Wake wins: the Deacs clip the Cards 37-34 to remain unbeaten in conference play
Preview: Louisville Cardinals (3-1, 1-0) vs #24 Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-0, 2-0)
With the early part of the conference schedule leaving open a wide array of possibilities, today's ACC contest between the Louisville Cardinals and Wake Forest Demon Deacons has some key implications. With the Deacs sitting atop their division (2-0) overall, a win today keeps them ahead of all teams in their division. A win by the Cardinals would give them a 3-game winning streak in the series and put them in the lead in the division.
Quarterback Malik Cunningham (998 passing yards/a team-leading 263 rushing yards) has thrown for 5 touchdowns (with only 2 interceptions) and added 8 touchdowns on the ground to help pace Louisville's offense during their current 3-game winning streak. Jalen Mitchell's 242 rushing yards (4.0 yards per carry) and H-back Marshon Ford (a team leading 19 receptions for 208 yards) are key in the team averaging 31.8 points per game. Outside linebacker Jack Fagot and free safety Kenedrick Duncan (both have a team high 25 tackles) set the tone for a defense which allows 26 points per game.
Wake Forest's offense is led by quarterback Sam Hartman (961 passing yards with 9 touchdowns and 1 interception) as they average just under 39 points per game (38.8). Christian Beal-Smith (276 rushing yards/5.0 yards per carry) is one of Wake's tandem of 3 running backs averaging 4 yards per carry. Receivers AT Perry (292 yards/17.2 yards per catch/3 touchdowns) and Jaquarii Roberson (245 yards/15.3 yards per catch/2 touchdowns) lead the air attack, and the efforts of linebacker Luke Masterson (27 tackles/2 sacks) and Ryan Smenda (23 tackles) are among the tone-setters for a defense allowing a steady 14.3 points per game.
With a just after high-noon kickoff time (12:30pm EST), something has to give.
First half highlights (Louisville Cardinals vs #24 Wake Forest Demon Deacons)
With the Cards deferring to get the ball the 2nd half, the Deacs take the opening drive for a field-goal compliments to a key reception by Jaquarii Roberson to setup a Nick Sciba field goal to give them a 3-0 lead. Malik Cunningham directs the Cardinal offense shortly afterward; at the 6:45 mark of the 1st quarter, he caps off the drive with a rushing touchdown (7-3). On the very next possession, Sam Hartman guides the team to a scoring drive, including receiving his deflected pass for a key first down play. By the 3:53 mark of the quarter, Wake retakes the lead (10-7). To close out the quarter, Louisville's James Turner's 42-yard field goal ties the game at 10.
Thanks to a targeting call against Wake's defense, Cunningham leads the Cards to a scoring drive at the 8:52 mark of the 2nd quarter as he adds his second rushing touchdown of the day (17-10). After a big stop by the Wake defense and the offense picking up the tempo with some key runs by Christian Turner, Hartman connects with Taylor Morin for a touchdown reception to tie the game at 17. At the waning moments of the 2nd quarter, Wake's special teams forces a fumble (and recovery) inside the Cardinals' red zone (via a botched punt). With 1 second left, Nick Sciba adds his second field goal of the day to give Wak a 20-17 halftime lead.
Second half highlights (Louisville Cardinals vs #24 Wake Forest Demon Deacons)
The Deacs' Justice Ellison pushes his way into the end zone (7-yard run) for a 3rd quarter score to extend the lead to 27-17.
However, Malik Cunningham would connect with Ahmari Huggins-Bruce for a 10-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to 27-24 (3 point game). An interception by the Cards' Qwynnterrio Cole (Hartman's 2nd of the season) leads to a game tying field goal at the 7:48 mark of the 4th quarter (27-27).
After some grueling back and forth action, Sam Hartman and the offense bounce back with a blend of runs by Ellison and receptions by their 2 leading receivers, Roberson and Perry. A solid scramble and completion to AT Perry (3:52 in the 4th quarter) results in a game-leading touchdown for the Deacs (34-27) with just under 4 minutes left in the quarter (and game).
And then, Louisville responds.
A quick strike from Cunningham to Tyler Harrell results in a 75-yard touchdown to tie the game at 34 with 3:01 left in the game.
Wake Forest would get the ball and on their closing drive, they rely on the strength of solid runs by Justice Ellison (7 carries for 41 yards on the drive) to push the ball to the Cardinals' 11-yard line. After Louisville exhausts their timeouts, the Deacs' all-time leading scorer and NCAA record holder (highest percentage of made field goals) Nick Sciba's 28-yard field goal gives them a 37-34 lead with 22 seconds left in the game. A last-ditch hook and ladder effort by Louisville is broken up at their 45-yard line by the Wake defense to preserve the lead and keep the team undefeated overall and in conference play.
Post game Louisville Cardinals (3-2, 1-1) vs #24 Wake Forest Demon Deacons (5-0, 3-0).
With their 37-34 win, Wake Forest sits atop the Atlantic Division of the ACC with a 3-0 conference record.
During the post-game interview, Wake head coach Dave Clawson notes how hard-fought the game is between both teams. He places emphasis on the notion if you'll have a special season, there are (close) games like today that are a part of the journey and larger season. He notes the team's constants of resiliency and character as being key components in today's win.
During the post-game interview, Wake head coach Dave Clawson notes how hard-fought the game is between both teams. He places emphasis on the notion if you'll have a special season, there are (close) games like today that are a part of the journey and larger season. He notes the team's constants of resiliency and character as being key components in today's win. Sam Hartman notes part of how the team maintains their focus is just a larger part of their preparation, including the situational football scenarios which result in their execution during the game-winning drive.
Nick Sciba (who is celebrating his birthday) notes how important the team concept is for his long-term success as the NCAA's all-time kicking leader (field goal percentage) and larger faith as integral for his individual and team achievements. Taylor Morin notes regardless of the situation (including Louisville's game-tying drive scoring within 30-seconds), it's simply their job to execute and respond accordingly (including their game-winning drive) and remaining focused on being 1-0 each week.
Nick Andersen notes the adjustments made on defense to help slow down Louisville's offense during key stretches in the 2nd half, including being aware of Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham's ability to extend plays. Ja'Sir Taylor notes the importance of staying ready (i.e. the turnover on the punt return at the end of the first half which leads to Wake converting a field goal to take a 20-17 halftime lead) and continuing to remain focused competing against a sound Louisville team.
Wake's offense racks up 501 yards of total offense despite losing the time of possession battle (34:14 to 25:24). Sam Hartman's effort (324 passing yards/2 touchdowns and 1 interception) along with team-rushing leader (for today's game) Justice Ellison (15 carries for 67 yards and a touchdown) along with solid receiving efforts by Jaquarii Roberson (6 receptions for 135 yards) and Taylor Morin (6 receptions for 122 yards and a touchdown) se the tone on offense. Louisville is led by Malik Cunningham (286 passing yards on a 72% completion rate and 4 total touchdowns), Jalen Mitchell (17 carries for 89 yards), and Tyler Harrell's 75-yard touchdown reception.
Louisville's next game is at home against Virginia (3-2, 1-2) on October 9th. Wake Forest travels to Syracuse (3-1, 0-0) for their next game on October 9th.
Notes: Video and photo credit to both Andrew Snorton and K Rollins (contributor).