After a season in which Wake Forest’s offense reached new speeds, the Deacons spent Tuesday getting the full NASCAR experience.
As part of the Belk Bowl experience, Wake Forest and Texas A&M spent the day at Charlotte Motor Speedway, practiced and then had a players reception at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Pictures filled the Deacons’ social media accounts, featuring players riding shotgun in stock cars, taking part in pit crew tasks and racing miniature cars.
And with Wake Forest’s matchup against the Aggies coming Friday at Bank of America Stadium, here are five things to keep an eye on during the game:
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The last time we saw quarterback John Wolford on a football field, he was hobbling around on an injured ankle. The last time we saw running back Cade Carney, the date on the calendar was October. The Deacons haven’t played in a month, so the banged-up players like Wolford and Carney have had time to heal. While Wolford has tolerated a couple of injuries this year with gleaming success, Carney’s absence was felt in the season-ending loss to Duke. Standout receiver Greg Dortch (abdominal injury) still won’t suit up, but when this team was at its healthiest — the first three games — its average margin of victory was about 35 points.
There’s no mistaking who’s the single-most dangerous player for Texas A&M — it’s receiver Christian Kirk. A 5-foot-11, 200-pound junior, Kirk has 58 catches for 730 yards and seven touchdowns this season after notching 80 and 83 catches in his first two seasons, respectively. He also has 600 return yards — 425 of those on 18 kick returns, a 23.6 average, and 175 on eight punt returns, a 21.9 average. The Deacons will have to know where Kirk is at all times, and the player who might need to be most aware of is punter Dom Maggio.
Who’s on offense?
The rest of the Aggies’ offense is a bit of a mystery. Of 11 starting positions on offense, 18 players are listed as potential starters, including three quarterbacks: junior Jake Hubenak, true freshman Kellen Mond or redshirt freshman Nick Starkel. Mond is the Aggies’ leading passer this season with 1,375 yards and eight touchdowns — both of which lead Texas A&M. Mond’s six interceptions also lead the team, while Starkel threw for 1,067 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions in five games.
Two seniors can set program records for Wake Forest by being on the field for their units’ first plays — while they’ll be more than just ceremonial participants. Defensive end Wendell Dunn and kicker Mike Weaver have started 49 games in their careers, or every game they’ve been on campus for other than the 2013 season, their redshirt season. That has tied linebacker Aaron Curry for the Wake Forest record for career starts. Dunn has 38 tackles, two sacks and two fumbles forced this season, and Weaver has connected on 19 of 22 field goals this year and has a total of 102 points. One more point from Weaver would be the second-most in a season in Deacons history, and he’s nine points shy of Brian Piccolo’s record of 111 in 1963.
The Belk Bowl will be played on the 10th anniversary of the Deacons’ only other bowl game in Charlotte, which was a 24-10 win over Connecticut in what was then the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Kenneth Moore was the MVP, catching 11 passes for 112 yards. Those passes came from Riley Skinner, who connected on 29 of 38 throws for 268 yards and a touchdown pass to tight end John Tereshinski. Wake Forest trailed 10-0 before scoring the final 24 points.
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