Wake Forest looks for bowl eligibility when Virginia visits
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) Wake Forest is one win from effectively locking up a bowl berth. A visit from Virginia shapes up as the Demon Deacons' best chance to earn it.
Wake Forest (5-3, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) plays host to the Cavaliers (2-6, 1-3) on Saturday.
The Demon Deacons are in pretty good shape - they entered November with five wins for the first time since 2011, also the last time they played in a bowl game.
But if they don't take care of Virginia, they may not make it to the six-win mark.
They face No. 5 Louisville and No. 3 Clemson in consecutive weeks before ending the regular season against a Boston College team that showed North Carolina State last week that it's no pushover .
''We're not concerned with who we play in two weeks, three weeks,'' safety Ryan Janvion said. ''We have a chance to beat anyone on our schedule. It's not about who we play, it's about how we play and what we do. It's not about the other team, it's not about what they do. So we're focused on Virginia, and we're not thinking about anything else but beating Virginia this week.''
And for all the progress Wake Forest has made in Dave Clawson's third season, it also has shown it's not immune to the confounding losses that marked the past four years in Winston-Salem. The Demon Deacons are coming off a 21-13 loss to Army in which they struggled in the red zone and threw three interceptions.
The Cavaliers have lost three straight since beating Duke on Oct. 1, with two of those losses coming to No. 18 North Carolina and No. 5 Louisville. They seemingly had an upset of the Cardinals in hand before Lamar Jackson led them to a 32-25 victory.
''Our team is getting better with every time we play a game,'' first-year coach Bronco Mendenhall said. ''It's fun to watch the transformation happening. It's steady. It's methodical. But it is happening.''
Some other things to know about the Virginia-Wake Forest game:
BENKERT'S BACK: East Carolina transfer QB Kurt Benkert will make his second career start on North Carolina soil for the Cavaliers. He threw for 336 yards and three touchdowns in the Duke victory, and is coming off his first three-TD game since then when he did it against Louisville.
WOLFORD'S WOES: Wake Forest QB John Wolford has six interceptions and one touchdown in his last three games, while throwing it a season-high 43 times against Army. Clawson says the Demon Deacons threw 11 deep balls in that game but completed only one, and understandably wants more ''explosive plays'' through the air. ''We are not where I want us to be,'' he said.
VIRGINIA'S D: Maybe the Demon Deacons can get their offense fixed against a Virginia defense that ranks among the ACC's worst. The Cavaliers are no higher than 11th in the league in any of the four major defensive stat categories, and are last in points (32.6) and yards (462.5) allowed per game.
THE SERIES: Wake Forest and Virginia played every year from 1980-2003 before the divisional split led to more infrequent meetings. It's the first time they've met since 2012 and their first meeting in Winston-Salem since 2008.
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