“This is over, it’s over. You got to move to the next one. That’s the resiliency you got to see. We got to have it out of this team.”
The Yellow Jackets (1-2, 0-1 ACC) showed a bit of resiliency Sept. 9 when it beat South Carolina State at home, that victory coming on the heels of a Sept. 1 loss to Louisville. But this week provides a stiffer challenge with the recently-formidable Demon Deacons waiting at the end of the road.
Wake Forest has had only one losing season since 2016 (the 2020 COVID-19 year) and went 8-5 last season after winning the Gasparilla Bowl. It is also off to a 3-0 start thanks to a come-from-behind victory at Old Dominion on Saturday.
Tech defensive lineman D’Quan Douse said he is “100 percent” confident the Jackets will be ready to play Saturday at Wake and that there is no need to panic after a 1-2 start.
“We still got a lot of ball left,” he said. “This is Week 3 of a long season. I’m extremely confident in the team. I feel like we’ve shown flashes of extreme potential, a lot of good ball. We’ve just got to find a way to put it altogether, win some games. We’ll be good.”
If there is a silver lining for Key’s team, in this his first season as the program’s full-time coach, it’s that the Jackets haven’t exactly been run out of the building in their two defeats. Tech was an onsides kick away from giving itself a chance at victory in the five-point loss to Louisville, and Saturday the Jackets were down just a touchdown with 10-1/2 minutes to go in the fourth quarter before the wheels came off.
It must also be noted that Tech lost to Ole Miss 42-0 in 2022, so there may be some sort of moral victory in putting up more of a fight in the rematch.
Of course, moral victories won’t help Key and company in their efforts to return to a bowl game at the end of this season. The Jackets now need to find at least five victories in their final nine games.
“We got to take the mistakes, make the corrections as we move through (Sunday), get those things cleaned up and be able to put it behind us and move on to the next game,” Key said. “We’ll take some of the positives that we had and be able to build on those, but at the end of the day there’s some things we got to really continue to get better at.”
Wake, now 22-8 in its last 30 games, has survived three hard-fought wins over Elon, Vanderbilt and Old Dominion, respectively. In the latter triumph, the Demon Deacons trailed 17-0 in the second quarter and 24-7 with seven minutes left in the third quarter before winning 27-24.
Tech has historically owned Wake in leading the series, which dates to 1917, 23-8. The two teams have only met nine times this century and not since a 38-24 win by the Jackets in 2017 at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Tech hasn’t been to Wake since 2010 and hasn’t lost to the Demon Deacons since the 2006 ACC championship game.
The Jackets will be trying to avoid a 1-3 start for the second straight season and for the third time in five years. But, more importantly, they will be out to prove to themselves, and only themselves, they can still turn the season in the right direction.
“We don’t try to prove ourselves to no team, to be honest,” Tech safety LaMiles Brooks said. “It’s all about earning our respect each week. We worry about ourselves. We don’t try to prove anything to anybody. We want to prove ourselves right in most scenarios and that’s all it’s about for us.”
· According to Pro Football Focus, quarterback Haynes King (offense) and Douse (defense) were Tech’s highest-graded players in Saturday’s loss to Ole Miss.
· King ranks eighth nationally with nine passing touchdowns, ninth with 303.3 passing yards per game and 10th with 335 total yards of offense per game.
· Tech leads the nation with just five penalties and is second with 65 total penalty yards. The Jackets are also 16th in converting third downs (53.5%), 14th in total offense (513.3 ypg) and 20th in passing offense (310 ypg) and sacks allowed with only three.
· The Jackets rank last nationally with only 2.3 tackles for loss per game and one sack, 128th in rushing defense (240.7 yards allowed per game), 115th in points allowed per game (33.3), 113th in total defense (483.3 yards allowed per game) and 101st in red zone defense by giving up a score 91.7% of the time.
· Tech’s 12 opponents are now a combined 25-11, its one win has come against a team currently 0-3, its two losses against teams a combined 6-0 and its remaining games are against teams a combined 19-8.
· The Jackets opened as 6 1/2-point underdogs this week.