Wake Forest takes 3-game win streak to Syracuse
Wake Forest is packing up its three-game winning streak and heading north.
The Demon Deacons (3-2, 2-2) will travel to Syracuse to face the Orangemen in Atlantic Coast Conference action Saturday.
Last week in a 23-16 win over No. 19 Virginia Tech, Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson’s defense held the then-nation’s top rusher Khalil Herbert to 64 yards, and true freshman walk-on safety Nick Andersen notched three interceptions and a team-high 11 tackles to upset the Hokies — beating the ACC’s two Virginia schools at home in consecutive weeks.
Andersen was recruited only by New Hampshire, Butler and Columbia, but the Clifton, Va., native became the first ACC player to snare three picks since Gerod Holliman did it for Louisville in 2014.
“I really have no reaction. That’s an interesting fact,” Andersen said when told the most recent Wake Forest player with a trio of interceptions was A.J. Greene in 1987.
The performance earned Andersen the Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week award, and he also claimed the conference’s top rookie and defensive back honors.
Clawson said of the possibility of Andersen receiving a scholarship, “We’ll be taking care of that next semester.”
Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman has produced just three passing touchdowns and a single rushing score in the five games but has led an offense that ranks 38th nationally with an average of 423.6 yards per game. He has not thrown an interception in 117 pass attempts.
Running back Kenneth Walker III tops Wake Forest in rushing with 449 yards on 90 carries, with a team-best eight touchdowns.
Winners of just three of the 12 all-time meetings, Wake Forest most recently defeated the Orangemen three years ago in a wild 64-43 game in which the visiting Demon Deacons racked up 734 total yards and rallied to clinch a bowl berth.
Syracuse (1-5, 1-4) has won the past two games in the series, totaling 80 points in the victories, and hung in with top-ranked Clemson last Saturday, trailing 27-21 in the third quarter before falling 47-21.
But fifth-year coach Dino Babers — known for high-scoring offenses during his two-season stints at Eastern Illinois and Bowling Green — has seen his Orangemen struggle when in possession of the ball.
Babers’ problematic offense this year ranks 91st nationally — generating just under 275 yards per game — and much of the challenge starts at quarterback, where Syracuse averages only 182 yards passing.
Redshirt senior Rex Culpepper, who replaced injured starter Tommy DeVito, is 29-for-66 for 386 yards with four TDs and four interceptions in losses to Liberty and Clemson.
“We’re still trying to put our best guys out there and we’re going to play whoever we think those are,” Babers said of the signal-caller situation for the Orangemen, who have lost three straight.
Wide receiver Taj Harris did not play against Clemson after making an obscene gesture to television cameras filming the Syracuse bench the previous week in a 38-21 loss to Liberty.
Harris, who did not make the trip to Clemson, has 434 receiving yards and four touchdowns this season and could be back in the lineup Saturday.
–Field Level Media