Wake’s defense played without Jessie Bates in yesterday’s 48-37 defeat at Notre Dame.
Or a better way of starting this post is that Wake’s defense tried to play without Jessie Bates in yesterday’s 48-37 defeat at Notre Dame.
Whether it succeeded depends on whether you deem getting steamrolled for 710 yards – second most in long storied history of Notre Dame football – and 48 points is your definition of success.
And it could have been, as Coach Dave Clawson of the Deacons observed later, worse.
“The amount of ones that they should’ve hit that they didn’t – it could have been even uglier,’’ Clawson said. “It could have been a 900-yard day for them if they had hit all their deep shots.’’
I was impressed watching the post-game video provided by the tireless efforts of my compadre Les Johns of Demon Deacons Digest. Clawson didn’t mince words on how bad his defense got exposed And I was most impressed by his refusual to use the absence of Bates – the team’s best defensive back and, along with Duke Ejiofor, one of the Deacons’ two best defensive players – as an excuse.
“That’s football,’’ Clawson said. “Next man up.’’
Good for you Dave. You play with what you’ve got.
The Deacons also had to play most of the second half without cornerback Amari Henderson, and as Clawson noted, the Irish wasted little time going right at Henderson’s replacement, freshman Ja’Sir Taylor.
But the real takeaway from the last 10 quarters the Deacons have played is that the one constant of Clawson’s first three and a half seasons as Wake’s head coach is a constant no more.
All the while he was building an offensive from scratch, he could count on one of the ACC’s best defenses keeping the program at least competitive.
Over the last 10 quarters, encompassing the second half against Georgia Tech and games against Louisville and Notre Dame, the Deacons have been torched for 1,535 yards and 105 points.
Yes, indeed, Georgia Tech, Louisville and Notre Dames are really good teams. The Irish may well end up playing for the national championship. But Clawson saw good teams the past two seasons at Wake as well, when the Deacons were ranking No. 6 (in 2015) and No. 3 (in 2016) in the ACC in total defense.
It’s always folly to predict the future, but from the looks of things the Deacons will have to bounce back next week at Syracuse and later at home against N.C. State and Duke to finish anywhere close to that high in that category. Wake is currently ranked No. 6, giving up an average of 24.2 points a game, but Florida State, Boston College and Syracuse are giving up less than point more.
“We’ve played good defense here for 3 ½ years,’’ Clawson said “(Saturday) was not our best effort.’’
As hard as I looked, I couldn’t see a Brandon Chubb or Marquel Lee or anyone resembling them playing linebacker yesterday for the Deacons. My question going into the season about Grant Dawson and Jaboree Williams remains.
I’m willing to wait to see how bad the Deacons are missing Mike Elko, now with Notre Dame. His own troops were ravaged for 37 points and 587 yards by my man John Wolford and the rapidly improving Wake offense.
But wouldn’t you just know it, about the time Clawson gets an offense together capable of doing serious damage against the upper crust of the ACC, his defense blows a hole.
The injuries to Bates and Henderson revealed what may be the biggest problem facing Clawson and Jay Sawvel, the first-year defensive coordinator. It takes time to build a program, especially, as we’ve seen, at Wake Forest. And building good solid, competive depth can be the last wing added to the complex.
Not to pick on one player, but every time I looked up yesterday there was Bates’ replacement, redshirt freshman Luke Masterson, chasing some Irish ballcarrier down the field.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Deacons respond next week at Syracuse. But I do have a suggestion for any member of the Wake defense before they gather as a team to watch the films of their “effort’’ at Notre Dame.
Eat something that’s easy on the stomach.
“I think we’re going to watch this film,’’ Clawson said, “and just want to throw up.’’