Sometimes, it’s a coach’s job to appear ruthless and predatory. Even when the victim will be preserving, protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States one of these days.
Such was the case Saturday for Wake Forest defensive coordinator Dean Hood, who greeted Navy’s backup quarterback with a corner blitz that forced a fumble, created a tie-breaking touchdown and sent Wake on its way to a 44-24 victory. A crowd of 36,992, the second largest in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium history, was watching.
Hood said the blitz would have been in order no matter that was taking the snaps, but the timing was perfect. “It worked out quite well,” Hood said. “The kids really played it right.”
Wake Forest won their fifth straight this season and now have prevailed in nine of their past 11 road games, a run of success that once seemed incomprehensible.
The Midshipmen, as is their custom, confused Wake early with triple-option chicanery that seemingly would produce lots of points.
Tied at 17-all in the second quarter, the game began to turn when Deacons linebacker Aaron Curry, benched for the first quarter for an unspecified off-the-field offense, surprised starting quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada with a clean and intense hit.
Kaheaku-Enhada, who operates the nation’s top-ranked rushing offense, suffered a neck injury. He walked off the field but did not return “I caught him turning around,” Curry said. “I just put a big smile on my face and made the play.”
In came Jarod Bryant, a junior with one career start to his name. Bryant’s first play was a third-and-long situation, an obvious passing play for just about everybody except Navy, which runs 84 percent of the time. Hood guessed the Middies would indeed put it up, which is why he ordered cornerback Alphonso Smith to play attack dog.
Smith has the frightening propensity to make a game-changing play, having given Wake Forest momentum against Maryland and Florida State in the past month.
The method of execution in those games was an interception; this was an unabated charge and a hit delivered just as Bryant was drawing the ball back to throw. Matt Robinson’s pickup of the fumble and touchdown run from the 7 gave Wake Forest the lead, and with the way the offense was running through Navy defense, any edge was going to be sufficient.
Asked to offer a nickname for his fellow defensive back, Chip Vaughn didn’t hesitate. “Big Time,” he said. “He’ll let you know it, but he backs it up. And that’s what I love about him.”
Bryant was effective at times, and it’s hard to blame him for the two fumbles that followed. The whole truth, however, is that he isn’t as adept at faking the keeper and pitching wide to a tailback. An important element of the Navy offense was compromised.
“I don’t know that it had anything to do with it, but the execution wasn’t quite what it would be with the first guy in there,” said Wake coach Jim Grobe, now 13-1 against Navy as an Air Force assistant and Wake Forest’ boss.
The Deacons had no real issues. For the first time this year, they didn’t commit a turnover. They scored on six of their first seven possessions, failing only when Sam Swank missed a 57-yard field-goal attempt in the second quarter.
Riley Skinner hooked up with Kenny Moore 15 times for 180 yards and two touchdowns. A 20-point, fourth-quarter lead might have been the only factor preventing Moore from breaking the ACC’s single-game record of 16 catches in a game. Even so, Moore became the first player in league history with two 15-catch games in a career.
“Today was probably as close as we’ve come to playing a four-quarter game,” Skinner said.