Unbeaten Wake Forest looks to continue rolling vs Utah State

FILE - In this Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016 file photo, Utah State head coach Matt Wells on the sidelines in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Nevada in Reno, Nev. Wake Forest’s defense keeps getting the ball, and the offense keeps turning those takeaways into points. It’s added up to another strong start for the Demon Deacons. Wake Forest looks to improve to 3-0 for the second straight year on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017 in a visit from Utah State.(AP Photo/Tom R. Smedes, File)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) Wake Forest’s defense keeps getting the ball, and the offense keeps turning those takeaways into points. It’s added up to another strong start for the Demon Deacons.

Wake Forest looks to improve to 3-0 for the second straight year on Saturday in a visit from Utah State.

The Demon Deacons are tied for fifth nationally with a turnover margin of plus-2. They forced four turnovers last week and turned three of those takeaways into touchdowns in a 34-10 rout at Boston College – their most lopsided Atlantic Coast Conference road win since 2006.

”We’re starting to click on both sides of the ball, and a lot of that does still come from … the defense giving us the ball,” sophomore running back Cade Carney said. ”We get the ball in our own red zone, starting a drive from a defensive turnover, we feel that’s something we have to capitalize on.”

That wasn’t always the case in Dave Clawson’s first few seasons as coach, when the defense was clearly the stronger unit but sometimes buckled from having to carry a sputtering offense that had trouble rushing the football. This Wake Forest team is averaging more than 200 yards rushing – a 55-yard improvement over last season, and a fivefold increase over its 39-yard average in Clawson’s first season in 2014.

The challenge is to keep that going against a somewhat unfamiliar opponent from across the country. The Aggies (1-1) rank in the upper half of the FBS, averaging 450 total yards, while allowing 391 yards per game.

Coach Matt Wells is well aware of Wake Forest’s knack for forcing takeaways.

”We’re trying not to be dumb on offense,” he said. ”I think the turnover battle, whether you’re playing Wake Forest or anybody, is important. Wake Forest did a great job. … They crushed BC in terms of the turnover margin. It’s one of the things in our plan to win that we talk about all the time: taking care of the football. Strip searches on defense, ball searches on defense, picks, and then taking care of the ball. It’s an important part. We can talk about turnover margin ever week.”

Some things to know about the Utah State-Wake Forest game:

STREAK SNAPPED: Wake Forest TE Cam Serigne will look to start a new streak after he was held without a reception for the first time in his college career. Serigne had at least one catch in 37 straight games before Boston College shut him out last week. It was the third-longest receptions streak in school history and the longest in 18 years.

FREQUENT FLIERS: The Aggies will log plenty of time in airplanes over the next couple of weeks. After the Wake Forest trip, Utah State will play at San Jose State on Sept. 23 in its Mountain West Conference opener – meaning the team will travel a combined 5,670 miles in the air. This is Utah State’s first game in the Eastern time zone since it opened the 2014 season at Tennessee.

THE SERIES: These teams played only once before, with Utah State winning 36-24 in Clawson’s first season in 2014. Only three current Aggies played in that game while QB John Wolford, Serigne and K Mike Weaver are among the Demon Deacons who participated in that loss in Logan, Utah.

FAST START: Wake Forest WR Greg Dortch, who caught a 9-yard touchdown pass against BC, is the first freshman in program history with TD catches in each of his first two games.

AGGIES VS THE ACC: Utah State is 1-3 against ACC teams with the lone victory coming against Wake Forest. The Aggies have never beaten an ACC team on the road.

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