ACC Football: Wake, Forida State lead ACC in passing
By Joedy McCreary
WINSTON-SALEM — Expect Wake Forest to try to throw the ball all over the field this weekend. Look for Florida State to fling it around even more often.
The Demon Deacons and 23rd-ranked Seminoles enter their matchup with the top two passing offenses in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Florida State (2-2, 0-1 ACC) leads the conference with an average of 328 yards passing. Wake Forest (3-1, 2-0) is right behind, averaging 314 yards.
“We go into every game feeling like we need to run the football, and I’m sure Florida State has the same feeling,” Demon Deacons coach Jim Grobe said Tuesday. “But I think you just have a tendency to do what you can do in each game, and if throwing the ball’s the way to get it done, that’s just what you’ve got to hang your hat on. That’s what’s been good to Florida State, and that’s what’s been good to us up to this point.”
And if the Seminoles hit a few big plays — as they have all year, tossing touchdown passes of at least 50 yards in all four games — the Demon Deacons insist they don’t feel the need to do the same thing to keep up.
“We’ve both got great passing games right now, but I don’t think there’s any pressure to match them,” Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price said. “I think we’ve got to go out and play our game, and not worry about what they’re trying to do, and ultimately, hopefully, it’s not a shootout.”
The big question is which Seminoles quarterback Wake Forest will face.
E.J. Manuel, who injured his nonthrowing shoulder in a loss to then-No. 1 Oklahoma, said that he expects to play this week, but coach Jimbo Fisher has declined to say if Manuel or redshirt freshman Clint Trickett will start.
The Demon Deacons say they’re preparing for both, and each figures to test them in different ways. Trickett threw for 336 yards in his only college start, a 35-30 loss at Clemson two weeks ago and leads the ACC with a passer rating of 182.6.
Manuel, at 6-foot-5, is threat to both run and pass. His average of 248 yards of total offense ranks fourth in the league.
That’s two spots behind Wake Forest’s Price (276.8), who has hit five passes of at least 35 yards this season.
“(Price) has poise in the pocket, understands where he’s going with the ball, (is) able to scramble and keep plays alive (and has) very good instincts,” Fisher said.
With both teams’ rushing offenses stuck in neutral, the key might be which defense can find a way to bottle up the passing game and keep its opponent from turning it into a track meet.
That looks like a decidedly tougher task for a Wake Forest D that ranks in the middle of the ACC’s pack against the pass and has managed only three sacks in four games — or, nearly how many sacks the Seminoles average per game. Florida State is the ACC’s toughest team to throw against, allowing opponents an average of just 174.5 yards.
Still, Manuel expects the Demon Deacons to at least try to generate some pressure on him out of their 3-4 alignment.
“But I think with our athletes and our speed, we’ll be able to combat that pretty well,” Manuel said. “Definitely some vertical throws. We’ve been throwing the ball great all year. So I don’t think that will be something that will change.”
The Associated Press