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With Wake 4-0, Jamie Newman pushes Dark Horse Heisman Candidacy

It wasn’t too long ago — about five weeks, to be exact — when Jamie Newman was named the starting quarterback to open the 2019 season for Wake Forest. Since then, though, Newman has been on a bit of a rocket ship. Through four games, Newman is one of six FBS quarterbacks with at least 10 touchdown passes (12) and a completion rate above 70 percent (71.1 percent). The other players on that list are a who’s who of college football royalty: Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, Joe Burrows, Sam Ehlinger and Anthony Gordon — Mike Leach’s latest project.

Newman is the only player in the country with at least 1,000 passing yards (1,278), 10 passing touchdowns, 100 rushing yards (160) and two or more rushing touchdowns (three). He’s in elite territory, right now.

More importantly, Wake Forest is still undefeated — with solid wins over Utah State and North Carolina. For the first time since 2008, Wake Forest landed in the Coaches Poll. The Demon Deacons, No. 41 in ESPN’s FPI, are on the doorstep of entering the AP Poll, too. (Newman is now 7-1 as a starter.)

Wake Forest is 4-0 to start the season for just the seventh time in program history. This is also the first time since the magical 2006 season that Wake Forest has gone undefeated in non-conference play.

 

I need tempo (tempo)

As has been the case under Dave Clawon and offensive coordinator Wayne Ruggerio, Wake Forest plays super fast. Back in the 2017 season, John Wolford excelled in this get-it-and-go system (No. 6 in the FBS in adjusted pace); now in 2019, it’s Jamie Newman that’s piloting the ACC’s ultimate go-go offense.

Wake Forest averages over 80 offensive plays per game and, through the first month of the season, no FBS team has run more plays than the Demon Deacons: 323. Led by Newman (No. 5 in the FBS in Pass EPA), Wake Forest also ranks 28th nationally in offensive efficiency.

The Demon Deacons average over 6.6 yards per play on offense (No. 2 in the ACC) and have converted close to 49 percent of their third plays into new sets of downs, too, good for third in the ACC.

Newman has completed over 59 percent of his third-down throws as well. The redshirt junior quarterback also leads the ACC with 10 completions of 30+ yards and 17 completions of 20+ yards.

 

Be quick but don’t hurry

One of the things that jumps out when you watch Wake Forest play is the team’s RPO game. By this point, so many FBS teams are running spread-option offenses with run-pass concepts. In terms of scheme, everything looks fairly derivative — with some exceptions, of course. Wake Forest, however, runs its RPO actions in ways that feel/look unique.

This is like if someone tried to distill Le’Veon Bell’s patented patient running style and applied it to the mesh point of an option. So far this season, Newman has proved rather adept at this concept.

Wake Forest loves this look: RPO with a slant or short post route over the top. Newman process information quickly and makes sharp decisions. Newman manipulates defenders with his eyes and a now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t approach to the mesh point.

Once he’s picked a target, Newman moves decisively and has the arm velocity to deliver the ball on time — even through serious traffic.

 

Run Game — Finding its way

With Wolford running the show in 2017, Wake Forest was led by its pass attack. The Demon Deacons finished the season No. 2 nationally in passing S&P-plus. That’s the case again this season with Newman and Wake Forest; the Deacons prefer to move the ball through the air.

However, the run game has been solid, too. Wake Forest ranks No. 5 in the ACC in both yards per carry (4.5) and rushing yards per game (203.8). This style of offense also lends itself to explosive run plays.

Kenneth Walker’s 96-yard touchdown scamper at Rice is the longest play from scrimmage in the ACC so far this season — besting Travis Etienne’s 90-yard touchdown run against Georgia Tech.

Walker currently leads the ACC in yards per carry (10.0).

When Wake Forest runs the ball like this, it can almost look like a super-delayed draw play. The offensive line obviously deserves a great deal of credit here, too.

It certainly doesn’t hurt to have a quarterback this athletic and strong, one that can blend efficient deep passing with a powerful running style.

 

The Dynamic Duo — Surratt and Washington

In Wake Forest’s most recent outing — a 49-7 blowout of Elon game — Jamie Newman threw for 351 yards (77.1 percent completion rate, 10 yards per attempt) and five touchdowns. His two favorite targets — Sage Surratt and Scotty Washington — went wild, once again. Washington and Surratt combined for 17 receptions, 253 receiving yards (sixth most in program history) and four touchdowns.

The performance by Surratt and Washington was the first time in the FBS this season that a pair of teammates have both gone for at least eight receptions, 100 yards receiving and two touchdowns in the same game. (For his career, Surratt eclipsed the the 1,000-yard mark (1,065) in his 17th game, which is the second fastest in school history.)

 

Quick Numbers: Surratt and Washington

With Jamie Newman pushing the ball down the field, Wake Forest has leaned heavily on Washington and Surratt, who both possess excellent height, to win jump balls. Newman throws a really pretty deep ball — a tight spiral. Surratt and Washington, in turn, have down well high-pointing the football and making plays. These two guys are hungry for touchdowns.

Currently, Surratt and Washington rank first and second, respectively, in the ACC in total receiving yards. They are also tied for the conference lead with five touchdown catches, each.

 

Sage Surratt

  • 30 receptions, No. 2 ACC
  • 484 receiving yards, No. 1 ACC
  • 16.1 yards per catch, No. 9 ACC
  • 5 touchdown receptions, tied No. 1 ACC
  • 17 catches of 10+ yards, No. 1 ACC
  • 7 catches of 20+ yards, No. 1 ACC
  • 4 catches of 40+ yards, No. 1 ACC
  • 9 third down receptions, tied No. 1 ACC

 

Scotty Washington

  • 22 receptions, No. 6 ACC
  • 476 receiving yards, tied No. 2 ACC
  • 5 touchdown receptions, tied No. 1 ACC
  • 17.1 yards per catch, No. 8 ACC
  • 11 catches of 10+ yards, tied No. 6 ACC
  • 6 catches of 20+ yards, tied No. 2 ACC

 

Is it time for a run?

The schedule sets up quite nicely for Wake Forest over the next two months. The Demon Deacons travel to Boston College this Saturday, which will be tough. After that, though, Wake has a bye week, and then three straight homes games against Louisville, Florida State and NC State. (Who knows what FSU will look like as a program come Oct. 19.)

Wake Forest found magic during its ACC title season in 2006, thanks to its ability to win one-possession games. There’s plenty of luck baked into that cake, sure, but that season Wake went a perfect 5-0 in one-score games.

So far this season, the Demon Deacons are 2-0 in one-possessions games — wins over Utah State and UNC, though the victory over the Tar Heels was slightly less encouraging. With Wake Forest, it’s a stretch to compare anything to the 2006 season. It feels a bit trite, too, though there are few other close facsimiles in program history. (Also: to go undefeated in one-score games is a rarity.)

However, Wake Forest is a dangerous team — with an elite offense — that can definitely make a run. The 2006 team had to win with a bend-but-don’t-break defense and an opportunistic offense, led by Riley Skinner and Kenny Moore.

It’s different now: 2019 Wake Forest can spread opponents out, protect the quarter, play with pace, take deeps shots and beat teams with its athletes — straight up. Obviously all ACC roads run through Clemson, but there’s something special going on right now with Wake Forest.

 

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