Wake Forest is finally getting back on the field for its first game in nearly a month. Coach Dave Clawson is still unsure exactly how ready his Demon Deacons will be for Saturday’s game at Louisville after such a long layoff.
“We’re not in game shape right now,” Clawson said, “but we’ll see how it goes.”
The Demon Deacons (4-3, 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) haven’t played since losing at North Carolina on Nov. 14. The next week’s game at Duke was canceled amid a combination of positive COVID-19 tests, quarantines and injuries, eventually followed by the school announcing it would pause team activities.
Along the way, there were a series of reshuffled ACC games, including this matchup with the Cardinals (3-7, 2-7) that has moved multiple times after originally being slated for last weekend before the season.
“We’re kind of calling it the all-star break,” quarterback Sam Hartman said. “We had a little time off and we’re just trying to get back, get the rust off.”
The Cardinals entered their regular-season finale coming off a loss to Boston College on Nov. 28, followed by an awkward past few days that included coach Scott Satterfield apologizing to fans after talking with South Carolina about its coaching vacancy.
“I realize this year that we don’t have the kind of wins that we want to have,” Satterfield said.
“It’s a fine line, we talk to our players all the time, about wins and losses: you’ve got to make those plays. And we just for whatever reason this year, we’ve turned the ball over or we’ve not made enough plays to go win.”
Some things to know about Saturday’s Wake Forest-Louisville game:
Wake Forest leads the Bowl Subdivision ranks with just one turnover all season, coming on a third-quarter fumble in the second game at North Carolina State.
Louisville, on the other hand, has 24 turnovers for the second-worst total in the FBS ranks. Those 12 lost fumbles and 12 interceptions are only surpassed by Duke’s 35 turnovers this season.
Louisville redshirt senior receiver Dez Fitzpatrick is finishing strong.
Fitzpatrick has 20 catches for 471 yards in his last four games, including eight catches for 182 yards in the Boston College loss. He is sixth on the school’s career list for receiving yards and tied for fifth with 21 touchdown catches.
His 756 yards this season are 16th in the FBS ranks.
Clawson said running back Kenneth Walker III has informed the coaching staff he plans to opt out the rest of the season. That could mean even more work for top rusher Christian Beal-Smith.
Beal-Smith leads the team by rushing for 592 yards, though Walker had 13 rushing touchdowns.
“He knows he’s going to get some work here,” Clawson said. “So we’ll work him on Saturday and keep in a practice bubble the rest of the week until next week.”
Louisville won last year's meeting on the road in a 62-59 shootout against a Wake Forest team that had started 5-0 and reached No. 19 in the AP Top 25. The game featured a combined 1,188 yards of total offense and four offensive touchdowns of at least 40 yards.
“We remember the challenge from last year,” Satterfield said. “Hopefully we’ll play a lot better than that defensively.”
Wake Forest was originally scheduled to host No. 2 Notre Dame this weekend in a postponed meeting from September, but that game was called off after the ACC decided the Fighting Irish, No. 4 Clemson and No. 9 Miami would play only a nine-game slate to determine who would reach the league’s football championship game.
The Demon Deacons will close the schedule next week at home with a newly added visit from Florida State.
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