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Football is back – Blogger So Dear

2021 was one of the best seasons in program history for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons: 11 wins, an Atlantic Division championship, a trip to Charlotte for the ACC championship and a Gator Bowl victory over Rutgers to finish the season. With so much excitement surrounding Wake Forest football, it was truly one of the longest off-seasons I can remember. And now it’s finally over.

In just 24 hours, the 2022 football season kicks off for the Demon Deacons as Wake takes the field against the VMI Keydets. While the game with an FCS opponent is never the most exciting (compared to in-state games between NC State and ECU or UNC and App this weekend), there are still plenty of reasons to tune in to the Thursday night’s game, whether in person at Truist Field or on the ACC Network. So here are 5 reasons why you should be pumped for Thursday night’s home opener.

1. Mitch Griffis’ first start

Starting QB Sam Hartman’s injury is obviously nil and I hope Hartman makes a full and quick recovery. That being said, his absence adds a little extra intrigue to the season opener, as it gives fans our first glimpse of what the future QB could be for the next few years in Mitch Griffis. Griffis is a very good player – Clawson recruited him after all – who threw for over 3,000 yards and 40 touchdowns as a senior in high school, but he really hasn’t had a chance to get any meaningful minutes until now in Wake Forest. The RPO-based offense is heavily based on the quarterback’s ability to get the right reads in time, and those decisions should be fairly independent of the strength of the opponent. So while we might not be able to glean much about the Deacs from a game against an FCS opponent, we should be able to see how comfortable Griffis is reading the defense and run slow mesh system.

2. Improved Defense

This one is pretty obvious, as Wake Forest’s defense last year wasn’t great, to put it lightly. The Deacs gave up 500+ yards in 6 of 13 games and allowed opponents to score 40 or more in 5 of them. You could argue that with a slightly better defense, the Deacs could have finished last season with just 1 or 2 losses and maybe even an ACC championship. Wake brought back Brad Lambert to take over the reins as defensive coordinator, so his first game at the helm should also intrigue fans. Despite being an FCS opponent, which means the Deacs will likely have a lot more clout and speed at almost every position, Wake gave up over 330 yards and 19 first downs to Norfolk State the last season, so we can still see improvements on that front despite the opposition. Hopefully we’ll see a defense with a better understanding of their assignments and players in the right positions to make plays.

3. The future of Kicker U

Wake Forest has a long tradition of great kickers. How many kickers have been named MVP of a conference championship game? Wake has had the pleasure of having the most accurate kicker in NCAA history on its roster for the past 4 seasons; in those 4 years, Nick Sciba never missed an extra point and finished his career 80-89 on field goals (89%). Needless to say, Sciba was the most reliable kicker in the country and the Deacs could always rely on him at the end of a game. With Sciba now trying his luck in the NFL, redshirt rookie Matthew Dennis has some big shoes to fill. We should see him a lot on Thursday night, although hopefully most of his attempts are extra points.

4. Deacs are ranked

In case you forgot, Wake Forest are the No. 22 team in the country. They are ranked in the preseason AP Top 25 for only the second time in school history. That alone should be enough to get you excited for the game, regardless of the opponent.

5. This is Wake Forest football

You’ve been waiting for it for a long time and now it’s back. Do you really need another reason?

Let’s have another great season, and GO DEACS!