Wake Forest hosts Louisville looking to end 3-game skid
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — Wake Forest has one game left in its brutal midseason run, and coach Dave Clawson wants his team to get better at finishing — individual games, and this tough stretch of the schedule.
The Demon Deacons play host to Louisville and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson on Saturday, hoping to end a three-game losing streak with the marquee victory that has so far eluded them.
The heart of the schedule for Wake Forest (4-3, 1-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) is a run of five bowl teams from 2016, and the Demon Deacons wrap up with the visit from the Cardinals (5-3, 2-3). The Demon Deacons have gone 1-3 in the stretch, beating Appalachian State while losing to Florida State by a touchdown and to both No. 7 Clemson and Georgia Tech by two TDs.
Wake Forest let leads slip away against both the Seminoles and Yellow Jackets .
“Maybe some of the teams earlier in our schedule, you could have that lull and recover from it,” Clawson said. “If you take a deep breath against any of these teams, it’s over, and we probably haven’t had to ever do that. We’ve been in competitive games against, I think, the upper half of this league probably for the first time. ... You can never take your foot off the gas against good football teams.”
The Cardinals certainly have the offensive firepower to rally from a deficit of any size.
The ACC’s highest-scoring team at 37.2 points per game also averages a league-best 552.6 total yards, and Jackson — who became the fourth player in conference history with 11,000 total yards for his career — is the league’s top passer (309.8 ypg) and its third-leading rusher (108.5 ypg).
Yet coach Bobby Petrino expects a test from a Wake Forest defense that held the Cardinals in check for a half last year. The Demon Deacons rank fourth in scoring defense (19.7 ppg) and have the ACC’s top pass defense.
“They’re really active on the defensive front,” Petrino said. “They’re guys we’ve played against for a number of years, so they’ve defended people well. People haven’t scored a lot of points on them. I think it’s going to be up to us to mix it up and be able to run it and throw it.”
Some other things to know about the Louisville-Wake Forest game:
NO MORE WAKEYLEAKS: Both coaches insist the Wakeyleaks scandal — in which Wake Forest’s former assistant coach-turned-broadcaster was fired after the school accused him of leaking or attempting to leak plays to opponents — is history. This marks the first meeting between the schools since the brouhaha started when Wake Forest staff discovered detailed descriptions of their plays at the Cardinals’ stadium the day before the game. It also resulted in a brief suspension for Louisville assistant Lonnie Galloway , a former Wake Forest assistant. “I know the question’s going to come up but we’ve put this thing to bed and we’ve moved on from it,” Clawson said. “We’re not going to go low with it.”
REGGIE’S RUNNING: Projected as Louisville’s No. 1 running back this summer, versatile senior Reggie Bonnafon is finding his rhythm in the backfield after injuries to two starters. Bonnafon, a wide receiver last season who preceded Lamar Jackson at quarterback, has 181 yards rushing the past two games. That includes a career-best 107 yards rushing to help last week’s 31-28 win at Florida State. “He’s working hard at being the guy that does the hitting,” Petrino said. “But his acceleration through the hole has really changed.”
THE DUKE: The Demon Deacons will need a big game from DE Duke Ejiofor, who gives them their best chance to pressure Jackson. Ejiofor has 2½ sacks against Georgia Tech last week and is tied for second in the league in sacks and ranks third in tackles for loss.
TURNOVER BATTLE: Louisville is 3-0 when forcing at least three turnovers, and had three takeaways in last week’s victory at Florida State . The Cardinals rank 10th in the league with a turnover margin of minus-1, while the Demon Deacons are third at plus-5.
AP Sports Writer Gary B. Graves in Louisville, Kentucky, contributed to this report.