Murphy, BC set to take on slumping Wake Forest
Two teams trending in opposite directions meet Saturday when the Eagles visit the struggling Demon Deacons.
While BC (4-3, 1-2) has been one of the Atlantic Coast Conference's pleasant surprises, Wake Forest (2-5, 0-3) has slogged through a season that has been pretty much what the outsiders expected a few months ago when the Demon Deacons were picked to finish last.
The Eagles can move one step closer to their 14th bowl appearance in 16th seasons by taking care of a Demon Deacons team that has one of the nation's worst offenses and - barring a massive turnaround - will earn its sixth straight losing season.
''Offensively, it's baby steps,'' coach Dave Clawson said.
Murphy has BC off and running during the Florida transfer's only season.
He leads the team in both rushing (109.4 yards per game) and passing (124 ypg), has three 100-yard rushing performances and has at least one rushing touchdown in every game but one.
''He's a leader for our team. He has great leadership skills, which is important as a quarterback,'' BC coach Steve Addazio said. ''He's getting better every week.''
So is Wake Forest, though the progress isn't necessarily as visible to the naked eye.
The Demon Deacons rank last in the ACC in scoring offense (14.4 points), total offense (206.7 yards) and passing efficiency (103.6 rating) and their worst-in-the-Bowl-Subdivision average of 36.7 yards rushing is roughly 90 yards fewer than the ACC's second-worst team on the ground, Florida State.
There have been some signs of optimism.
Wake Forest's offense clicked for the first 20 or so minutes of last week's game against Syracuse - before downshifting into neutral once freshman quarterback John Wolford was injured while throwing a pick-six.
''It's only a matter of time,'' Addazio said of the Demon Deacons' offense. ''I just don't need that time to happen this week.''
Some things to know about BC's visit to Wake Forest:
UP FRONT: The biggest difference between the programs can be found on their offensive lines. The Eagles list five graduate students as the starters protecting Murphy. Wake Forest has three true freshman linemen on the depth chart, including its starting center and both backup guards. ''We're at times very overmatched up front,'' Clawson said, ''and we're just playing some guys that are probably playing before they're ready, but they continue to play hard and scrap.''
DEMON DEACONS' D: Addazio is wary of a Wake Forest defense that has been the strength of the team and has played well despite being placed in some serious holes by an inexperienced offense. The Demon Deacons allowed only one offensive touchdown in last week's 30-7 loss to Syracuse and ranks eighth in the ACC in total defense, allowing 357 yards per game.
WOLFORD'S FINE: Clawson says Wolford will be his quarterback this week after he was hurt on a blindside hit last week and spent the second half of the Syracuse game in street clothes. Wolford was hit from behind and his helmet struck the turf, and though he showed no concussive symptoms, Clawson said the staff ''did not want to take a chance'' by putting him back in.
BROTHER VS. BROTHER: The Wolford family will probably be torn this weekend. John Wolford is Wake Forest's starting quarterback while big brother Bobby has started two games at fullback for the Eagles.
BOUNCING BACK: One good sign for BC, which lost to Clemson last week: Some of its best performances have come in their next games after losses. Perhaps the Eagles' two most complete wins - an upset of then-No. 9 Southern California and a rain-delayed rout at N.C. State - came after they were beaten in their previous games. In those two wins, they combined to outrush their opponents 762-63 and nearly doubled up those two opponents in total offense, gaining 917 yards while allowing 554.
Follow Joedy McCreary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joedyap