (12), and efficiency (177). His favorite targets are well known: Sage Surratt leads the conference with 484 yards and teammate Scotty Washington is third with 376, while both have snagged five touchdowns apiece. This could be problematic for an Eagles defense that is fresh off giving up 304 passing yards to Rutgers’ lowly regarded backup quarterback, Artur Sitkowski.
“He’s throwing the ball pretty accurately, and he’s a very physical runner, especially in short yardage, goal line, down in those areas—I think he’s playing a high level,” Addazio said of Newman, before addressing the receiving threats. “They’re big, tall guys. They go up and catch the ball.”
It’ll be a big test for BC’s defense, which has shown plenty of vulnerabilities in the early going. Containing Newman’s passing ability was already going to be difficult enough, but he’s also a dual-threat option who ranks second on the team with 160 yards on 55 rushes. The Eagles have struggled with quarterbacks who can tuck the ball and run for quite some time now. Look no further than Richmond in Week 2, as Spiders signal caller Joe Mancuso ran for 70 yards on just 10 attempts.
Addazio is more than aware of the issues on that side of the ball. Even though the Eagles lead the nation in turnover margin (plus-2.25), they’ve also given up 65 plays through four games of 10-plus yards, the 115th-worst mark in the nation. He continued to cite a lack of game experience on that side of the ball—the team did enter the year with seven new starters—and mentioned that linebacker Max Richardson (fresh off a 14-tackle performance against Rutgers) and defensive tackle Tanner Karafa are the only two with “veteran” mindsets.
“We’re still a young, immature defense. We’ve got a lot of guys that haven’t played a lot of football,” Addazio explained. “Max [Richardson] has played a fair amount of football, and he has those [veteran] personality traits. We’ve got some young pups, whether they’re young in age or just young the amount of time they’ve been on the field.”
Continuing to improve on that side of the ball will be crucial, but the offense has shown some struggles at times. Even though the duo of AJ Dillon and David Bailey were exceptional on the ground against the Scarlet Knights—furthering a season of rushing success as the Eagles rank 20th in the country in rushing yards per game (252)—the passing game has lagged behind.
Brown—who is seeking to replicate last year’s 304-yard, five-touchdown night against the Demon Deacons—has averaged less than six yards per attempt in the last two games. He was visibly frustrated at times against Rutgers, whether it was a narrow incompletion or a misfire.
“I think we have really evaluated some of the things that we’re trying to do, and I think we’re evaluating that and looking to make some tweaks and changes to help,” Addazio said in regard to the consistency of the passing game. “I think it’s not just one thing. We do some things extremely well right now in the throw game, and we are a real threat down the field for people.”
Success through the air is a necessity on Saturday afternoon, as Wake Forest averages 38 points per game, and BC will need to keep up. If the Demon Deacons, who generate pressure up front well, can get to Brown and force him out of his rhythm, the game could quickly get away from them.
“I think they’re a very good football team, and that presents, obviously, a great challenge for us in our preparation this week,” Addazio added. “We’ve had great contests with Wake over the years, and I’m looking forward to another great game here.”
Featured Image by Nell Redmond / AP Photo