By: Matt Brann
Date: September 20, 2002
Following is Gold & Black Illustrated projected matchup for Purdue's game Saturday against Wake Forest. The Boilermakers and Demon Deacons will play at 1 p.m. in Ross-Ade Stadium in Purdue's final game before entering Big Ten play. GBI's Matchup Preview appears in each issue of Gold & Black Illustrated's tabloid magazine.
WFU RUNNING GAME VS. PU AGAINST THE RUN
Without question the strongest aspect of Wake Forest's team is its ability to run the football. The Demon Deacons are averaging 224.7 yards on the ground this season and feature three different tailbacks.
Junior Nick Burney (6-foot-3, 214 pounds) has rushed 26 times for 179 yards. Redshirt freshman Cornelius Birgs (5-10, 198) has 35 carries for 140 yards and three touchdowns. Senior Tarence Williams has gotten off to a slow start after missing the season opener with a broken foot suffered in June. If Williams is healthy, he'll give Wake an even better rushing attack. Last season he ranked third in the ACC with 1,018 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground.
Senior fullback Ovie Mughelli (6-2, 248) is a bruising lead blocker who is also capable of carrying the pigskin in short-yardage situations. The Demon Deacons love to run behind right guard Blake Henry. The 6-6, 301-pound senior was named the nation's 25th-best player at his position by The Sporting News.
The Boilermakers have excelled at stopping the run this season. They have surrendered an average of just 101.7 rushing yards per game. Defensive tackle Craig Terrill has played exceptionally well of late, while Purdue's linebacking corps is one of the nation's best.
Advantage: Wake Forest
WFU PASSING GAME VS. PU AGAINST THE PASS
Wake Forest has a talented offensive front, although it is not overly big or experienced. The center is redshirt freshman Craig Jones (6-1, 280). The front five surrendered just 13 sacks all of last season, the fewest in the ACC, and has only allowed quarterback James MacPherson to be tackled three times behind the line of scrimmage this year.
MacPherson is fairly accurate and although he has a history of throwing interceptions, he has yet to throw a pick this season. His favorite targets are Fabian Davis (10 receptions for 139 yards) and Jax Landfried (10 for 125), who had a 53-yard touchdown reception vs. N.C. State.
The Boilermakers have put incredible pressure on opposing quarterbacks thus far this season. Purdue has already registered 14 sacks (51.9 percent of last year's total of 27). Terrill and junior end Kevin Nesfield pace Purdue with three sacks each.
The secondary was burned for 316 yards passing Sept. 14 against Western Michigan, so the unit will have to tighten up its coverage and become more consistent in its tackling.
PU RUNNING GAME VS. WFU AGAINST THE RUN
The Boilermakers seem to still be sorting things out in the backfield. Junior Joey Harris is the clear starter, while senior Montrell Lowe and redshirt freshman Jerod Void have taken turns spelling the speedster.
Harris has rushed for 301 yards and two touchdowns, while Lowe has added 91 yards and Void 88 yards and three scores. All three backs have fumbled this year, so taking care of the pigskin will be a priority.
Outside linebacker Kellen Brantley is the headliner of Wake's defense. The 6-3, 236-pound junior ranked second on the team last season with 95 tackles. He also added 11 tackles for loss, three sacks and three interceptions.
Sophomore Brad White, a transfer from Georgia, has assumed the starting role at middle linebacker and is also a capable run stopper. He has helped Wake hold opponents to an average of 139.7 yards on the ground.
PU PASSING GAME VS. WFU AGAINST THE PASS
By their own admission, the Boilermakers' passing attack is struggling. Sophomore quarterback Kyle Orton is still gaining experience and Purdue is still waiting for someone other than John Standeford to become a reliable receiver. Standeford has team highs of 16 receptions for 339 yards and four touchdowns. The second-leading receiver is Anthony Chambers, who has just seven catches.
The offensive line struggled against Western Michigan, giving up five sacks. That came on the heels of a great effort at Notre Dame, so Purdue will be looking for consistency from its front five in pass protection.
Wake Forest brags of having one of the nation's top defensive ends in Calvin Pace. He is the country's 20th-best defensive end by The Sporting News. He entered the 2002 campaign ranked third among active Division I-A players in sacks and with two this season has 22 in his career.
Free safety Quintin Williams, a 6-2, 195-pound junior, had 72 tackles and a team-high 11 pass breakups last year. He has two interceptions and 18 stops this season.
Wake Forest blocked both a punt and an extra point attempt against East Carolina. That means Purdue's kicking unit will have to be sharp. But that's been the case thus far for the Boilermakers.
Kicker Berin Lacevic has been accurate, making both his field goal attempts and all his PATs this season, and punter Brent Slaton continues to improve with every attempt while displaying a powerful right leg. In addition, Chambers has shown he has the ability to make some big plays in the return game. Considering Wake surrendered a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to Northern Illinois, the Boilermakers may be able to have some long returns.
The Demon Deacons are a bit young on special teams. They feature sophomores at kicker and punter. Place-kicker Matt Wisnosky is just 2-of-7 on field goals. He also missed a PAT against N.C. State. The long snapper is a senior, but Landfried is an undersized wide receiver (5-9, 175).
Fabian Davis gives Wake a threat in the return game after taking a punt back 82 yards for a score against Northern Illinois, so once again Purdue's coverage units will be tested. Thus far this season they haven't fared very well in that area.
Purdue had a letdown in its 28-24 victory at home over Western Michigan. The players should have received a wake-up call after the Broncos gave them a scare. Assuming they've learned their lesson, the Boilermakers should be eager to take care of business in Ross-Ade and give them plenty of momentum heading into the Big Ten season.
Wake Forest was expected to make a run at a second straight winning season, but the Demon Deacons have stumbled out of the gate.
PURDUE 31, WAKE FOREST 7
The Boilermakers' offense probably won't be running like a well-oiled machine, but they still have enough talent on the field to connect on a few big plays against Wake Forest. In addition, look for Purdue to attempt to re-establish a running game that was so successful at Notre Dame.
Defensively, coordinator Brock Spack's unit will be playing with a proverbial chip on its shoulder after letting Western Michigan run relatively wild on its home turf a week earlier. Wake will find it much more difficult to get into the end zone.
DID YOU KNOW?
o The Demon Deacons had a streak of nine consecutive games decided by a touchdown or less snapped with their 32-13 loss at N.C. State. The streak dated back to a 48-24 loss at 15th-ranked Florida State Sept. 29, 2001. Wake Forest's record in those close games was 5-4.
o In the Deacons' five losses last season, only once did they lose by more than seven points, and that came at Florida State, where they lost 48-24.
o The Boilermakers have not faced an ACC team under Coach Joe Tiller. The last time Purdue played a squad from that league was 1993, when Purdue opened the season with a 7-20 loss at No. 24 N.C. State.
o The last time Purdue and Wake Forest met was 1978. Purdue has won each of the three previous meetings, all of which took place in West Lafayette. The Demon Deacons have not played a Big Ten opponents since then.
o Wake Forest freshman Bryan Andrews was named a Parade All-American at linebacker. The Lima, Ohio, native, who was recruited briefly by Purdue, is Wake's first Parade All-American since 1984.
o Seems as if The Sporting News knew what it was talking about. Wake Forest's game Aug. 29 at Northern Illinois was one of several games that fell under the heading: The "What were they thinking?" games. TSN wrote: "These games are lose-lose propositions for the bigger programs that must travel: If they win, they get no credit because they were supposed to. If they lose, they are mocked for a year."
o Over the past six years, Wake Forest's graduation rate for its football student athletes is 85 percent. The national average for Division I institutions is 53 percent.
o Even though The Sporting News projected Wake Forest to finish seventh in the ACC, the magazine tabs the program as one that is ascending. "A leap to fourth (place) isn't out of the question. Neither is a bowl."
Purdue: WR Taylor Stubblefield (skull fracture, doubtful), CB Brian Hickman (hamstring, questionable), LB Landon Johnson (shoulder, probable), DE Shaun Phillips (concussion, probable)
Wake Forest: C Craig Jones (ankle, out), WR Jason Anderson (shoulder, doubtful), LB Brad White (hamstring, probable), LB Jamie Scott (hamstring, probable), TB Tarence Williams (foot, probable), DT Montique Sharp (knee, probable)