In today’s post, I want to do two things: 1.) get into Wake Forest a little bit; and 2.) say goodbye and thank you to the senior class. These are young men and women (for the team includes those who train and manage, too) who have given of themselves over the last four years and who are walking away having finally, though perhaps precariously, brought us back to the rarified air of national relevance. Eff you, Rick. Names like Manti, Golic, KLM and Eifert won’t soon be forgotten, whether for their play, or their good works, or both. Whether abundantly compensated with scholarships, tutors or NFL fame or whether their reward was the simple and unique value of being there amid the roar, these are young men and women who did more than the average student in a place where few, if any, really are average. Whether they risked catastrophic injury or undertook a huge burden to their already tough academic and social schedules, this is a class who finally, and gloriously, brought us back. Whatever else we do on Saturday, we must thank them.
But first, if you will, let’s talk about Wake Forest. Wake Forest is located in Winston-Salem and its motto is Pro Humanitate, which is Latin, according to Fr. Sorin, for “professional humans,” so there’s that. Their motto is a nattily-attired fella named the Deacon and their collective appellation, The Demon Deacons, is a nod to the Baptist institution’s ”devilish”-ly good athletic teams a billion years ago. I think you got a flavor for what Wake is all about if you went to or watched last year’s too close affair and got to observe their students decked out in black, gold and diffidence. Their big thing is to cover their campus in toilet paper. I am not making this up.
As far as football goes, they are much better in the classroom (GSR = 86), than they are on the field. After opening the 2012 campaign with a thumping 20-17 win over Liberty they… what? Liberty? Jesus H. Ch… whatever. Whatever Liberty is, Wake “pulled a Purdue” and managed to beat them by a fieldgoal. They then split the next two games by beating North Carolina in Chapel Hill in a squeaker, 28-27, and then getting smacked 52-0 by Florida State. Then Wake beat Army and lost to Duke. Then they lost to Maryland and beat Virginia. Then they got wrecked by Clemson 42-10 and beat BC 28-14. Then they lost to NC State, 37-6. So in a season where they alternate wins and losses, they’re coming off a loss. With this being Senior Day at home for The Irish, this game has nail-biter written ALL OVER IT.
Unless you start looking at the numbers objectively. Against ranked opponents, FSU and Clemson, Wake got boatraced, giving up 92 points in two games. Wake’s scoring offense is ranked 108th nationally, averaging 20.1 points per game. They CANNOT move the ball, coming in dead last in the country with 191 average yards per game on offense. Their scoring defense is 71st overall, allowing 28.9 points on average per game. Wake’s QB is a junior named Tanner Price and he’s probably a nice kid and he’s thrown for 12 TDs and 6 INTs thus far, for a QB rating of 111.92. Wake’s running game features a junior named Josh Harris and he’s probbably a nice kid and he’s run the ball 136 times for 607 total yards. In the stable with Josh is a freshman named Deandre Martin and he’s probably a nice kid and he’s carried the ball 88 times for 371 yards. Each have five TD’s. At 5-5, Wake is trolling for a bowl. With this being Senior Day at home for The Irish, this game has nail-biter written ALL OVER IT.
Unless you start looking at who’s leading ND on Saturday. The seniors. And, while in this era of fifth years and redshirts it may be disingenuous to suggest that this is the last time for all of them, it means something to be a senior, to lead and have lead, and to run out of that tunnel one last time. We’re saying goodbye to thirty of them, and at a time in their lives where the milestones start coming all too frequently, Saturday will be a day of lasts, as they reach the figurative banks of the rubicon betwween youth and the adult world beyond. A class that has given us our first real success in so long, a class that stands astride the world that was (Weis) and the world that is and is to come (Kelly). A class that, finally, can have an undefeated season at home and then, dare I say? (dare! dare!), overall. Thesse are the young men to whom we all owe our thanks. Much has been written of Manti and more will no doubt, and by better, but I think it’s safe to single him out for special recognition. In him, I think we are watching a young man, an old soul, and a champion for the ages.
If you have the good fortune to be at the game Saturday, make sure you thank a senior player, a manager, a trainer. They’ve earned it.