BC, Wake Forest set to renew mini-rivalry in ACC Atlantic
BOSTON (AP) — John Wolford is the first Wake Forest quarterback to start four straight season openers. Boston College’s Anthony Brown is the first Eagle to win the opener in his freshman year.
On Saturday, they’ll face each other in what has turned into a mini-Atlantic Coast Conference rivalry.
“Obviously, the competition level is going to jump way up,” said Wake coach Dave Clawson, whose team wasn’t challenged in a 51-7 victory over FCS Presbyterian. “I think there is still a lot to learn.”
The Demon Deacons scored on each of their first six possessions and led 44-0 before Presbyterian crossed midfield in the third quarter. Brown debuted on the road against longtime Mid-American Conference stalwart Northern Illinois and led the Eagles to a 23-20 victory.
“You’re starting the game as a redshirt freshman and you win, you did your job,” Clawson said. “The job of the quarterback is to win the game. Right now, he’s 1-0 as a starter.”
BC and Wake have played some meaningful games lately, but not necessarily in a good way: With one or the other often near the bottom of the Atlantic Division standings over the past half-dozen years, the matchup to avoid the cellar has been reliably competitive. Two years ago, when BC went winless in the conference, it was the only game Wake won.
“I think there is kind of an inner division kind of rivalry there,” Eagles coach Steve Addazio said. “I think our kids are both battling for that win. These are competitive, hard-fought, tough games as you pointed out. Whether they’re here or there, it doesn’t seem to make any difference.”
Here are some other things to look for in Saturday’s game:
Brown was just the second freshman in BC history to start a season opener, going 26 for 42 with 191 passing yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
By winning his debut, he accomplished something that none of the most celebrated quarterbacks in school history were able to do. Future pros Doug Flutie, Matt Ryan and Glenn Foley all lost their first starts, and none started the opener in his freshman year.
“All you can do is hope that you’ll see what you saw in practice to validate your decisions,” Addazio said. “He had a great look on his face and digested all of that like a veteran.”
GREAT DAY FOR GREG
Wake Forest fans found out in the opener what Clawson has known all along — Greg Dortch might be the big-play threat the Demon Deacons have needed for years. Dortch caught touchdown passes of 7 and 42 yards in the Presbyterian win, finished with four receptions for a team-best 55 yards and averaged 19 yards on four punt returns.
“It would be nice to think that we can finally have a return game here in punt returns and kick returns,” Clawson said. “It’s hard to be a good kick return team or punt return team if you don’t have a dynamic, elusive returner. And Greg certainly gives us that.”
Boston College has been stymied by placekicking woes since before Addazio arrived in Chestnut Hill. A decade ago, Tom O’Brien pulled Steve Aponavicius, a soccer player who had never played in a football game before, out of the stands to solidify the placekicking.
But since Nate Freese graduated in 2013, Addazio has searched for a reliable kicker. In ’14, the Eagles missed six extra points — one in overtime in the Pinstripe Bowl — and tried only eight field goals all season. Three different kickers combined to make 6 of 11 field goals two seasons ago. Last season, Mike Knoll missed three point-after attempts.
So Addazio has reason to be hopeful after Colton Lichtenberg converted both PATs and field goals of 42 and 35 yards before making a 37-yard winner with 2:13 left against Northern Illinois. Lichtenberg was 0 for 2 as a sophomore the previous season.
“There is a guy that needed a little confidence boost, and I think that helped a great deal,” Addazio said. “We scored in the red zone, and that’s what you have to do because when you don’t, it’s a momentum, confidence killer. So having that weapon become active was fantastic. Obviously, (it was) critical in that game, and it will be critical as we move forward.”