The Cards' defense downs the #10 Deacs: 8 forced turnovers result in a 48-21 victory
#10 Wake Forest Demon Deacons (6-1, 2-1) at Louisville Cardinals (4-3, 2-3)
Preview: the Deacs and Cards look to improve on their regular and postseason aspirations.
As the page turns from October to November, so does the page of the college football season as the 4th quarter provides separation for teams who are competing for the post-season or for next season.
The Wake Forest Demon Deacons are riding a 3-game winning streak; while they are bowl eligible, the 10th ranked team in the country looks to remain locked in with their larger regular season and postseason goals (and remain within striking distance of the Atlantic Division lead). Quarterback Sam Hartman (who in 6 games, has thrown for 1755 passing yards along with 21 passing touchdowns and 3 interceptions) fuels the offense, as he currently ranks 3rd all-time in the ACC for total passing touchdowns. Running backs Justice Ellison (432 rushing yards/4.8 yards per carry/3 touchdowns) and Christian Turner (315 rushing yards/4.1 yards per carry/5 touchdowns) set the tone for a steady running game averaging 143 yards per game. A stellar wide receiver corps led by AT Perry (524 receiving yards/16.4 yards per catch/5 touchdowns), Jamal Banks (385 receiving yards/14.3 yards per catch/7 touchdowns), and Donavon Greene (360 receiving yards/15.7 yards per catch/3 touchdowns) contribute to one of the top offenses in the country, as the Deacs average 41.4 points per game and 438.7 yards per game (total offense). The Wake Forest defense is coming off an exceptional performance in their previous game against Boston College (allowing 15 points in a 43-15 win). Linebacker Ryan Smeda, Jr. (55 total tackles in 6 games), defensive back Malik Mustapha (37 total tackles/2.5 sacks/2 interceptions), and defensive back Chelen Garnes (39 total tackles) and looks to contain a Louisville offense averaging 27.1 points per game.
Speaking of the Cardinals' offense, dual-threat quarterback Malik Cunningham looks to push the tempo against the Wake Forest defense (1090 passing yards/5 touchdowns with 4 interceptions), as he's also the team's leading rusher with 503 rushing yards (averaging 6.3 yards per carry and 9 rushing touchdowns). With support from running backs Tiyon Evans (275 rushing yards/5.0 yards per carry/3 touchdowns) and potentially second leading rusher Trevion Cooley (275 rushing yards/4.9 yards per carry/2 touchdowns), the Cards hope to produce a balanced attack. Leading receivers Tyler Hudson (484 receiving yards/14.2 yards per catch) and Ahmari Huggins-Bruce (318 receiving yards/15.1 yards per catch/1 touchdown) look to support Cunningham in the passing game; a key component in slowing down the Deacons' offense is the pressure generated by sack artists Yaya Diaby (4.5 sacks), Ashon Gillotte (4 sacks), Monty Montgomery (3.5 sacks along with 33 total tackles), and Yasir Abdullah (3.5 sacks ad 29 tackles), as Louisville boasts a pass rush and pressure scheme which can disrupt an offense (as shown in last week's 24-10 homecoming win against Pitt) and is among the best in the conference.
Game recap as the Louisville Cardinals (5-3, 3-3) down the #10 Wake Forest Demon Deacons (6-2, 2-2) 48-27
Louisville starts off with the ball and gets an early start in the scoring column against a slow start by Wake Forest.
A pair of first quarter field goals by James Turner gives the Cardinals an early 6-0 lead. Early in the second quarter, quarterback Malik Cunningham caps off a scoring drive to give Louisville a 13-0 lead at the 14:27 in the quarter.
Wake would respond accordingly as a scoring drive capped off by a 3-yard touchdown run by Justice Ellison cuts the deficit to 13-7 (11:15 in the second quarter). The Deacs would add another scoring drive as Sam Hartman's 16-yard touchdown pass to Jamal Banks would give them a 14-13 lead.
In the second half, the Louisville defense unleashes one of the more extraordinary defensive runs in a long time.
Wake Forest starts with the ball in the 2nd half/3rd quarter, and less than a minute into the quarter, Kei'Trel Clark's 46-yard pick-6 (interception) gives the Cardinals a 20-14 lead. However, this is the start of a run of possessions for the Deacons where they turn the ball over 5 consecutive series.
The second turnover (fumble) culminates in a 5-play/74-yard scoring drive capped off by a 52-yard rushing touchdown by Tiyon Evans to give the Cardinals a 27-14 lead. On the very next series, another interception (off a tipped pass) sets up a one-play/9-yard rushing touchdown by quarterback Malik Cunningham to give the Cardinals a 34-14 lead.
On Wake's next possession, a fumble 2 plays into their drive setup a Louisville score highlighted by a trick play by Braden Smith (on a 28-yard touchdown pass to Jaelin Carter) to expand the lead to 41-14. The Cardinals' defense would keep the pressure on the Deacons as Quincy Riley's 90-yard pick-6 of another pass by Sam Hartman stretches the lead to 48-14 to close out the 3rd quarter.
Wake would provide the only score of the 4th quarter on a 5-yard touchdown pass to Trey Boll by Mitch Griffis, but by then, the damage is done. The Deacons, who come into today's game committing 5 turnovers, end up turning the ball over 8 times in the 48-21 loss.
While Malik Cunningham (15 for 23 with 164 passing yards along with 9 rushes for 38 yards and 2 rushing touchdowns) and Tiyon Evans (11 carries for 105 yards and a touchdown) are the offensive stars, it's the defense who truly shines brightest. In addition to forcing 8 turnovers (making it their 6th game in a row where they've forced at least 3 turnovers), the Cardinals' defense produces 8 sacks. Linebacker Momo Sanogo (9 tackles and 1 sack) and safety MJ Griffin (9 tackles) are among the seemingly endless waves of defensive pressure, as it creates a problematic time for the Deacons, especially in the 3rd quarter.
Wake's Sam Hartman (20 for 35 for 271 passing yards with 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions), Will Towns (7 carries for 54 yards), and Donavon Greene (3 receptions for 75 yards) provide the sparks on offense. Defensively, Malik Mustapha (10 tackles) and AJ Williams (7 tackles) pace the defense.
For the postgame, both teams reflect on the game outcomes. For the Louisville coaching staff, it's about the team's focus and execution, especially by the team defense.
As for Wake, it's about noting the things they need to address given their next 4 games feature 3 teams (NC State, UNC, and Syracuse) who are currently ranked in the Top 25.
Louisville looks to build on their win next Saturday (November 5th) against James Madison while Wake looks to bounce back against Big Four/In-State rival #24 NC State (on November 5th).
Notes: The video and photo albums are recorded by Andrew Snorton and Kelli Rollins. Ms. Rollins is a co-writer for this article.