Wake Forest returns to the field for first-ever meeting with FCS Campbell
The Wake Forest Demon Deacons will play their lone non-conference game of the 2020 season when they host the Campbell Fighting Camels on Friday night for the inaugural meeting between the two in-state foes. The matchup was originally scheduled for Oct. 9, but was rescheduled after the Demon Deacons' meeting with Notre Dame on Sept. 26 was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns expressed by the Fighting Irish.
Campbell (0-3), which hails from the Big South Conference from the FCS ranks, is playing the fourth and final game of its condensed 2020 schedule when it makes the trip to Winston-Salem. The Fighting Camels lost 27-26 in their season opener at Georgia Southern on Sept. 12, but haven't been able to keep their next two games as close with losses by 22 and 31 points to Coastal Carolina and Appalachian State, respectively.
Wake Forest (0-2), meanwhile, returns to action after a 45-42 loss at NC State. Kenneth Walker III led the way with a game-high 131 yards on 27 carries to go along with three touchdowns on the ground, but the Wolfpack totaled 478 total yards of offense and ultimately prevailed in a back-and-forth affair.
Campbell at Wake Forest
Kickoff: Friday, Oct. 2 at 7 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network
Spread: Wake Forest -34.5
When Campbell Has the Ball
Quarterback Hajj-Malik Williams has been a do-it-all player for the Fighting Camels in their three games, leading the team not only in passing (158.3 ypg) but in rushing as well (59.7 ypg), adding four rushing touchdowns to his contributions. His best game was in the opener against Georgia Southern, completing 17 of 27 passes for 237 yards and a pair of touchdowns, with 73 rushing yards rushing and an additional touchdown on the ground.
Wide receiver Jalen Kelsey has been Williams' top target in 2020, with four receptions and 53 receiving yards per game. He too shined against Georgia Southern, with six catches for 66 yards and one of Williams' two touchdown passes. He mustered only a pair of receptions against Appalachian State, however, as Williams ran for a pair of touchdowns while fellow signal-caller Wiley Hartley connected with wide receiver Austin Hite (2 rec., 91 yds.) for Campbell's only touchdown pass of the game.
Wake Forest has struggled defensively in its first two games, allowing 37 and 45 points (to Clemson and NC State, respectively) after allowing more than 35 just four times all of last season. Carlos Basham Jr. picked up the Demon Deacons' only sack of the game in the loss to the Wolfpack, while Ja'Cquez Williams led the way with nine tackles and now sits near the top of the leaderboard in the ACC in tackles per game (9.5).
When Wake Forest Has the Ball
Quarterback Sam Hartman was held out of the end zone in Wake Forest's opener against Clemson, but he broke through against NC State on a connection with Jaquarii Roberson, who led the Demon Deacons with seven receptions for 75 yards and Hartman's only touchdown pass. Hartman was much more efficient against the Wolfpack, completing 23-of-36 attempts after an 11-of-21 effort against Clemson.
Wake Forest's rushing attack rebounded nicely against NC State after mustering just 38 yards on the ground against the Tigers. Walker exploded for 131 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries, while Christian Beal-Smith added 39 yards and another touchdown. On the receiving front, Taylor Morin (3 rec., 52 yds.) and Donald Stewart (5, 41) were next in line after Roberson, as the trio spearheaded a group of eight Demon Deacons that caught at least one pass against NC State.
Campbell's scoring defense has gone in the wrong direction over the course of its three games, progressively allowing more points each of the last two weeks, culminating with 52 surrendered to Appalachian State last Saturday. One positive has been the play of two of the Fighting Camels' redshirt seniors — defensive back Darion Slade and linebacker Ray Miller — who rank among the leaders in the FCS in tackles per game, with 8.7 and 7.3 apiece.
Wake Forest suffered a pair of ACC losses to open the season, with the most recent to NC State coming by just a field goal. But Campbell has had a hard time keeping opponents out of the end zone, and the Demon Deacons should be able to take advantage.
Prediction: Wake Forest 31, Campbell 13
— Written by Juan Jose Rodriguez, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a 2019 graduate of the University of Notre Dame. Rodriguez was an intern for Athlon during summer 2017 and worked for a variety of media outlets on campus, including as the Editor-in-Chief of Scholastic Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @JuanJoseRG02.