CHAPEL HILL – North Carolina linebacker Shakeel Rashad was enjoying the bye week, somewhere with “my feet up, relaxing” so he didn’t watch the Boston College/Wake Forest game.
Rashad does remember seeing the score – a 3-0 victory by the Demon Deacons – and that pretty much told him what he needed to know about the Heels next opponent. Wake Forest (3-3, 1-2) rolls into Kenan Stadium Saturday night for a 7 p.m. showdown with Carolina (4-1,1-0).
The Deacons win over the Eagles wasn’t pretty by any standards. The last few minutes of the game alone could make up ESPN’s entire ‘Not Top 10’ list. But the Wake found a way to win. Before he returned to practice and started watching game-film on the Demon Deacons, that 3-0 gritting win gave Rashad an idea of what kind of team UNC will be up against.
“I play defense so when I see a score like that the first thought is ‘wow, there defense must have played a great game,’” Rashard said after practice Wednesday. “They play hard. That’s something you got from that score and just watching them on film. Those guys play their butts off and we have to do the same.”
The third oldest rivalry in the ACC will renew after a two-year hiatus. Wake will come riding high (if you can call if that) into this game, showing that can win ugly, but they also win with defense. The Deacons boast one of the best total defenses in the nation, only allowing 296.0 yards per game. It will be a clash of the titans with that defense trying to stop the UNC high-octane offense, which averages 471.0 yards per contest.
Presenting more of a challenge for UNC, is just facing an in-state opponent. Carolina has not fared well against its neighbors lately. Wake won the last meeting over the Heels, 28-27, in Winston-Salem in 2012. East Carolina has won two in a row against UNC. North Carolina State thrashed the Heels last year in Kenan, and Carolina snapped a two-game losing streak to Duke just last season. If UNC wants to get off to a rare 2-0 start in league play, plus win the mythical state championship, it starts with Wake.
“It’s important. That goal of being state champs in very important,” Coach Larry Fedora said. “Our guys know that. Hopefully this team is mature enough, and the leadership is doing what needs to be done to make sure we take care of our business.”
Wake will keep the Heels on their toes (no pun intended, maybe a little) with a two-headed quarterback rotation. John Wolford and Kendall Hinton have both lined up behind center this season. Hinton is more of a runner, leading Wake in rushing, averaging 4.0 yards per rush, with a team-high four rushing scores. Wolford will take off if needed, but he has been more of a pure passer. Either way, the Heels will be prepared for either quarterback.
“We haven’t been focusing on one or the other,” Fedora said. “It’s being prepared for what both do. They take advantage of both skills sets. They lean heavily to one thing or another when one guy is in than they do the other. Hopefully our guys will be able to recognize that and react to it.”
Rashard said the defense doesn’t put a lot of emphasis on which guy is behind center. The staff has prepared a game plan to fit whoever is in the game for Wake.
Defensive coordinator Gene Chizik said Wake’s offense can be problematic because of their ability to stretch out a defense, making opponents have to adjust on the fly. The Demon Deacons variety – formations, personnel groups – is what makes them successful in moving the ball, despite a season-low 142 total yards against Boston College. Then there are the two QBs.
“There is a little bit of difference between the two,” Chizik said. “They tend to do one set of ideas with one, and another set of ideas with another.”