Winston – Salem, NC (Sports Network) - Off to their first 3-0 start in ACC play ranked Virginia Tech Hokies to Winston-Salem for a critical league affair at BB&T Field this weekend.
Jim Grobe's Demon Deacons dropped their season-opener at Syracuse in overtime and haven't felt the sting of defeat since. In league play, Wake has already knocked off NC State (34-27), Boston College (27-19) and most recently, Florida State (35-30).
The fast start has certainly been a pleasant surprise for Grobe.
"It seems unbelievable that we haven't done that in 59 years or however long we've been in the Atlantic Coast Conference, but it's a good feeling. Our schedule is so tough that we have to focus on just playing every week and not worrying too much about that stuff. It will be a little better to look back after the season and feel good about it if you win some games."
Frank Beamer's Hokies would like to halt any momentum Wake Forest is building heading into the second half of the season. Virginia Tech was blown out by Clemson a couple of weeks ago in Blacksburg in the team's only loss of the campaign, but found the win column again last week, coming from behind late to outlast a tough Miami-Florida program at Lane Stadium, 38-35, to even up its record in league play at 1-1.
Beamer knows how important the win was for the team.
"This was a great win for Virginia Tech. A great win. And the way it came about. I think it says a lot about our people and this football team."
Virginia Tech leads the all-time series by a count of 23-11-1 and has won the last four meetings, including a 52-21 romp in Blacksburg last year. Virginia Tech has won seven straight meetings in Winston-Salem dating back to 1970.
The Hokies have long been known as a running team, but last week, Tech used the passing attack to shred the Miami secondary. Quarterback Logan Thomas had a superb performance, as he was 25-of-35 passing, for 310 yards and three TDs, while rushing for two more scores. Still, those kind of passing numbers aren't the norm, as Virginia Tech is averaging a hefty 192.0 yards rushing per outing.
Junior tailback David Wilson is a big reason for the success in 2011, as he is averaging 127.8 yards per game on the ground, on almost six yards per carry (5.9). He is tied for the team-lead in rushing touchdowns (five) with backup RB Josh Oglesby.
Thomas can obviously be an effective passer when called upon to do so. He has completed 62.4 percent of his throws in 2011, for 1,196 yards with seven TDs. Wideouts Danny Coale (28 receptions, for 417 yards and two TDs) and Jarrett Boykin (20 receptions, for 223 yards and two TDs) are the top targets. Boykin is the school's all-time leader in both receptions and receiving yards.
It didn't look like it against Miami last week, but Virginia Tech once again boasts of one of the conference's top defensive units. The Hokies are yielding just 16.3 ppg and holding foes under 300 yards of total offense (294.5 ypg).
Linebacker Bruce Taylor continues to pace the squad in tackles (40). Ends J.R. Collins (24 tackles, 5.5 sacks) and James Gayle (15 tackles, 6.5 TFLs, 3.5 sacks) have been a potent tandem off the edges. All-American cornerback Jayron Hosley (26 tackles, three INTs) remains the top player in the secondary.
The Demon Deacons have excelled this season thanks in large part to a lethal passing attack that is netting 303.8 ypg. Sophomore QB Tanner Price has been outstanding, completing 62.3 percent of his throws, for 1,352 yards, with 10 TDs against just two interceptions. It certainly helps to have a talented receiving corps, highlighted by junior wideout Chris Givens, who paces the team in receptions (33), receiving yards (599) and TDs (5). His receiving yards represent the best five-game start by a receiver in school history.
The ground game plays second fiddle to the passing attack at just 112.4 yards per outing, but tailback Josh Harris is averaging a steady 82.4 ypg and is coming off his best outing of the season, rumbling for 136 yards against Florida State.
Wake has been strong defensively as well, allowing just 324.6 yards per game. There haven't been a great deal of big plays with just five sacks and nine takeaways in the first five games, but Wake as a whole is +5 in the turnover margin thanks to a mere four offensive giveaways this year.
The defensive unit is led by strong safety Cyhl Quarles. The 6-3, 210-pound senior paces the team with 41 tackles on the year. Senior free safety Josh Bush (16 tackles) has performed well in the secondary as well and is responsible for half of the team's six interceptions to date. Senior LB Kyle Wilber (19 tackles) and sophomore tackle Nikita Whitlock (21 tackles, 5.0 TFLs) are responsible for all five of the team's sacks thus far.
Grobe knows what kind of challenge the Hokies represent.
"Virginia Tech was obviously picked to be really good in the preseason, and here we are getting ready to play them and they are really good. They have a quarterback who is playing good right now and is probably bigger than any of our defensive linemen at 6-6, 254 lbs. or whatever Logan (Thomas) is right now. (They have) one of the best running backs in the country and a corps of receivers that are really talented, a really good offensive line and a defense that continues to play good football. Of course Coach Beamer does a good job with special teams, so we have a big challenge on our hands this Saturday, no question."