Written by: TJ Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)
After an early bye week, the Indiana Hoosiers (2-0) and head coach Kevin Wilson must now get back to work in a battle of mildly surprising unbeaten as the 3-0 Wake Forest Demon Deacons invade Bloomington. IU enters this contest with comfortable, albeit uneven, victories over Florida International and Ball State while Wake Forest knocked off Tulane, Duke and Delaware. As IU coach Kevin Wilson pointed out in his weekly press conference, match-ups between unbeaten power five conference teams, even at this early stage of the season, are uncommon. This game is one of only four such match-ups this week and the stakes for both sides are very clear: with a difficult conference slate looming, the quest for postseason eligibility would be significantly dented with a loss.
While these two sides would hardly be called rivals, Kevin Wilson and the Hoosiers are quite familiar with Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson and his staff. IU played his Bowling Green squad in 2013 (a 42-10 IU victory) and then these two teams clashed in Winston-Salem last season as the Hoosiers prevailed 31-24. Wake Forest has built their successful 2016 start on the back of a strong defense, allowing only 348 yards per game and 12.7 points per game. They’ve been particularly stout against the run, holding Duke to 37 yards rushing and Delaware to 56 yards rushing. The Demon Deacons look improved on offense as well. After a disappointing week one performance against Tulane, Wake Forest rebounded to put up 389 yards and 24 points against Duke and 481 yards against Delaware. Again, the Demon Deacons have found success with the ground game, rushing for more than 200 yards per game.
Kevin Wilson is prepared for a stiff challenge, “they are running the ball very well. They’ve got a good team. The defense is extremely stout. Extremely strong against the run and pressuring the quarterback. We have a lot of respect for them.”
Injuries may play a key part in this contest. All-American offensive lineman Dan Feeney left the Ball State game in the first half with a concussion and he’s awaiting clearance from the team doctors before he’ll be available to play. The same can be said for Camion Patrick, a wide receiver and running back that has yet to see the field but that Hoosier fans are anxiously waiting to see. Injuries are just a large a concern for the Demon Deacons as starting dual-threat quarterback Kendall Hinton sprained his PCL early in their victory over Delaware and will miss the next 2-4 weeks. In addition, running back Cade Carney (who ran for 108 yards and three touchdowns against Duke) may miss his second straight game: “The MRI came back fairly clean. So it is an MCL sprain, and it’s one of those things that I’d be very surprised if we had him next week,” Dave Clawson said. “I would say NC State (October 1st) might be a bit optimistic. Hopefully Syracuse (October 8th), probable.”
The loss of Hinton means the Demon Deacons will turn to junior John Wolford. He has plenty of experience and he’s been a starter on several occasions but the offense was clearly more explosive this season with Hinton in the lineup. Wolford was 13 of 24 for 155 yards with a touchdown and an interception and he’s 25 of 46 so far this season. In addition to scrambles from Wolford, Matt Colburn, Rocky Reid and Tyler Bell will handle the rushing duties as both squads look to establish the running game while limiting the opposition’s. “The goal is to run it and to stop the run,” Wilson said. “That’s where we always start and the way they do too.”
Injuries or not, Kevin Wilson knows the Indiana Hoosiers will have to play well to start 3-0. Near the conclusion of his Monday press conference, he sent a message to IU fans: “Our last six games: we’ve won four of them and lost two in double-overtime. Why don’t we hang around for four quarters and see what happens.”