One week off Wake's best performance of the season (home loss to Florida State), the Deacs went on the road to Chestnut Hill and took down the Boston College Eagles, 3-0. It ended in very confusing fashion, but it still ended in a Wake Forest victory.
In what is otherwise a rebuilding year, the game felt big. Boston College represented one of the few remaining games where Wake would not be a big underdog. The Deacs played like a team with nothing to lose against Florida State, and Coach Clawson had his team ready to play at Alumni Stadium this week. The two teams each came in with top 25 defenses in the nation. For the first game in three weeks, the sun shone and the weather was beautiful, Boston College coach Steve Addazio's head radiating light throughout the stadium. In the last seven matchups in #theRIVALRY, the first team to score would go on to win, so getting on the board first was a focus for both teams.
Wake kicked off to Boston College who ran the opening kickoff up to the 40 yard line for great opening field position. Redshirt freshman quarterback Troy Flutie took the first snap for the Eagles and took a hit throwing the ball on the first play as the Deacs brought pressure up the middle. After a nice run, three straight procedure penalties backed BC up to 3rd and 18, and the Deacs managed to contain BC after their quick start, forcing a punt near midfield.
After a short punt out of bounds, Wake took over for their first offensive possession at their own 25 yard line. John Wolford started the game for the Deacs at quarterback. Wake's 2nd leading rusher Tyler Bell took the first handoff of the game for a short gain and then another handoff for a short loss on a couple read option handoffs up the middle. On his first throw of the game, Wolford missed a couple open receivers with a poor throw, shaking off the rust, and Alex Kinal came in for his first punt of the game.
In a game featuring two stout defenses, a pair of 3-and-outs was no surprise, but Wake started out well in the field position battle. Linebackers Marquel Lee and Brandon Chubb combined for a tackle for loss on the first rush of the next BC possession A quick sweep on 2nd down earned a first down on the following play, the first for either team. Redshirt sophomore Duke Ejiofor made his first tackle of the season on first down, followed by a nice play action bootleg to the sidelines on the following play for another BC first. Another bootleg play to the BC fullback took the Eagles in to Wake Forest territory for the first time. After successive bootleg passes, the Deacon defense managed another tackle for loss as Wake was ready to defend the run well. Third and long near midfield was too much for BC again as Thomas Brown bull rushed Flutie and forced an incomplete pass and a punt.
BC's second punt was much better pinning Wake back on their own 11 to start their second drive. BC continued to give up yards with procedure penalties, however, giving the Deacs some breathing room out to their own 16 and a 1st and 5. Wolford kept on an option right for a couple short yards and then missed a throw in the flats on 2nd and short. Wolford completed his first pass of the game to safety valve Cam Serigne, but the pass was just short of the yard to gain and Kinal punted for the second time. The offense struggled to adjust to the change in quarterback and Wolford struggled against the strong Boston College pass rush early.
Kinal's outstanding second punt outkicked his coverage and Brandon Chubb saved a touchdown with a tackle up near midfield, giving BC their best field position of the game. BC subbed in true freshman quarterback Jeff Smith for the drive and he picked up BC's first 3rd down conversion, lowering his shoulder and picking up short yardage. Wake's secondary fell for the play fake on a big throw to Charlie Callanan bringing BC into the red zone for the first time. Wake Forced a 31 yard field goal and the kicking woes for BC continued as the kick from the left hashmark hit off the far upright and missed.
Wake took over from their own 20 and John Wolford came out firing. Cortez Lewis went up and caught a great throw on the sidelines for the biggest play of the game at 41 yards, and Wake moved into Eagle territory for their first time in the game as the 1st quarter wound down. Wake attempted a trick play on the following touch but the defense was well prepared dropping Wake for a loss. Wolford ran for his life on the first play of the 2nd quarter and managed to avoid the sack. On 3rd and 11, Wolford connected with a wide open KJ Brent and the drive continued. Then on first down, Wake lost 9 trying to get Tyler Bell open in space. And following an incompletion on 2nd and 19, another 3rd and long faced Wake. Bell managed a short gain on that play getting Wake back within reasonable field goal distance. Mike Weaver's 43 yard attempt sailed wide, however, snapping a 5/5 streak and the game remained scoreless.
At this point, most Wake fans probably thought back to last year's game vs Virginia Tech which ended 0-0 in regulation, an ugly defensive battle filled with penalties and turnovers. As the 2nd quarter wound down and the teams traded possessions, the game started to open up a bit more offensively. Drives went longer and the clock started to run a bit more. Boston College attempted to get their run game going and Wake aired the ball out. Wake's first penalty of the game kept a BC drive alive as Dionte Austin was called for a pass interference penalty. The Deacon run defense was stout, however, and pressure on passing downs kept BC's plays to short yardage. On a 3rd down, Cameron Glen caught a tipped pass for an interception near midfield, the first turnover in Wake's favor for the season.
BC's defensive front completely dominated the line of scrimmage, and Wake was forced to roll out Wofford. Chuck Wade caught his first pass of the game on a great comeback route. On 3rd down, Cam Serigne tipped a ball up and a BC defender was right there to intercept the ball and give possession right back to the Eagles.
The tale of the first half was extremely even, ugly football. Both teams gave the ball away on tipped passes. Both teams struggled to get the run game going, gave up costly penalties, struggled with high snaps, missed field goals, and punted the ball back and forth to one another. Of note, however, Alex Kinal passed Duke's Brian Morgan in total punt yardage in an ACC career and another three punts inside the 20. Restless Wake fans would have liked to have seen more aggressive playcalling on Wake's final couple possessions of the half, or to have seen freshman QB Kendall Hinton get his chance to make plays. Coach Clawson chose to play conservatively, however, protecting his banged up quarterbacks from taking more big hits and protecting possession of the ball. At halftime, the score was 0-0, and honestly felt generous to both teams.
Wake got the ball first in the second half. Chuck Wade returned the kick out to the 26 yard line where Wake took over offensively. On the first play of the second half, Cortez Lewis caught a quick first down pass on the sidelines for 15 yards. On the second play, Wake came out in the pistol and Wolford underthrew Lewis on a play action pass. A short completion to Tabari Hines brought up 3rd and long. BC rushed 6 and Wolford competed a jump pass over the middle to Lewis short of the first. MVP Alex Kinal's first punt of the second half brought his average back over 50 yards and the punting unit downed it inside BC's own 5 yard line.
On the ensuing BC possession, Brandon Chubb recovered a fumble on 2nd down (turnover #2 on the season!) and Wake was in business. With the most promising field position of the season, how would the Deacon offense respond? On first down, Wake lost 4 yards on a baffling QB keeper call. On second down, Wolford completed to Serigne over the middle for a gain of two. On third down, Wofford's pass was batted down at the line, and Wake was forced to attempt a very short field goal. Mike Weaver put his miss behind him and got Wake Forest on the board, 3-0.
BC returned the following kick to its own 30 yard line with a nice return down the sideline. How would the Eagles respond? Zach Dancel recorded a tackle for loss, the fifth of the day for the Deacs on the BC first down run. On the following play, though, Jeff Smith turned on the jets and kept for 24 yards into Wake territory. Smith continued to provide the biggest rushing threat for BC, moving the chains on another keeper two plays later. Smith's confidence led to the third turnover of the day for the Eagles, however, as he ran carelessly with the ball and fumbled again.
The referee called a personal foul for unsportmanlike conduct on a Wake sideline player, however, so Wake lost 15 yards and started in worse field position than they could have. This penalty turned out to be important in the field position battle. Wolford started under center on consecutive plays and after a short run and a run for a loss, the offense was again faced with a 3rd and long. Wolford kept the drive alive with his legs, but his scramble was erased on a Justin Herron hold. 3rd and 17 was too much for the Deacs as a draw play was stopped for a loss, and the Deacs couldn't capitalize on the turnover. Kinal punted again, this time from his own end zone, and after an excellent punt and a short return, BC took over again near midfield.
As the offense struggled, Wake put the mantle back on the defense to keep their lead. On BC's ensuing drive, corner Brad Watson picked up a late hit penalty on a dumb hit out of bounds after Wake had contained QB Smith for a loss outside. Two plays later, another Wake defender was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, and 30 yards later, BC was in the Wake red zone. BC did their part to give 5 yards back to the Deacs with a false start, and the offense stalled again, bringing up another chip shot field goal. In one of the saddest field goal misses you'll see, BC walkon kicker Colton Lichtenberg missed his second field goal of the game.
Wake took over at the 20 and then immediately backed themselves up to the 15 with Herron's second false start of the game. Boston College defense responded to the missed field goal with a sack on first down, too, and Wake was immediately in long down and distance again. Forced to run conservative draw plays backed up deep, the offense was unable to get much field position back, and Alex Kinal trotted out again, punting with his heels on the goal line. Another huge punt and a big hit from Brad Watson backed Boston College to their own 32 where they took over on offense as the 3rd quarter wound down. BC couldn't pick up a first down and after their first 3-and-out of the second half, they punted it back to the Deacs.
Tabari Hines fair caught the punt on the Wake Forest 35 after a 40 yard punt and the offense took over again. While the defenses looked like they could have held a gridlock for four games like this, it seemed that the next team to score would be the one to win the game. At the risk of sounding ridiculous, it felt as though if Wake could just run some clock, they may have been able to hold on and steal a win on the road up 3-0. The offense was unable to move the ball or run much clock, however, and after attempting to hurry up and go, picked up just seven yards before punting again.
Wake's best weapon, Alex Kinal, boomed a 64 yard punt backing Boston College up to their own 7 yard line where they took over with 13 minutes left in the game. Wake dialed up a linebacker blitz on first down and a four man rush on second down bringing up 3rd and short for BC. BC picked up short and a big first down, giving Troy Flutie room to breathe. Flutie threw an incompletion on his first attempt of the second half and then BC took a timeout after some confusion on the offensive line. Jeff Smith returned to the ballgame after timeout, and BC ran for a big first down. Two runs later, BC faced 3rd and short as the clock wound under ten minutes in the game. An extremely late flag kept BC's drive alive again on another Brad Watson pass interference call.
As the drive continued, BC kept the ball on the ground. The Eagles stayed in the huddle calling plays and on a third down near midfield, Wake Forest took its first timeout of the second half. The timeout proved beneficial as the defense blew up pass protection and forced a throwaway from Jeff Smith as the BC drive stalled.
Wake took over from their own 14 with 8:02 to play. Again, if the Deacs were able to sustain a drive and put more points on the board, the feeling in the game was that it could have been enough to hold on to win. BC chased John Wolford out of the pocket on first down, and he did the smart thing and threw the ball away. Matt Colburn gained two short yards on second down on a delayed handoff outside. On the next play, Colburn broke a huge run off and picked up a big first down after slipping a couple tackles in the backfield. Wake couldn't move the ball from there or run any significant clock as BC pressure forced an incompletion and a short run out of bounds from John Wolford.
Alex Kinal punted again and BC returned it near midfield with under 5:30 to go. Could Wake's defense deliver one more time? BC ran for 3 yards up the middle on first down and the clock went under five minutes. On the 20th BC play in Wake territory on the day, BC was called for holding and the Eagles were backed up again, forced to replay 2nd down, this time with 17 to go. An incompletion later, freshman Jeff Smith faced 3rd and 17 with the game hanging in the balance. He could not complete the pass and keep the drive alive, and Wake got the ball back again.
Tabari Hines, however, on the punt return, had a knuckleheaded play. Not only did he field the punt inside the Wake Forest 10 yard line, he ran backwards, nearly within his own end zone and BC tackled him on Wake's own 1. On first down, Wolford kept the ball on a QB sneak and gained nothing. Making things worse, Wake struggled to substitute and were forced to call their second timeout of the half. Instead of running 30 more precious seconds off the clock, the clock stopped and the Deacs had precarious position again on 2nd down. Matt Colburn managed a few yards to bring up 3rd and long, running the clock down below 3:30 before the ball was snapped again. Colburn could manage just one yard on third down, and Wake ran the clock down below 2:30 before Kinal punted for the final time today.
Kinal faced his toughest punt of the game with his heels near the end of his own ed zone. The punt rolled well into BC territory, but the return brought the ball back into Wake territory. Boston College took over 1st and 10 on Wake's 49 yard line with 2:12 to go, down 3-0 with two timeouts remaining. On first down, the BC wide receiver Callananmade one of the finest plays you'll see, called incomplete on the field and upheld upon replay. Despite a tremendous effort to bring the ball in and get one foot down he juggled the ball when he came down out of bounds, and the call stood.
With 2:07 to go, BC faced 2nd and 10. Devin Gaulden failed to turn his head and was penalized for the third pass interference penalty of the game against the Deacs, a big penalty both yardage wise and in terms of momentum. On the following first down play, Tyler Rouse broke a huge run down the sidelines and BC was quickly in the Wake red zone. Rouse carried again down to the 10 yard line as the clock ticked below 1:30. Boston College earned the benefit of a chain measurement, stopping the clock with 1:19, but were measured short, bringing up 3rd and inches. On the QB keeper, Troy Flutie fumbled the ball and Ryan Janvion jumped on the ball for the Deacs.
After two short runs, Matt Colburn fumbled with 0:56 left trying to seal the game. Heartbreak for the Demon Deacons. Holding on to the ball is the only thing left that Wake Forest had to do, and they failed at that. Dave Clawson challenged the ruling of a fumble, but a quick look confirmed the call on the field, and BC took over in the Wake red zone again.
The Demon Deacon defense had yet another task in front of them. After a big stop on first down, Jeff Smith scrambled for a first down, and Boston College got the second benefit of a chain measurement in as many drives, stopping the clock and gifting the Eagles a timeout they didn't have. BC then had first and goal from the one yard line with 28 seconds to play. BC ran the ball up the middle and the defense stuffed the run short of the goal line. After some confusion, the referee announced the end of the game, and Wake moved on to 3-3 on the season.
Takeaways from this game are tough to come by. You'll be hard pressed to find an uglier win in the history of the program. Mike Elko's defense proudly came up strong every time they were called upon today, however. Alex Kinal had one of the finest games in what is already one of the best careers in the history of college football. Dave Clawson did enough to win his first ACC football game of the season. The young Deacs held on and did everything it took to hold BC scoreless and win the ball game. The better football team won today, and this young team continues to improve.