Wake Forest, 3-1 in conference play, and Maryland, 4-0 in conference, meet Saturday in College Park, Md. for a massive Atlantic Coast showdown.
If the Terrapins win, they’ll be just one win from clinching their second-straight ACRL conference crown. If Wake Forest wins, they’ll create a three-way race for first with just two weeks to play. But, such a win would be considered a pretty big upset.
“The bottom line is they are the standard bearer for our conference. Dating back to last season, they’ve won 10-straight ACRL conference games,” said Wake Forest coach Pat Kane.
“They’ve been challenged in a few of the, but they’ve come out on top in all of them, and obviously it’s going to be a huge test for us to go up there on their home field and try to break that winning streak.”
Luckily for Wake Forest, Maryland will be without star fly half Matias Cima, who is in camp with the Jr. All Americans at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif.
Cima sat out last weekend to rest an injury, and the Terps beat Georgia Tech 62-12 and Virginia 35-7 without him. Wake Forest beat the Yellow Jackets and Cavaliers by similar margins, 67-10 and 27-13, respectively.
“It is less of an advantage to us as it would have been had he just been out for this one game, because they have two games under their belt operating with a different playmaker and fly half,” said Kane of playing Maryland sans Cima.
“Obviously, he is a huge addition to their team and is probably the best player in the conference, but I don’t think they’re going to take too much of a step backwards this weekend without him, because they’re just so good at so many positions. They’re not a one-man team.”
One of the positions where Maryland is solid is fullback. Trevor Tanifum is a speedy attacker with the ball in hand, and he’ll pose a threat to Wake Forest.
“You don’t want him to ever have the ball. Kicking, passing, he needs to be shut down. In talking with a couple other coaches and watching some film, at any moment if you give him an inch of space, he’s so quick and so fast, if he can get that sliver of daylight, suddenly he’s 80 meters gone for a try,” said Kane of Tanifum.
“I think, basically, he struck the death nail in that manner for both Clemson and Virginia Tech. So, yeah, our game plan is to let Tanifum touch the ball as little as possible.”
Wake Forest has a pretty good fullback, too, in Johnny McMurray.
“That will be a pretty good match-up of No. 15s, because Johnny is, I think, right up there with the best players in the conference,” Kane added.
The Demon Deacons will also be missing a big-time player Saturday in lock James Watson, their leading try scorer, who will be absent with a family commitment.