Friends, we’re somehow finally here — it’s Senior Day this Saturday for the 19th-ranked, 7-3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team, as they plan to host the 4-6 Wake Forest Demon Deacons on Saturday.
It feels like just yesterday that we were watching Sam Hartman eviscerate Navy and Tennessee State, and yet here we are in his final home game as a collegiate player, facing off against his former team that helped him become one of the most accomplished ACC QBs of all-time.
The Irish are coming off a bye week after a really disappointing loss on the road against a middling Clemson Tigers squad two weeks back, and so despite Wake’s bad record and unimpressive statistical resume, Irish fans can’t help but wonder if anything else might go sideways in the final couple games of Marcus Freeman’s second season.
So, in order to better understand this opponent, what makes them tick, and how they match up with our flawed but beloved Irish, we reached out to SamuraiFoochs, Co-Manager of SB Nation’s one-stop-shop for all things Wake Forest athletics, Blogger So Dear. SamuraiFoochs received a truncated and really late list of questions thanks to Pat Rick letting his bachelor party get the best of him last weekend, and yet he was an absolute legend in how quickly he turned around some fantastic, thoughtful, and hilarious responses.
So, let’s not waste any more time feeling sorry for Pat and how washed he is now compared to how he would have rebounded from a weekend of beer consumption like that one. It’s time to dive into the answers from SamuraiFoochs so we can arm ourselves with knowledge on what to expect on Senior Day. Let’s ride.
1. It looks like it’s been a tough year for Dave Clawson and this Wake Forest program. What’s driven all the losses this year and do you think it’s indicative of anything long term?
SamuraiFoochs (Blogger So Dear): It definitely has. I’m class of 2009, been watching Wake Football religiously since 2006 (I was only kinda into sports freshman year) and I’ve never been more actively frustrated or disappointed by a season. Now to be clear, there have been WORSE seasons, and worse teams, but never one that was more actively upsetting to me.
As far as what’s driven the losses, there are a lot of factors, but I’d say the biggest is turnovers. The number of times this team has derailed itself by shooting itself in the foot is staggering. That, and untimely personal fouls. Neither of those things are indicative of Dave Clawson or his teams, so I’m not super worried in the long term.
As of this writing, I think it’s just kind of a dud season. If a coach has been to a bowl 7 seasons in a row and you have a single dud season, IMO you kinda let that be, at least until it becomes part of a larger pattern, especially when you’re not a brand name.
2. Who should ND fans expect to see at QB for the Demon Deacs on Saturday, and what do they bring to the table?
Also, who are the key skill position guys to watch out for on Warren Ruggiero’s offense?
SamuraiFoochs (Blogger So Dear): My guess would be Mitch Griffis will start at QB. The QB room is...how do I put this nicely...mercurial and confused this season, but Mitch seems like the guy according to this coaching staff.
As far as what he brings to the table, he’s going to be utterly tenacious, even when it’s ill-advised, and occasionally, he seems to get into a flow state and just execute. When that happens, as unfortunately rare as it’s been this season, it’s like, “Okay, this is the guy Coach sees in practice. I get it now.”
In terms of skill position guys, I’d say WR Jahmal Banks and RB Demond Claiborne are the most likely to bust out big plays.
3. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this Wake defense, and how do you think they’ll match up with an ND offense that’s had plenty of struggles this season?
SamuraiFoochs (Blogger So Dear): The defense is unrelenting. Mind you, I do not mean by a long shot that they always succeed; looking at our season stats should make that obvious. What I mean is, even if they’ve been out on the field all day, if the game is close, be wary that any number of players might pull out something huge. They definitely fail sometimes, but I personally would say the defense does NOT give up.
Also, I’d say the other thing that tends to happen is big plays tend to happen in pairs or sometimes even bunches. When they’re on, they’re really on. However, they’re definitely prone to making mistakes, especially with regards to fouls as previously mentioned, and sometimes they get about 98% of the way to a huge play and can’t quite finish, particularly with sacks.
Ironically, I can speak from more experience than usual with regards to the matchup given who’s starting at QB. Firstly, I will say we love and miss Sam Hartman. I’d wager Wake would be comfortably bowl eligible right now with him under center. Truly a great talent.
HOWEVER, my read on Sam has always been (and y’all will have to forgive me, I haven’t watched a lot of ND this season so I’m not entirely sure if this tendency has continued) that he tends to compound his mistakes. Like, he’s a mojo guy. When he’s in a groove, what he’s capable of is pretty insane. If he gets rattled, though...sometimes it tends to go south pretty fast. That, combined with the overall familiarity between the defense and Sam in both directions has me honestly really intrigued to see how it shakes out.
4. Why does the Demon Deacon ride a motorcycle onto the field? What’s the backstory there?
Also, if the Demon Deacon were going on a “Wild Hogs starring John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence, and William H. Macy” cross-country motorcycle road trip with 3 former Wake Forest football players, whom would you choose to accompany him and why?
SamuraiFoochs (Blogger So Dear): As far as I’m aware, “because it sounds and looks kinda cool and makes people hype.” I don’t think there’s a bigger backstory than that, and if there is, I’ve either never heard it or forgotten it, which, given my immersion in Wake athletics, says a lot.
As far as the Wake Football Wild Hogs, I’m gonna go with my gut instinct on all of these, and the thing is, my answers are mostly going to come from when I was in school. Maybe I’m just old, or maybe it’s because I interacted personally with two of the three, who knows. All I know is, the answers that spring to mind are: first, former Wake TE John Tereshinski, largely because the dude used to lay absolutely crushing blocks, and the name just screams “motorcycle dude” to me. I don’t know about John’s humor sensibilities, but he has straight man vibes to me (in the Laurel and Hardy sense), which you need.
Secondly, former Wake CB great Alphonso Smith. Alphonso is, in a word, hilarious. This is the guy who, during his fairly brief NFL stint, had a pick six in an NFL game and proceeded to celebrate by doing an immaculate Carlton in the end zone.
Last and most certainly not least, OL Joe Looney. Joe had almost a decade in the NFL, which blew my mind when I just looked it up. What I can say specifically, though, is you need a big man in your crew, but also, Joe is just a character. I went out to dinner with some folks for a friend’s birthday senior year, and Joe was there, and all I can say is everything about him was just exuberance and enthusiasm. I can totally see him doing the comedic bit where “big ol’ beefy man who looks terrifying stares someone down with seemingly murder in mind only to break into a big grin” type deal, which, again, is a staple spot in any hijinx-fest.
5. Give me your top 10 (or 5 if you don’t wanna rank that many) forests of all time — where does Wake rank?
SamuraiFoochs (Blogger So Dear): I’m definitely going for five, because I’m not that much of an arboreal enthusiast, but let’s see. Something like:
5. For(r)est Gump, strictly because Tom Hanks is a treasure.
4. Kokiri Forest from The Legend of Zelda franchise.
3. Forest Whitaker. Talk about a resume.
2. Black Forest cake, because it’s delicious.
1. Wake Forest. Was I really gonna rank Wake lower than that? C’mon now.
6. Alright let’s get down to it: who wins this game, what’s the final score, and how does it happen?
SamuraiFoochs (Blogger So Dear): Oooof. I think this is gonna be ugly for Wake, to be honest. The team is spiraling, barring a miracle the bowl dream is pretty much over, and it’s against Notre Dame in South Bend. I feel like it’s gonna be one of those “not even as close as it looks” type scores.
My gut says, defense has plenty of stops but is also out there all day and eventually gives up significant points, but it’s tight for at least a bit before Notre Dame pulls away, and I think Wake is going to get a single TD but not much else.
Let’s say 27-10 Notre Dame.
Alrighty folks, I want to give a massive shout-out to SamuraiFoochs for all the fantastic and insightful responses — especially for how naturally he took to my questions about Wild Hogs and ranking forests. We all know several other past respondents over the years would not have handled them with such grace and aplomb.
I highly recommend you all head over to Blogger So Dear to check out their coverage of the Demon Deacs, as they do some awesome work over there. Furthermore, make sure you give SamuraiFoochs and the Blogger So Dear Twitter account plenty of follows, as you won’t find anyone better for any updates and analysis and humorous riffing leading up to, during, and after Saturday’s game than them.
That’s it for this week — as always, GO IRISH, BEAT DEMON DEACONS!!!