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Florida State chases homecoming win over Wake Forest

Two hungry ACC teams will face off when Florida State hosts Wake Forest during homecoming weekend.

Wake Forest (3-3, 0-2 ACC) has failed to score a touchdown in Tallahassee since 2006. The Demon Deacons are hoping to reach the end zone on Saturday during their first conference win of the season.

Florida State (3-3, 1-3 ACC), on the other hand, is pushing to extend its six-game win streak against Wake Forest.

“It’s going to be a good football team coming in here,” FSU coach Willie Taggart said of Wake Forest. “They had a bye week just like us and are looking for a win just like us. So our guys understand that, and we gotta prepare and make sure we go out and play our very best to have a very good homecoming.”

The game is set to kickoff at 3:30 p.m. and will air on ESPN2.

The Demon Deacons are highly productive and consistent in all offensive areas. Wide receiver Greg Dortch ranks first nationally with two punt-return touchdowns and second nationally with 8.0 catches per game and 176.17 all-purpose yards per game.

“He has extreme confidence in his abilities and you can see it on film,” FSU defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett said of Dortch. “So how he runs routes, how he does things, how he punt returns, kick returns. He’s confident in his abilities. And I think there is a chip on his shoulder as far as probably in recruitment, his size. The combination of all of those things makes him the player that he is.”

The Wake Forest run game packs a powerful one-two punch with Cade Carney and Matt Colburn. Carney averages 5.2 yards per carry with four touchdowns — the same number of rushing touchdowns FSU has earned so far this season.

Colburn averages 3.7 yards per carry, but he owns two of Wake Forest’s nine rushing touchdowns.

FSU isn’t overlooking Wake Forest’s offense, which ran for more than 200 yards against a strong Notre Dame defense.

“We have to get our guys to the ball when they do run the football,” Taggart said of Wake Forest. “That’s something they do and they do it well. We’ve got to get guys to wrap up. Can’t be any one guy tackling. We have to game tackle to get their backs down. They have a really talented offensive line, which is a big reason why they are running the ball like they are doing.

“So it will be a challenge for our d-line, and we have to get guys the ball to wrap up.”

FSU, on the other hand, ranks first in the ACC in rushing defense.

That defense will face a patient, disciplined team. The Demon Deacons rank third nationally in fewest penalties.

Both teams have benefited from coming off a bye week.

Florida State needed the extra rest due to the team’s high volume of injuries. Offensive lineman Derrick Kelly is expected to make his first start since injuring his leg against Syracuse.

“It’s great to have him back out here,” Taggart said of Kelly. “A senior that’s played a lot from the beginning to be out there to help you is nice.”

Wake Forest offers FSU the opportunity to try out new offensive schemes before embarking on the toughest remaining schedule in the country, according to the NCAA. Four of FSU’s remaining six opponents are ranked in the top 20.

During the bye week, the offensive line focused on run-game alignment. Taggart unveiled new combinations on offensive line, moving Alec Eberle to left guard and Baveon Williams to center as Eberle’s replacement. But Taggart later said not to read too much into it.

The goal is to protect quarterback Deondre Francois and ignite a mostly dormant run game.

Wake Forest’s defense ranks last in the ACC against the run. If Florida State is ever going to find a rhythm on the ground this season, the switch will have to flip on Saturday.

“It’s on us, honestly,” left guard Cole Minshew said when asked what’s preventing FSU run game success. “Once our backs get the confidence that, hey, the holes are going to be there, it’s going to hit whenever, that’s going to make a big difference.”

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