Wake Forest vs. Maryland Game Preview
Oct. 8, 2009
Video: Game Preview With Jim Grobe
By Alex Botoman, WakeForestSports.com
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Wake Forest (3-2, 1-1 ACC) will take on Maryland (2-3, 1-0 ACC) on Saturday at BB&T Field in the Demon Deacons' 2009 Homecoming game. The Terrapins have always proved to be a thorn in the side of the Deacons, as they have won eight of the last ten meetings and hold a 41-15-1 lead in the overall series.
The Terps last visited BB&T Field in 2007. In that game, Maryland jumped out to a 24-3 lead before Alphonso Smith's 100-yard interception return for a touchdown as time expired in the third quarter sparked a frenetic Wake Forest comeback. The Deacons would go on to defeat the Terrapins, 31-24, in overtime.
The Deacons enter the game fresh off their first ACC victory of the season as they took down NC State, 30-24, in a back-and-forth game last weekend. It was another stellar day for the Wake Forest offense as they racked up 391 total yards - 361 of those coming in the air in a career-high passing performance by quarterback Riley Skinner.
Maryland got off to a slow start this season, but the Terrapins upset Clemson at home last weekend to record their first win over an FBS school this year. Their 1-0 record in the ACC leaves them as one of only three schools that still have an unblemished record in the conference.
Wake Forest currently has the top-ranked offense in the ACC and could have an advantageous matchup with a Maryland defense that has been allowing 384 yards per game. Deacon quarterback Riley Skinner has set a career-high for passing in three consecutive games and was named last week's ACC Offensive Back of the Week.
Receiver Marshall Williams is averaging 80 receiving yards per game, and 115 yards per game in ACC play. Chris Givens had the best game of his young career against the Wolfpack, catching eight passes for 113 yards and a touchdown.
Maryland has some playmakers on the defensive side of the ball that will be looking to slow down the dynamic Wake offense. Middle linebacker Alex Wujciak was second-team All-ACC last year and is currently leading the conference in tackles with 10.4 per game. Linebacker Adrian Moten is averaging one tackle per loss, good enough for 10th in the ACC.
"Their middle linebacker is a great player and their defensive ends are big physical guys," said tight end Andrew Parker. "We are just trying to match their mentality.
The Terrapins are led by senior quarterback Chris Turner who already has the third-most passing yards in Maryland history. The Terps lost prolific wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey to the NFL, but sophomore Torrey Smith has stepped up to fill the void. Smith is averaging 90 receiving yards per game, and his average of 231 all-purpose yards is ranked second in the nation.
"What a dangerous football player," said head coach Jim Grobe regarding Smith. "He's got a bunch of receptions, big-play receptions. He's really good at returning kickoffs. Yes, they lost Darrius Heyward-Bey, but this guy's really picked up where he left off."
The victory over Clemson did not come without a cost for Maryland as they lost talented leading rusher Da'Rel Scott to a wrist injury which will keep him out of action for at least a month. Replacing him in the backfield will be sophomore Davin Meggett who has gotten a significant amount carries so far this season.
Despite the fact that Maryland will be without Scott, the Terps are devoted to a physical run game and the Wake Forest defense does not expect this week to be any different.
"To be honest, I'm not sure whether (Scott being out is) going to be a factor or not," said cornerback Kenny Okoro. "He's a great running back, but I know that Maryland has a lot of tricks to their trade."
"I expect the same thing they always do. Pound the football, pound the football, play action pass deep ball," added fellow cornerback Brandon Ghee. "That's the way that they've been doing it for years now, and I think it's going to continue."
Wake's young defense has made great strides since the beginning of the season, and last week they intercepted NC State quarterback Russell Wilson twice. Wilson had thrown an NCAA-record 379 passes without getting picked off before safety Josh Bush intercepted him in the second quarter last week.
"I think we've improved (from the start of the season) but we need to get better," said Ghee. "You can tell from the Baylor game to now that we're not running around with people calling calls and missing tackles anymore. It's nothing like that now so we are definitely improving."
The Demon Deacons debuted a new secondary against NC State, and the same group is expected to take the field this week against Maryland. Kenny Okoro and Josh Bush made their first starts of the season, each recording an interception, and true freshman cornerback Dominique Tate saw the first action of his Wake Forest career. Those three, along with Ghee and safety Cyhl Quarles, will be tasked with shutting down Turner and Smith.
"I think (Tate) did well," said Ghee. "He relaxed after the first few possessions. There are a lot of good quarterbacks in the ACC. Every game you step into is going to be difficult. You just have to step up to the plate."
Wake Forest will be looking to avenge one of their worst losses of last season when they came out sluggish against Maryland in College Park and were defeated 26-0.
"You can't get worse than that, you can't get past zero. The only thing you can do is go up," said Okoro. "We know Maryland is a good team, and a very big and physical team. We're just going to listen to our coaches and work hard in practice and try to do better than zero."
While the matchup on paper may seem to favor the Demon Deacons, last week's slate of ACC games demonstrated that anything can happen in conference play.
"Last week I pointed out to our players that most people thought Clemson would beat Maryland. Most people thought FSU would beat Boston College. Most people thought Carolina would beat Virginia and most people thought NC State would beat the Deacs," said Grobe. "There's no way to guess what's going to happen from week to week and you just have to prepare the players the best you can."
Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. at BB&T Field. The game can be watched online via ESPN360.com and can also be heard on the Wake Forest ISP Radio Network.