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 win over Rutgers to end the season. With so much excitement surrounding Wake Forest football, this was truly one of the longest offseasons I can remember. And now it’s finally over.
In just 24 hours, the 2022 football season begins for the Demon Deacons as Wake takes the home field against the VMI Keydets. While matchup with an FCS opponent is never the most exciting (compared to in-state matchups between NC State and ECU or UNC and App this weekend), there’s still plenty of reason to tune in for Thursday night’s game. night, either in person at Truist Field or on the ACC Network. So here are 5 reasons why you should be excited for the first home game on Thursday night.
1. Mitch Griffis’s first start
Quarterback Sam Hartman’s injury obviously sucks and, hopefully, Hartman makes a full and quick recovery. That said, his absence adds a bit of extra intrigue to the first game of the season, as it gives fans our first look at what the future QB for the next few years could be in Mitch Griffis. Griffis is a very good player—Clawson drafted him after all—he threw for more than 3,000 yards and 40 touchdowns his senior year of high school, but he hasn’t really had a chance to get significant minutes thus far at Wake Forest. RPO-based offense relies heavily on the quarterback’s ability to make the right reads on time, and those decisions should be fairly independent of the opponent’s strength. So while we may not be able to get much on the Deacs of a game against an FCS opponent, we should be able to see how comfortable Griffis is reading the defense and running the slow mesh system.
2. An improved defense
This one is pretty obvious, because Wake Forest’s defense last year wasn’t great, to put it lightly. The Deacs gave up more than 500 yards of offense in 6 of their 13 games and allowed opponents to score 40 or more points 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 as defensive coordinator, so his first game in charge should also create some intrigue for fans. While an FCS opponent, which means the Deacs will likely have a lot more weight and speed at almost every position, Wake gave up over 330 yards and 19 first downs to Norfolk State last season, so we can still see improvements on that front despite the opponent. 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 their roster for the last 4 seasons; in those 4 years, Nick Sciba never missed an extra point and finished his career 80-89 shooting from the field (89%). Needless to say, Sciba was the nation’s most reliable kicker and the Deacs could always count on him late in a game. As Sciba is now trying his hand at the NFL, redshirt freshman Matthew Dennis has some big shoes to fill. We should see him a lot Thursday night, though we expect most of his attempts to be extra points.
4. The Deacs are classified
In case you forgot, Wake Forest is the 22nd ranked team in the country. They are ranked in the AP Top 25 preseason for the second time in school history. That alone should be enough to get you excited about the game, regardless of the opponent.
5. It’s Wake Forest football
You’ve been waiting for him for a long time and now he’s back. Do you really need another reason?
Let’s have another great season and GO DEACS!