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Mayo trouble: Wake's 4 turnovers undermines their efforts against Wisconsin

Preview: Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-4, 3-4) vs Wisconsin Badgers (3-3, 3-3)

The 2020 college football season is one that a number of people won't soon forget. Navigating through a pandemic and multiple schedule changes, the usual 12 game regular season is condensed to 8 for Demon Deacons and 6 for the Badgers as they get ready to "duke" it out on the gridiron for today's Duke's Mayo Bowl (formerly the Belk and Continental Tire Bowl) from Bank of America Stadium (in Charlotte, NC).

Wake is making their 5th consecutive bowl game appearance, and they have won their previous bowl game appearances in Charlotte (the 2017 Belk Bowl against Texas A&M and the 2007 Continental Tire Bowl against UConn), making today's hour-plus trip from Winston-Salem a "home" feel at a neutral site. Quarterback Sam Hartman's 1,906 passing yards are complimented by an outstanding touchdown to interception ratio (10 touchdowns and 1 interception). The running game is now led by Christian Beal-Smith (as Kenneth Walker, who ran for 579 yards with 13 touchdowns, opted out), as he gains 650 rushing yards with 4 touchdowns (averaging 5.4 yards per carry). 2nd team All-ACC receiver Jaquarii Roberson (795 receiving yards with 5 touchdowns, averaging 14.7 yards per catch) and Donavon Greene (460 receiving yards, averaging 20 yards per catch) pace the air attack. With probable early-round NFL draft pick defensive end Carlos "Boogie" Basham, Jr opting out, the defense is led by team captain and ACC Honorable Mention defensive back Ja'Sir Taylor, fellow All-ACC safety Nick Anderson, and linebacker Ja'Cquez Williams.

Wisconsin's freshman quarterback Graham Mertz (1,108 passing yards with 8 touchdowns and 5 interceptions), running back Garrett Groshek (259 rushing yards, averaging 4.8 yards per carry), and freshman Chimere Dike (averaging 15.4 yards per reception) lead the offense. Their defense is allowing a stout 15.7 points per game; thanks to the leadership of linebackers Leo Chenal, Nick Herbig, and Jack Sanborn, they not only have to limit a Deacon offense averaging 37.4 points per game, but a team that entering today's game committing only 3 turnovers the entire season (a +13 turnover margin).

1st half: Wake Forest Demon Deacons vs Wisconsin Badgers

Wake Forest opens with the ball; their tempo offense does not waste any time. A 36-yard completion by Sam Hartman to Donavon Green on a 3rd and 11 gets the offense in gear, and a 4-yard touchdown pass to Jaquarii Roberson gives them an early 7-0 (11:21 in the 1st quarter). After the defense holds the Badgers to a 3 and out, Wake's second drive is a 5 play/1:59 71-yard scoring drive capped off by an 18-yard touchdown reception by Roberson, making it a 14-0 game (7:21 in the 1st quarter).

Wisconsin gets on the scoreboard early in the 2nd quarter. A classic grind-it-out 11 play 75-yard scoring drive is capped off by a 2-yard rushing touchdown by John Chenal to make it a 14-7 game.

Later in the quarter, the Badgers' Jaylan Franklin blocks Ivan Mora's punt at the 9-yard line, setting their offense up for an ideal scoring opportunity. At the 2:13 mark of the 2nd quarter, quarterback Graham Mertz's 1-yard touchdown makes it a 14-14 game. However, an interception by the Deacs' Nick Anderson (with 0:32 left in the 2nd quarter/1st half) keeps the game tied going into halftime.

2nd half: Wake Forest Demon Deacons vs Wisconsin Badgers

After the Wake defense holds Wisconsin to a 3-and-out, their offense produces another quick strike, scoring in under 2 minutes. An 8-yard touchdown pass to Jaquarii Roberson, his 3rd touchdown of the game, gives them a 21-14 lead (11:11 in the 3rd quarter). Wisconsin would respond with a quick scoring drive of their own. A 59-yard kickoff return by Devin Chandler puts the Badgers deep in Deacon territory (the Wake 33-yard line) eventually leads to a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Graham Mertz to tie the game.

And then momentum shifts quickly and unexpectedly.

After a series of stops by both defenses, the Badgers' defense turns the tables. Noah Burks' interception of a Sam Hartman pass includes a 41-yard return to the Wake 32-yard line. After a Devin Chandler 18-yard run and a 14-yard touchdown pass by Graham Mertz to Mason Stokke, they take their first lead of the game (28-21) just before the end of the 3rd quarter. On the very next series, the Badgers' Scott Nelson picks off Hartman and returns it 60 yards to setup a scoring opportunity at the Deacons' 2-yard line. Two plays later, the Badgers increase their lead to 35-21 with 13:49 left in the 4th quarter.

On the very next play, Sam Hartman is intercepted for the 3rd time, this time by the Badgers' Jack Sanborn. The Deacons' defense would hold and their special teams would partially block a 48-yard field goal attempt to give the offense a chance to get back in the game. However, on the very next series, Hartman throws his 4th interception of the game as the Badgers' Collin Wilder returns it 72 yards to the Wake Forest 3-yard line. At the 9:24 mark, Jalen Berger plunges in for a 1-yard score, giving the Badgers a 42-21 lead.

A late 2-yard touchdown run by Christian Beal-Smith ends the 28 unanswered points by the Badgers, ending both teams' seasons with a 42-28 bowl game win by Wisconsin.

Recap: The Wisconsin Badgers (4-3, 3-3) defeat the Wake Forest Demon Deacons 42-28

While Wake has twice as many total yards as Wisconsin (518 to 266 total yards), their effort is undermined by their 4 turnovers (to the the Badgers' 1). To put it in perspective, the Deacons committed 3 turnovers in 8 games and in this game, they exceeded the number of turnovers committed for the season.

Graham Mertz's efficient effort in the air (11/17 for 130 yards and a touchdown) is complimented by his 2 rushing touchdowns (on a 2.4 yard per carry average). In fact, the Badgers are limited to 122 rushing yards, resulting in a 2.8 yards per carry average. Jack Dunn (6 receptions for 60 yards) leads the team's receivers.

The Deacs' Sam Hartman throws for 318 yards and 3 touchdowns, but his 4 interceptions contribute to the Badgers' 28 point run to win the game. Christian Beal-Smith leads the ground game (21 carries for 82 yards and a touchdown). Jaquorii Roberson (8 receptions for 131 yards and 3 touchdowns), Donavon Greene (6 receptions for 122 yards), and Taylor Morin (5 receptions for 91 yards) set the tone for the Wake Forest receivers.

Writer's notes/credits

Preview and prediction video via the ACC Digital Network.

Recap and highlight video via the Big 10 Network.


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