Deacons use bye week to prepare for Yellow Jackets’ triple option

Defense readies for unique offense; starting QB John Wolford returns to lineup

Clemson wide receiver Tee Higgins carries the ball while being defended by Wake Forest defensive lineman Chris Calhoun during their Oct. 7 game in Death Valley. (Joshua S. Kelly / USA TODAY Sports)

The ACC’s football schedule makers didn’t do Wake Forest any favors by having the Deacons play heavyweights Florida State and Clemson in consecutive weeks.

But at least they gave coach Dave Clawson’s team a break by allowing them last week off to recover and reset before having to face Georgia Tech and its sometimes confounding triple option offense.

“Each bye week is a little bit different in terms of where it is in the season (and) who your next opponent is,” Clawson said on the ACC’s weekly coaches teleconference last week. “A lot of times we’ve taken bye weeks to kind of look at the first half of the year and review what we’re doing well, what we’re not doing well, things we need to work on.

“It’s a little different this year with our bye week coming before Georgia Tech,” Clawson continued. “Because of their unique style of offense and what they do, we’ve devoted probably a little bit more time to them this week than we normally would if you played a team that ran a more traditional offensive system.”

Wake Forest at Georgia Tech
Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta  |  Saturday, 7:30 p.m.  |  ESPNU

The Yellow Jackets, as they usually do, lead the ACC in rushing at 362 yards per game. They’re led by quarterback TaQuon Marshall, a converted running back, and B-back KirVonte Benson, who rank first and third in the league individually with an average of better than 100 yards on the ground per game each.

Wake (4-2, 1-2 ACC) has held its own this season defensively, including in its losses to the Seminoles and defending national champion Tigers.

Slowing down Tech (3-2, 2-1) is a different animal, though, because of the unusual nature of their run-oriented attack.

“The triple option brings a lot of new challenges,” senior linebacker Grant Dawson said Tuesday. “You pretty much run a different defense than you do the rest of the year. The bye week has helped us prepare for this week.”

It has also helped the Deacons get healthy again — especially at quarterback, where starter John Wolford is ready to return after missing the Clemson game with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder.

Wolford was replaced by backup Kendall Hinton, who completed 14 of 30 passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns while also leading the team in rushing with 92 yards on 24 carries.

“John was probably at about 80 percent and we just made a decision that we thought Kendall Hinton at 100 percent would give us a better chance to win the game with John at 80,” Clawson said. “We did not want John to take another hit that possibly would keep him out for longer.

“We just made a coaching decision that we thought would give us the best chance to win. John will be able to play against Georgia Tech. Hopefully giving him this extra time will let him get closer to 100 percent for Georgia Tech.”