View from the other side: Michigan State vs. Wake Forest
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
MICHIGAN STATE VS. WAKE FOREST
►Kickoff: 3:20 p.m. Friday, Yankee Stadium, New York
►TV/radio: ESPN/760 AM
►Records: Michigan State 6-6, Wake Forest 8-4
►Line: Michigan State by 3.5
View from the other side
Conor O’Neill covers Wake Forest for the Winston-Salem Journal. He breaks down the Demon Deacons for The Detroit News, answering five questions heading into Friday’s Pinstripe Bowl between Michigan State and Wake Forest at Yankee Stadium. You can follow him on Twitter at @ConorONeillWSJ.
►Question: Will QB Jamie Newman be healthy enough to play and how can he take advantage of a vulnerable MSU secondary?
►O’Neill: I fully expect Newman to play, as he’s listed on the depth chart. In contrast, safety Nasir Greer and defensive tackle Rondell Bothroyd are out and are not on the depth chart. It was a tough end to the season for Newman, who struggled at Virginia Tech, was bottled up against Clemson in a way no other team has in his short starting experience, and then he suffered the knee injury in the finale at Syracuse. But he played all of those games without Scotty Washington, a 6-5 wide receiver who would’ve drawn a ton of attention and hype if not for Sage Surratt’s monster season. Washington is set to return for this game; he suffered an ankle injury against N.C. State. And between Washington, slot receiver Kendall Hinton and emerging freshman Donavon Greene, Newman should have as full a complement of his weapons available as possible without Surratt.
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►Question: MSU defends the run well, but how will Wake Forest’s tempo attempt to dictate the game?
►O’Neill: Wake Forest typically wants to run about 80 plays per game, and that won’t be different in this one. The Deacons have had one of the five or 10 fastest offenses in the country in each of the last three seasons. Coach Dave Clawson often says it’s not necessarily that Wake Forest wants to go fast – it’s that he wants the threat of going fast. If the Deacons are always a threat to operate the offense at a breakneck pace, defenses struggle to make substitutions and communications – and that’s the ultimate goal.
►Question: For a defense allowing more than 400 yards a game, does this matchup offer a chance for the defense to stand out?
►O’Neill: Hmm … not really. Greer, the sophomore safety, being out means Wake Forest will be missing three of its five best defensive players in this game – along with linebacker Justin Strnad and rover Luke Masterson. All three of those players excel in limiting big plays and erasing mistakes by others. Now they’ll need others to step into those voids.
►Question: Who are a few names that could be the difference in Wake Forest winning the game?
►O’Neill: Newman is the obvious one – the one game that Wake Forest won in the last four saw him put up 428 yards of offense (284 passing, 144 rushing). When he’s been at his best, Wake Forest’s offense has been fantastic. Boogie Basham and Essang Bassey are the other top-five defensive players who aren’t hurt. Basham is a redshirt junior defensive end who recently announced he’s coming back next season, and he was a first-team All-ACC selection with 10 sacks and 17 tackles for loss. Bassey is one of two starting senior cornerbacks, the other being Amari Henderson. Both of them are pretty essential, but Bassey tends to draw the tougher assignments.
►Question: After losing three of the last four, how are the Demon Deacons viewing this bowl game?
►O’Neill: It’s a good question. Wake Forest started 7-1 and made its first-ever appearance in the College Football Playoff rankings this season. Dreams of an Orange Bowl berth took a blow with the loss at Virginia Tech but were still alive – and then came the loss at Syracuse to end the season and extinguish whatever was left of hopes for an end-of-season trip to Miami. Last season, Wake Forest won 59-7 to punch bowl eligibility in the final week of the season, so the Deacons rode positive vibes in the weeks before the Birmingham Bowl. But in the previous two seasons, Wake Forest lost its regular-season finale and then pulled together for wins in the Military and Belk bowls, and they’ve got to recapture that mentality of bouncing back for the bowl game this time.
Players to watch
►Jamie Newman, QB: The junior is second in the ACC in total offense yards per game with 389.1, which ranks 20th nationally. He is fourth in the ACC and 35th in the nation in passing yards per game with 244.8 and ranks third in the ACC with 23 touchdown passes. Newman is one of only three quarterbacks in the nation with multiple rushing touchdowns and a passing touchdown in a quarter this season, joining Justin Fields of Ohio State and Jalen Hurts of Oklahoma.
►Kendall Hinton, WR: The fifth-year senior is the Demon Deacons’ leading receiver, hauling in 70 catches for 953 yards and three touchdowns. He’s been especially effective over the last seven game, with 53 receptions for 776 yards, an average of 110.8 yards per game. Hinton had a career-high 13 catches for 134 yards vs. Louisville and followed that with 162 yards on eight catches against Virginia Tech, as well as six grabs for 189 yards against Duke.
►Carlos "Boogie" Basham Jr., DE: The first-team All-ACC selection became one of just four players in Wake Forest history to hit double figures in sacks. Basham recorded 2.5 sacks against Duke to bring his season total to 10. He is second in the ACC with 0.91 sacks per game and now has 14.5 career sacks, good for seventh in program history. Basham also has an ACC-best 16.5 tackles for loss this season and 29.5 for his career.
Facts and figures
►Putting up points: Wake Forest has posted its two most prolific offensive seasons in school history in the last two years and is well on its way to a third straight record-setting season. The 2018 team finished second in school history to the 2017 squad in total offense yards, total offense yards per game, points scored and points per game. In 2019, the Deacons are on target to set school records for passing yards and total offense yards, entering the bowl game averaging 473.4 total yards a game and 297.8 yards through the air.
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►Moving the chains: Wake Forest is 16th in the nation and second in the ACC in third-down conversions, picking up first downs 100 of 212 attempts for 47.2 percent. The school record for conversion success is 45.5 percent (81-for-178) set in 2001. On the other side of the ball, the Deacons are 15th in the nation and second in the ACC in third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert just 31.5 percent of their third downs.
►Going bowling: The Demon Deacons have won three straight bowl games, the only ACC team to have done so in each of the last three years. The three-game bowl streak is tied for second in the nation among Power Five teams as Northwestern and Oklahoma State have won three consecutive bowl games while Wisconsin has won five straight. In 2016, the Deacons topped Temple, 34-26, in the Military Bowl before beating Texas A&M, 55-52, in the 2017 Belk Bowl. Last season, Wake Forest beat Memphis, 37-34, in the Birmingham Bowl.