WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — Syracuse coach Dino Babers followed Wake Forest’s Dave Clawson from Bowling Green to the Atlantic Coast Conference. Now he’s trying to follow him up the Atlantic Division standings.
The former Falcons coaches will go against each other Saturday night when the uptempo Orange (2-3, 0-1) visit the Demon Deacons (4-1, 1-1).
“This is at warp speed,” Clawson said of the Syracuse offense. “It’s as fast an offense as I’ve ever seen, and it’s hard to prepare for that tempo.”
That appears to be a reflection of their new coach and his go-go-go mentality.
In this matchup of teams picked to finish near the bottom of the division standings, the most intriguing subplot might be the ties between the head coaches trying to guide their programs back to prominence.
When Clawson left Bowling Green to take the Wake Forest job after the 2013 season, the Falcons picked Babers as his replacement. Babers took Bowling Green to two bowls before he was hired by Syracuse to take over for the fired Scott Shafer.
“One of the things try to do when one is going out and another is coming in, if it’s a positive situation, you try to touch base and give Cliff’s Notes, so to speak, of what you’re leaving behind,” Babers said. “He and I got an opportunity to do that.”
After two tough seasons with the Demon Deacons, Clawson has them showing considerable improvement in Year 3. Wake Forest started 4-0 for the first time in a decade and — with a favorable schedule ahead — looks capable of reaching the six-win mark and reaching its first bowl since 2011.
Syracuse is trying to make a similar climb under Babers. The Orange have won just three ACC games in the last two-plus years and Babers has preached patience as he tries to rebuild the proud program.
“The main thing is it’s a process,” Babers said. “The process is, you have certain things you have to do and if you do those things you’re going to give yourself an opportunity to win. They need to stay locked in on the process and not get caught up on what the scoreboard says.”
Some things to know about the Syracuse-Wake Forest game:
SPEEDY SYRACUSE: The Orange rank fourth in the ACC in total offense, averaging 495 yards per game, but they’ve also run the most plays in the league (433). That fast pace will pose a challenge for a Wake Forest defense that ranks in the middle of the pack in the conference, and has allowed early scores in each of its three games against Power Five opponents. “It is almost like preparing for a triple-option team,” Clawson said. “You can try simulate it, but you are never going to simulate it as well as they do it.”
ORANGE COMBO: The pass-catch combination of QB Eric Dungey and WR Amba Etta-Tawo has put up some impressive numbers. Dungey leads the league with an average of 346 yards passing, while Etta-Tawo is tops with both 9.4 catches and 168 yards receiving per game and set a school record with 270 yards two weeks ago at Connecticut. “We have some good stats,” Dungey said, “but we have to put more points on the board.”
THE SERIES: This is the fifth meeting between the schools, with all coming since 2006. The Orange have won the past four, including all three since they joined the ACC before the 2013 season.
BACK TO THE RUN: Wake Forest probably wants to get back to rushing the ball. The Demon Deacons had just 21 rushes in last week’s loss at N.C. State , their fewest under Clawson. That’s partly due to the absence of RB Cade Carney, a freshman who has missed three games due to injury, and partly because they fell behind 17-0 in the first quarter.
Source: USA Today Fan Sports Poll