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Game Preview: Virginia vs. Wake Forest

Everything you need to know about the Cavaliers’ Friday night matchup with the undefeated Demon Deacons

Game Details

Who: Wake Forest Demon Deacons (3-0, 1-0 ACC) vs. Virginia Cavaliers (2-1, 0-1 ACC)

When: Friday, September 24th at 7pm

Where: Scott Stadium in Charlottesville, Virginia

How to watch: ESPN2

SI Sportsbook Odds: Virginia -4

All-time series: Virginia leads 34-16, but Wake Forest has won the last four meetings.

Last meeting: Wake Forest defeated Virginia 40-23 in Winston-Salem last season. With Brennan Armstrong out with an injury, the Cavaliers turned to Lindell Stone at quarterback. Stone performed admirably and the score was tied at 20 at halftime. But, Stone threw two interceptions and the game got away from the Hoos in the second half, as the UVA defense gave up 128 yards and three touchdowns to Kenneth Walker III. 

Wake Forest this season

Wake Forest enters week four as one of two remaining undefeated teams in the ACC, along with Boston College. The Demon Deacons defeated Old Dominion 42-10 and Norfolk State 41-16 in expectedly-lopsided games to start the season, before taking down the winless Florida State Seminoles 35-14 this past weekend. As FSU is the only semi-quality opponent Wake Forest has played thus far, it is difficult to draw conclusions about the Demon Deacons as a football team, since no one really knows what is going on in Tallahassee, where Florida State continues to field talented teams but cannot seem to win a game.

Through the first three weeks of the season, Wake Forest is fifth in the ACC in scoring offense at 39.3 points per game. Wake’s offense has been consistently good for the past several years, as the Demon Deacons are one of two teams in the ACC to average at least 30 points in each of the last four seasons - the other team being Clemson.

Similar to North Carolina, the Wake offense features a strong quarterback surrounded by a number of capable weapons. Redshirt sophomore Sam Hartman has a quarterback rating of 160.05, good for fourth in the ACC (note: Brennan Armstrong has the best QB rating in the ACC at 188.7 and has the fourth-best rating in the country). Hartman has completed 68.67% of his passing attempts for 691 yards and six touchdowns. Wake has a pair of dynamic wide receivers in A.T. Perry and Jaquarii Roberson as well as a dangerous running back in redshirt junior Christian Beal-Smith.

Wake Forest’s defense has also been solid. Wake has the fifth-best passing defense in the ACC and the fourth-ranked scoring defense, yielding 13.3 points per game. The Demon Deacons are led by defensive lineman Jasheen Davis, who rank seventh in the ACC in tackles for loss and fifth in sacks. Wake also has a formidable pass rush, as the Demon Deacons have notched nine sacks on the season, fifth-most in the ACC.

Wake has been solid so far this season, winning their first three games by a combined margin of 78 points. However, the competition has not been the toughest, so the Demon Deacons remain relatively unproven as they travel to Charlottesville for their first road game of the season. 

By the Numbers

Virginia Cavaliers vs. Wake Forest Demon Deacons

By the NumbersVirginiaWake Forest


41.3 points per game

39.3 points per game


121.0 yards per game

183.3 yards per game


438.3 yards per game

233.0 yards per game

Total Offense

559.3 yards per game

416.3 yards per game

Scoring Defense

24.3 ppg allowed

13.3 points per game

Total Defense

406.3 ypg allowed

308.3 ypg allowed

Turnover Differential



Scoring Differential



Wake Forest Players to Watch

Quarterback Sam Hartman

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In 2020, Hartman set a career high in completion percentage at 62% and threw for 13 touchdowns and just five interceptions. He also continued a streak dating back to the 2019 season of 258 consecutive passes without an interception, the longest such streak in Wake Forest program history and the fifth longest streak without a pick in ACC football history. Hartman has picked up right where he left off, managing an efficient Wake offense and leading the Demon Deacons to a 3-0 record.

Receiver A.T. Perry

This spot could have been occupied by A.T. Perry or Jaquarii Roberson, as both players are having quality seasons at the wide receiver positions and pose a serious threat to UVA’s secondary. Perry gets the nod as Wake’s current leading receiver with 255 receiving yards (4th in the ACC) and two touchdowns. He also averages 19.6 yards per catch.

Running back Christian Beal-Smith

Christian Beal-Smith spent most of the 2020 season as Kenneth Walker’s backup at the running back position. Walker transferred to Michigan State this past offseason and is now one of the top running backs in the country for the Spartans. As Wake’s primary ball carrier, Beal-Smith has scored four rushing touchdowns and is eighth in the ACC in rushing with an average of 76.3 yards per game. 

Three keys to the game for Virginia

1. Virginia defense must show signs of life

Following a disastrous performance at North Carolina in which it seemed like the UVA defense did not even get off the bus in Chapel Hill, it is imperative that the Hoos show at least moderate improvement on the defensive end. No one will be as eager to put last week behind them as the Cavaliers’ defensive unit, but it is essential that Virginia proves that UNC did not provide the rest of the ACC with a blueprint on how to dominate UVA every week. Virginia failed to stop North Carolina on both fronts, as the Tar Heels burned the Hoos in the passing game and ran for over 300 yards on the ground. Wake Forest has the system and the weapons to do the same. The UVA defense needs to stop at least one of the two aspects of the Wake offense to give the UVA offense a chance to build a lead.

2. If the defense lapses, Armstrong and company must keep up the momentum

It certainly was not lost on Virginia fans how incredible Brennan Armstrong’s performance was against North Carolina last week, despite the loss. The defeat against the Tar Heels was by no means the fault of the offense. Armstrong put up 554 passing yards and four touchdowns and UVA scored 39 points. The Hoos would have scored even more if UNC did not have so many long scoring drives in the second half, which kept Armstrong and company off the field. Hopefully, the UVA defense will be able to hold the Demon Deacons to much less than 59 points. But if there are lapses on the defensive end, the Cavaliers ought to be able to keep up if the game turns into another shootout.

3. Utilize home field advantage

Wake Forest comes into this game undefeated, but have yet to play an opponent on the road. Virginia has been a very tough team to beat at Scott Stadium in recent years, having lost just one home game in the last three seasons. The Hoos have been especially strong in home night games, winning each of their last eight home games at night. With Wake playing on the road for the first time this season, look for the home crowd to play a factor on a Friday night at Scott Stadium. The Cavaliers ought to play with high energy from the start and give the 4th side something to cheer for early on. 

What's at Stake

Wake Forest puts multiple winning streaks on the line against Virginia on Friday. The Demon Deacons are unbeaten this season with a 3-0 record, but they also have a four-game winning streak against Virginia dating back to 2008, when Al Groh was still the head coach of the Cavaliers. UVA will be eager to put an end to that streak, but even more hungry to get the season back on track and pick up its first ACC victory of the season. 

Other preview content for Virginia vs. Wake Forest

Formidable Wake Offense Poses Serious Challenge for Shell-Shocked UVA Defense

UVA Football Injury Update Post-UNC