Wake Forest Football 2017 Opponent preview: Syracuse Orange football, Wake Forest Football 2017 offseason continues, but we’ve found plenty to discuss in the meantime. In this series, we’ve been diving into each of SU’s 12 (very difficult) opponents and all you’ll need to know about them. Despite the challenges of the schedule, we’re going to be as positive as possible. Today’s team:
Coach: Dave Clawson, 4th year. Clawson’s a New York (Youngstown) guy who broke out of his regional roots over time. He played defensive back at Williams, shuffling off to Albany, then Buffalo when his playing career was through. A few years at Lehigh led to a few more at Villanova, then he finally got his first head coaching job at Fordham in 1999.
Wake Forest Football 2017 Opponent preview: Syracuse Orange football
Over the course of five seasons with the Rams, he built Fordham into an FCS playoff team, then eventually moved onto more entrenched powerhouse Richmond. After four seasons and two playoff berths with the Spiders, he moved up to the FBS level in 2009, to take on the Bowling Green job. In five years with the Falcons, he made three bowl games and won a MAC championship. He left after 2013 when Wake Forest came calling.
Since arriving at Wake, he’s slowly built the Deacs into something resembling a football program. Two straight 3-9 campaigns gave way to a breakthrough 7-6 season last year (including a win over AAC champion Temple in the postseason). Another strong season could have his name popping up at other spots around the Power Five. An unwatchable 7-3 win over Tulane to start the season seemed to spell doom for the team, but they’d rebound to win the next three far more impressively. That gave them a 4-0 record to start the season, allowing them to coast a bit for the remainder of the schedule. That was a needed cushion as things got tougher, too. While the Deacons hung tight with everyone but Clemson and Louisville, they still went 2-6 over the final eight regular season games. Beating Temple in the Military Bowl was impressive but did include a slight caveat given Matt Rhule’s departure from the Owls.
Wake Forest Football 2017 Schedule
Despite starting the year with Kendall Hinton under center, plans reverted back to John Wolford rather quickly. Hinton is thought of as more of a dual-threat of the two, but Wolford’s still plenty dangerous on the ground. He added 521 rushing yards on top of his 1,774 passing yards and totaled 15 scores as well. But overall, the Wake Forest offense was still pretty terrible. The team was 124th in the FBS in yards per game, and 118th in points per game (a paltry 20.4). Lucky for them, the defense showed up. Wake allowed just 22 points per game and was a top-40 unit by most measures. Just three opponents topped 30 points against them all year, while the Deacs were also among the best teams in the country in terms of forcing turnovers (27 takeaways were tied for 10th-best). On top of turnovers, the Demon Deacons also got to opposing passers with frequency (41 sacks, tied for 12th overall). That combination is obviously tough to stop.