Surprising Wake plays host to No. 19 Virginia Tech
It's easy for Wake Forest to keep from getting too cocky after knocking off Florida State. The Demon Deacons simply think back to last year's visit to Virginia Tech.
''They crushed us by 30-some points?'' linebacker Scott Betros asked rhetorically. ''That brings us back to reality.''
That humiliating 52-21 loss still stings Wake Forest's players a year later, so they'll try to make up for it - and win consecutive games against nationally ranked teams for the first time in school history - on Saturday night when the Demon Deacons (4-1, 3-0 ACC) play host to the 19th-ranked Hokies (5-1, 1-1).
For Wake Forest, the challenge isn't just corralling Logan Thomas, David Wilson and the rest of Virginia Tech's playmakers. It's learning how to handle their success amid a four-game winning streak and a school-record start to ACC play that included last week's 35-30 upset of the then-No. 23 Seminoles.
Some of the factors that worked in the Demon Deacons' favor last week - their roster full of Florida natives had plenty to prove to a familiar home-state school and Atlantic Division rival they face every year - aren't present this time. Only a handful of their players are from Virginia, and the Hokies are making their first visit to BB&T Field since 2006.
''Are you going to be overconfident?'' Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said. ''The Florida State win, does it feel too good to get ready for Virginia Tech? ... It has been my experience (that), if you're not careful, to think that we ought to just celebrate all week and just see what happens against the next opponent. So even though we're 4-1, we should feel good about that (but) we're not halfway through the season, so we've got a lot of great teams still to play.''
Both teams have enough threats on offense to put up big point totals if left unchecked, so the game could be decided by which defense plays toughest.
Wake Forest ranks fourth in the ACC, giving up an average of 324 total yards, is the league's second-toughest team against the run and forced the Seminoles into five key turnovers. The Demon Deacons' 3-4 scheme will be tested by Wilson - the league's No. 2 rusher who averages 128 yards - and Thomas - who completed 92 percent of his passes against Miami last week and accounted for 338 total yards and five touchdowns, including the game-winner with 56 seconds left. That came a week after he was frustrated by Clemson in a surprising 23-3 loss in Blacksburg.
''Logan is just a steady guy,'' Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. ''I think he'll be steady in how he improves. Each and every week he'll get better. ... I certainly think it was a great confidence builder, and I certainly feel better about how he played the game than the week before, even though a lot of things the week before wasn't totally him, it was some other things as well. But I think he's just a steady guy that will just be a steady improvement.''
The Hokies' defense ranks first or second in the ACC in three of the four main stat categories, but is giving up a middle-of-the-pack 266 yards per game through the air. That could provide hope for Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price, a sophomore whose average of 270 yards passing ranks third in the league, and big-play threat Chris Givens, who's second in the league
And Virginia Tech certainly won't overlook running back Josh Harris, the Demon Deacons' only bright spot in last year's meeting. He ran for 241 yards and two touchdowns against the Hokies, and kept touchdown drives alive against Florida State with runs covering 42 and 57 yards.
''People can't catch him,'' Beamer said of Harris. ''This guy is good. He's fast. He's got good patience running. He's for real. I thought maybe it was us, but then you look at Florida State trying to chase him down and they've got the same problems.''
The Demon Deacons know it'll take much more than another big day from Harris to beat the Hokies for the first time since 1983.
''We just have to realize what they did to us last year,'' Betros said. ''Even though we say we're a different team, the fact is that last time we played, they absolutely embarrassed us. I think a lot of guys realize that, and our coaches definitely realize that, and they're not going to let us forget that.''
AP Sports Writer Hank Kurz Jr. in Blacksburg, Va., contributed to this report.