Demon Deacons' defense aims to slow Wolfpack in ACC matchup

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Wake Forest's defense has been good enough to give its offense time to figure some things out after a bumpy start. And that has the Demon Deacons heading into Saturday's game with instate rival North Carolina State near the top of their Atlantic Coast Conference division.

The Demon Deacons (4-0, 1-0 ACC) enter the game ranked 12th nationally against the run (88.5 yards per game) and 20th in scoring defense (16.5 points). That unit has given up more points each week, though that has coincided with the offense picking up its pace, too, to average nearly 32 points over the past three games.

It's been the right balance for Wake Forest, which is going for the program's first 5-0 start in a decade .

''I don't feel our players have taken this for granted. ... then you combine that with an opponent that they know is really good,'' coach Dave Clawson said. ''I feel we've had that one-week mindset and I don't think it is a cliche with this group.

''I really feel like they enjoy the win, they love that feeling in the locker room and OK, now we're on to the next one and make sure we make that same weekly investment. We need to in order to have success.''

The Wolfpack (2-1, 0-0) had an off week after a home win against Old Dominion . N.C. State's new offense installed by former Boise State coordinator Eli Drinkwitz will test Wake Forest's defense; N.C. State is 21st nationally in scoring offense (42.3) and 23rd in total offense (497.7).

''I think at times last year, they got worn down defensively because they didn't score a lot of points and they had a lot of three-and-outs,'' Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren said. ''They're controlling the ball more on offense, and they're in the top five in time of possession in our league. That helps your defense.''

---

Here are things to know about Saturday's Wake Forest-N.C. State game:

ROAD SUCCESS: Last year N.C. State won at Wake Forest for the first time since 2001. Now Wake Forest will go for its first win in Raleigh since 2006. That would also mark the program's first three-game road winning streak since winning 2007 regular-season finale and then the first two in 2008.

RECENT DOMINANCE: N.C. State has won both meetings with Wake Forest since Clawson's been in Winston-Salem. Those wins have come by an average of 23+ points, including last year when the Wolfpack had four touchdowns of at least 50 yards in the opening quarter of a 35-17 win.

WOLFORD'S JOB AGAIN: Quarterback John Wolford lost his starting job for Week 3 to Kendall Hinton, then got it back when Hinton was injured. He threw for 172 yards and a score to go with 61 yards rushing with two touchdowns on the ground at Indiana.

QB ROLES: New N.C. State quarterback Ryan Finley has taken control of the Wolfpack's offense. ''He's really accurate - I mean, he just comes in, he has a good mindset and he prepares really well so I'm not surprised by his accuracy,'' receiver Stephen Louis said of Finley's 76-percent completion rate. But keep an eye on Jalan McClendon, who lost the starting job to Finley in the preseason but played well with increased work in goal-line packages against ODU.

GROUND GAMES: The game features two of the ACC's top 10 rushers in N.C. State's Matt Dayes (104 per game) and Wake Forest's Matt Colburn (74.5). Throw in versatile do-everything threat Jaylen Samuels with the ability to line up all over the Wolfpack formation, and there could be a heavy focus on the ground game for both teams.

---

AP Sports Writer Joedy McCreary in Winston-Salem contributed to this report.

---

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap and the AP's college football site at http://collegefootball.ap.org

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide — from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Grant Wahl, Andy Staples and more — delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.