Rutgers to replace Texas A & M in Taxslayer Bowl

Smenda brings fast-moving Demon Deacon defense to Jax

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 12/29/21

FERNANDINA BEACH - Wake Forest University opened their season like gangbusters with a sting of eight wins with most wins near 40 points; one an astounding 70-56 win over Army, before three of five …

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Rutgers to replace Texas A & M in Taxslayer Bowl

Smenda brings fast-moving Demon Deacon defense to Jax

Posted

FERNANDINA BEACH - Wake Forest University opened their season like gangbusters with a sting of eight wins with most wins near 40 points; one an astounding 70-56 win over Army, before three of five including the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game to Pittsburgh, 45-21.

For Wake Forest junior linebacker Ryan Smenda, a graduate of Fleming Island High School, the team has learned a lot in the past week about resiliency with an invite to the Taxslayer Gator Bowl on Friday in Jacksonville to play Texas A & M, a team that defeated No. 1 Alabama earlier in the season, to playing an unheralded Rutgers University team (5-7) that stepped in just three days ago to keep the game in tact.

“They are a dangerous team at this point because they come in at the last minute, they are a solid 5-7 team in the very tough Big 10 with Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State,” said Smenda. “They come in with nothing to lose so we have to have our A-game for this one.”

Smenda, who has been a leading tackler for the Demon Deacons the past two seasons and a pre-season second All-ACC selection, finished second on the team with 77 stops after 81 tackles in 2019. Smenda is the leading career tackler for the Demon Deacons.

“I don’t know if teams are knowing that and playing away from me, but it’s still on me to get downfield and make tackles,” said Smenda. “It will make me work harder to get to the ball.”

In his two previous bowl games; the Duke’s Mayo Bowl last year against Wisconsin and the Pinstripe Bowl against Michigan State two years ago, Smenda had 16 tackles against Wisconsin and an interception against Michigan State.

Smenda is joined on the roster by Oakleaf High offensive tackle Je’Vionta Nash, a redshirt senior, who missed this season with an injury. Nash was slated to be a returning line starter for the high-scoring Deacon offense.

The Taxslayer Gator Bowl is set to kickoff at 11 a.m. on Fri., Dec. 31 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville.

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