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Wake Forest Film Review: First Quarter

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

Louisville came out on Saturday night firing on all cylanders. Not only did they create big plays on offense and special teams but they also controlled Wake’s offense. While I don’t really think that this game was won in the first quarter, the tone was definitely set then.


Micale Cunningham showed early the different aspect that he brings to the quarterback position. Wake sold out on the run all game and they let everyone know early that was their plan. The entire second level of the defense ends up outside of the left hash on this play action bootleg and Cunningham ends up with a lot of space to operate.

I actually like that he doesn’t throw the easy ball to Seth Dawkins here because he has a huge amount of space to run and he has momentum going forward. It’s also not a given that Dawkins picks up a lot of yardage with the Wake Forest defender to the outside. From our view it looks like he does but that’s not obvious to Micale as he turns his head. The safe play was to run.


I will admit that I didn’t see turnovers playing a role in this game because neither team had turned it over a ton or forced many, either. I was super wrong and the game started off with a big turnover from the sure handed Cade Carney. I’m not sure if he somehow didn’t see Rodjay Burns or not but this is a hit that he takes a lot and for some reason he let this one loose.

Burns delivers a nice blow right on the ball and elbow but this isn’t the type of hit that you would expect to jar the ball loose from a guy like Carney who doesn’t fumble. Kudos to him for being there to make the hit as well as multiple teammates for chasing the play and being there to get the easy recovery.


This specific run play is one that I wished they had run more often. They ran a lot of outside zone but the orbit motion pulls the outside linebacker up the field and takes the safety out of the run path. In general, the team didn’t run the ball all that well but it didn’t seem to bother Scott Satterfield as he ran play action off of it and got the quarterback runs going off of it.


Here’s a really good play from Anthony Johnson against Wake’s quick screen. They played it like this all game long and it worked very well. Johnson keeps outside leverage while working his blocker back into the ball. You can see that he gets his shoulders outside of the blocker so that the runner can’t get around him without going through him. That’s textbook and it’s something to be on the lookout for against Clemson.

You can also see how they made sure that Wake couldn’t hit them with the dummy screen and go with Russ Yeast staying back off the snap. This works because you have a guy like Rodjay Burns who can get outside quickly and keep this to a short gain. You give up a five yard gain to ensure that you don’t give up a huge gain.


This is another outstanding example of how much Micale Cunningham has grown as a quarterback. He wants to go to Tutu Atwell here but the deep safety in the middle of the field takes it away. He then steps up in the pocket and gets away from the pursuit before looking back over the middle and finding his third option on the play. I really love that he makes this throw on the run but he gathers himself before doing so. He doesn’t just fling the ball out there. He’s under control and he throws an absolute strike.

Louisville’s receivers have done such a great job running after the catch this year. I’ve made the point a handful of times that they needed to do more in that area and it’s great to see them improve. Dawkins just makes a simple move on Amari Henderson and then turns on the jets. Henderson is a veteran player that could find his way into the NFL. Definitely impressive that Seth could put him on a highlight film like this.


We’ve all been waiting for one of these returns to finish without a flag on the ground and we finally got to see it. Hassan Hall pauses at the beginning of this return and that’s a big reason why he had so much room to work with. The bigger reason is because he heads straight and then he’s able to make a sharp cut to his left. Both of those things sucked the coverage team into a bunch and when he went left there was no one there to fill the void.

I don’t know who that is getting the big block on the left side of the field but he played just as big of a role in this return as Hall. He controls his block until Hall passes him and he also releases the block when the guy turns on him. Very underrated play there. I also love Keion Wakefield delivering a nonchalant knockdown block on the kicker.


Wanted to throw this play into the post to show T.J. Holl making a nice play. He’ll likely be starting for Dorian Etheridge this week and I’ve liked what I’ve seen in the limited snaps we’ve seen from him. He keeps moving here at the snap but he doesn’t commit until he knows the back has the ball and he’s headed towards his gap. That’s a veteran play which is part of why they brought him in this year.

He leaves his feet too early here but he also knows that he has outside help. The play is made but you probably want to see him run this down and make sure he’s on his feet to make the sure tackle. He’s going to be key in the first half against Clemson, obviously, but I think he’ll do fine.


Monty Montgomery has been everything he was hyped up to be by his teammates this summer and fall. Montgomery had a huge play against BC last week and he followed it up with a really nice strip sack here. UofL just rushes him off the edge here and Wake’s best offensive linemen tries to just run him up the field. Montgomery is much smaller but he keeps his eyes on the quarterback and gets off of his block at the right time to get to him. I really love that he goes for the strip here and chases the turnover. It’s the type of play that he’s tried to make every time he’s been out there and it’s what they need from this defense.


Stu Holt and Scott Satterfield go with a little bit of a trick return here with Atwell and Burns both back for the punt return. Burns is down under the score graphic and you can see that the gunner on the left side of the field runs all the way across the field before he realizes that Tutu has the ball. Dabo Swinney mentioned this return specifically during his presser this week so you know it’s something they’re coaching this week. Even if they don’t try it again, it’s something guys have to keep in mind when they’re covering. That’s a plus.