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Opponent Breakdown: Wake Forest Offense

Louisville will have a hard time stopping the “Clawfense”.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Louisville’s best chance to get a win in the second half of the season will be this weekend against Wake Forest. To get that win, they will have to find a way to slow down Dave Clawson’s very pacey offense. Clawson has made it clear that he will use pace to close the talent gap and it helped him get to a bowl game last year. The results just haven’t been there this year, though.

The quarterback position was a huge question coming into the season with John Walford exhausting his eligibility. Walford had been the starter from the time he stepped on campus and Kendall Hinton was the only other quarterback that was left with any experience but he was suspended to start the year. Clawson again went with a true freshman to be the starter and I’d imagine he’s pretty pleased with how Sam Hartman has played this season.

Hartman has been far from perfect and he is only completing 54% of his passes but he has thrown 12 touchdowns and runs the ball pretty well. Wake likes to run a lot of RPOs and play action stuff and Hartman has done very well with that part of the offense. He can get the ball out quickly and the ball arrives in a hurry. Louisville will have to take advantage of his youth and hope to force some turnovers. That’s the one spot that has been a real issue for Hartman.

Wake is averaging over 200 yards per game on the ground and they get to that number with a mix of backs and their quarterback. Cade Carney leads the team in rushing this year and Matt Colburn splits carries with him. Both backs are similar but they’re not really asked to do much more than be patient in their unique system. The RPOs that they run are very drawn out, so the backs end up kind of standing behind the line until the quarterback decides to give it to them or not. This also plays out on their read option plays and other run plays. You will see the backs just wait for as long as they need to until they find a hole.

For the second straight week, Louisville is going up against a team that had an individual player go off last season. They were able to avoid AJ Dillon last week because of injury but Greg Dortch is fully healthy and he’s due for a breakout game. Dortch scored four touchdowns last year even though he injured him self so badly early in the game that he had to have emergency surgery after the game and missed the rest of the season. He literally put together a highlight film on Peter Sirmon’s defense.

Dortch is the best player on the offense but they have some different players to help him this year. Chuck Wade moved to safety and Tabari Hines transferred to Oregon for some reason. Scotty Washington (who also torched UofL last year) is playing a bigger role but Chase Surratt has been the biggest addition to the offense. Surratt had 11 catches in his first career game but he hasn’t done much since then. That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t show his level of talent each week. He’s a great compliment to the other guys on the roster because he can be a deep threat as well as a possession guy.

Two other guys to keep an eye on are Alex Bachman and Jack Fruedenstal. Wake lost two really good inside pass catchers from last year’s team and they haven’t been able to replace their impact. Both of these guys will need to be the “one to two” catch guys that they are and not end up being the random guy that blows up on Louisville’s defense.

The biggest surprise with this team has been the offensive line. This was supposed to be one of the best groups in the conference but they’ve been flat out bad at times. They lost Justin Herron to injury but I don’t think anyone expected that to be this big of an issue. Phil Haynes and Ryan Anderson are still very good in the middle and it will be a big issue if they can open things up for this running game. The play action game will be that much better if Louisville’s linebackers and safeties are worried about the interior runs.