Virginia is eager to get back on the field after allowing 59 points and 699 yards in a 59-39 loss against No. 21 North Carolina.
The problem for the Cavaliers (2-1, 0-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) is that the opportunity comes against Wake Forest, which has won four straight in the series.
The Demon Deacons (3-0, 1-0) are off to their fourth 3-0 start under eighth-year coach Dave Clawson after a third straight easy win to start the season. They are coming off a 35-14 win against a Florida State team that is 0-3 for the first time since the late Bobby Bowden’s first season in 1976.
But Clawson isn’t having trouble citing areas needing improvement. He found the uncharacteristic eight penalties for 74 yards against FSU “bothersome,” along with four turnovers through three games after having one through the first seven games last year.
“At times the ball security isn’t what it needs to be,” Clawson said. “But you always enjoy fixing those things after a win.”
Still, he had plenty to feel good about in terms of how the Demon Deacons handled their ACC opener.
“I just think our players just understood the importance of that game,” Clawson said. “The first two weeks we played well and we won, but we knew the level of competition was going to be a step up.”
Virginia was dominant against William & Mary and Illinois, but it’s opener in the Atlantic Coast Conference was alarmingly poor. Coach Bronco Mendenhall said the way it unfolded can be a positive going forward.
“If you can get the lessons exposed and what needs to be improved early, early on, man, that gives us the best chance to recover and go forward,” he said, noting that the Tar Heels had a similar experience in a season-opening loss at Virginia Tech.
“Yeah, some definite weaknesses exposed, some overestimations on my part of where we were after two weeks, and so the urgency on a short week to get it all applied, yeah, the time is now,” he said.
Some other things to watch when Wake Forest plays at Virginia:
Virginia quarterback Brennan Armstrong has been prolific, throwing for 11 touchdowns and running for two more through three games. But the team gained just 24 yards on 22 running attempts against North Carolina and will need far better production in support of the passing game to give the Cavaliers balance.
With defenders focused on Jaquarii Roberson last week, fellow receiver A.T. Perry has thrived. Things are going to get tougher due to his success. The redshirt sophomore had career highs of seven catches and 155 yards, including a 49-yard touchdown. Roberson had a quiet game to see the end of his six-game streak with a touchdown catch. Clawson said Perry will have a new challenge.
“To me, it’s not can you have that one game. We know what A.T. is capable of,” Clawson said. “But now life is going to get a bit tougher. Once you have that breakout game and you put it on film, you’re not going to get the short straw anymore in terms of the coverage.”
DO YOUR JOB
Mendenhall said focus wasn’t an issue for his defense against the Tar Heels.
“If anything it was, man, just playing outside of their technique and outside of their scheme and outside of their assignments, maybe because they were — wanted to win too much,” the coach said. “That’s not the right way to say it. Because they were motivated at a really high level, they were going outside of what was really necessary and expected, and a lot of times that was the cause of the problem.”
Wake Forest had four sacks last week against Florida State and is fifth in the league with nine sacks through the first three games. The Demon Deacons must get pressure on Armstrong to slow the Cavaliers’ high-scoring attack.
“It’s very important,” defensive lineman Luiji Vilain said. “They have a really good quarterback, a good O-line. So we’ve got to get some pressure on them to slow down that passing game.”
Mendenhall called Clawson one of the best coaches in college football, and the Demon Deacons head man is perhaps best known for his offensive expertise.
“You look at a the things that they did well against us and the things that maybe we did well against them,” Clawson said of preparing for the game. “That’s kind of where the chess match begins. How much are they going to tweak what they did?”
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