For the second rain-soaked week in a row at Groves Stadium Wake football lost, this time against ACC foe, 11th-ranked Florida State. Everett Golson and the vaunted Seminole defense were too much for the Deacs, as the second comeback in a row fell short, 24-16.
Though starter John Wolford practiced this week, dressed, and warmed up for the game, for the second consecutive week, he sat out and gave Kendall Hinton the start. Florida State deferred to the second half, and Hinton took over from his own 13 yard line to start the game. Matt Colburn got the first rush of the game for a quick four yards up the middle, followed by a defensive procedure penalty bringing up a 2nd and short. Colburn picked up a first on the following play, and Wake continued the no-huddle look from the previous week. Hinton got good protection on first down, but the slippery ball sailed over Tabari Hines's hands incomplete. Tyler Bell picked up another first down on the following play with an excellent cutback and a 14 yard run up the middle. The drive stalled there after an FSU rush brought down Hinton in the backfield, forcing Alex Kinal's first punt of the game (tying the ACC record for punts in a career, an excellent 47-yard low roller inside the FSU 15).
As FSU's offense took the field, Wake came out with a LB blitz and held FSU to a short gain. Wake continued to bring pressure on 2nd down, which saw a dropped pass from a wide open Seminole receiver. 3rd and 4 from inside their own 20 was another drop, and Wake's defense forced a 3-and-out, dominating the field position battle early. After the punt was nearly blocked, Wake took over in FSU territory just past midfield.
On the ensuing possession, Cortez Lewis caught his first pass of the game and 18th of the season to bring up 3rd and short. Hinton completed a pass to Hines short of the first down, and Kinal came back out again quickly, putting him into the ACC record books (and closer to the NCAA mark). The punt backed up Florida State inside their own 10 yard line this time as Kinal angled his low line drive out of bounds near the corner of the field. It didn't matter. Dalvin Cook took his first carry of the game 94 yards for his sixth touchdown of the season and six early points for the 'Noles. Cook broke a tackle on the play and then won the foot race to the end zone, erasing Wake's early momentum.
Wake got the ball back and kept it on the ground, gaining another quick first down. Hinton then went to the air, finding Cam Serigne for a quick out and 13 yards, then kept the ball and rushed for a third first down in as many plays. After an FSU injury timeout slowed down Wake's tempo, Wake went back to the ground and continued to run very well off tackle. Cortez Lewis ran after a short catch for another first down, and Wake knocked on the door of the red zone for the first time. The dink and dunk offense kept rolling for Hinton, as Wake took what FSU gave them with two more quick outs to Lewis bringing Wake into the red zone.
Hinton's release was very quick, and after throwing two incompletions to open the game, he was 6-for-6 after that. Two more runs brought up 3rd and short from the 5 yard line as the offensive line pushed the pile and truly controlled the line of scrimmage. Hinton had plenty of time on the third down throw, but made the right decision once pressure came and threw the ball away, leading to a Wake field goal attempt. After a false start, Mike Weaver nailed a 27 yard attempt, and Wake trailed 7-3. The snap was very high on the attempt, but Alex Kinal continued his MVP season with a fantastic hold, keeping the attempt intact.
On FSU's next possession, notably, Dalvin Cook limped off the field after a first down bootleg catch in the flats, clutching his left hamstring and immediately running to trainers. The slippery ball continued to drop through FSU receiver hands with more drops and tips than are typically seen from sure-handed receivers. On a 3rd and long as the first quarter expired, Golson did complete a long pass to a wide open receiver, however, and the FSU offense was really kickstarted from there.
After a fantastic start from the WFU defense (aside from the long TD run), FSU got their chance at a long possession. (Wake had 11 minutes of possession in the first quarter.) Marching towards Wake's red zone, Golson handled pressure well with accurate passes to a multitude of receivers. In Cook's place, sophomore Johnathan Vickers came in and picked up a big first down, keeping the drive alive for Florida State on 3rd down in the red zone. Cook would not return in the ballgame. Vickers, though, picked up his first career touchdown on 1st and goal with a 9 yard run breaking a tackle and running powerfully for the score.
Wake got the ball back down 14-3 (though still winning the first down battle and time of possession) in an important offensive series trying to keep the game close. Hinton saw the defense was giving up short passes, and continued to take advantage with Cortez Lewis, Cam Serigne, and Chuck Wade. Here, Wake's game plan began to become clear. As long as Wake could control the clock, work the middle of the field, and protect the ball, they would stay in the game.
The running back by committee (including Hinton) also worked very well for the Deacs, as the coaching staff mixed in runs and passes and kept FSU honest defensively. In addition to mixing up the playcalling, Wake also utilized some no-huddle and some of the playclock. The biggest play of the drive was a 17 yard completion over the middle with a nice catch by tight end Cam Serigne. Serigne then caught the first touchdown Wake scored offensively on FSU since 2011 with a fantastic throw from Hinton, threading the needle through two levels of Seminole defense, and WFU brought the game within four points, 14-10, leaving FSU just over four minutes to play in the half.
Wake managed to stop Florida State's final drive of the half with a huge sack on 3rd and long after two fantastic plays from recent standout, Brad Watson. FSU was forced to punt with 1:00 left in the half, and though the Deacs ran in to the punter, FSU declined the penalty, and Wake took over with 0:54 to go and two timeouts on their own 34 yard line. In the circumstances, Wake called smart plays, running the ball and picking up significant yardage into FSU territory but falling short of scoring. Going into half, Wake led FSU in time of possession, yardage, first downs, almost everything but scoring.
Florida State started the second half with a huge return on the opening kickoff giving FSU great field position for their opening drive. From there, the drive continued quickly with a full head of steam towards Wake's red zone, but Wake's defense eventually dug in and brought up a 3rd and long. It wouldn't matter, as Golson connected over the middle for an 18 yard pass inside Wake's 10 yard line. Third down defense was a problem for Wake all day, and Golson made the Deacon defense pay, scoring a touchdown two plays later, taking a 21-10 lead. The scoring drive took just two and a half minutes, showing that the time of possession battle meant less than moving the ball and converting on long down and distances. Clearly, Jimbo Fisher and Florida State came out of the locker room hot.
On the ensuing possession, Wake fell short of a first on a short run and two incomplete passes, but Florida State linebacker Reggie Northrup hit Kendall Hinton high and forced him out of the game. Upon review, the refereeing crew decided that the play was legal, not targeting, and though Hinton was clearly shaken up, no foul was given and Wake Forest punted. FSU was penalized on the following punt after the returner signaled for fair catch and attempted to advance the ball. The 50 yard punt and 5 yard penalty backed FSU up to their own 23 yard line.
On the second play of the next FSU drive, a long post play over the top caught Wake's secondary out of position, and 51 yards later, FSU was back near Wake's red zone again. After a big QB keeper for Golson, FSU gained to 1st and goal. The defense was able to hold Florida State to a field goal, though, and keep the game within two scores, 24-10.
Starter John Wolford took back over for the Deacs on the following possession, ankle taped, down 14 points. His first pass of the game was batted down at the line, a continued problem for him this season. Though he had plenty of time in the pocket on his passes, he looked largely stiff and immobile in the backfield. Wolford lasted just two plays, though, and Hinton came back in for the remainder of the game. Penalties on the FSU defense kept Wake's drive alive twice, but Wake's run game seriously slowed down. Officials missed another penalty, though, on a facemask penalty, and the drive stalled for the Deacs near midfield.
Wake struggled to get pressure on Everett Golson in the second half altogether, and with a 14 point lead, Florida State tried to impose their will offensively through the air. The secondary for the Deacs held tough, though, and tried to keep Wake in the game, forcing a punt as time ran down on the 3rd quarter.
Kendall Hinton is a tough football player. Coming back on the field for his first full drive of the second half, he scrambled for a first down and hung in the pocket under pressure very well. Dylan Intemann's struggles on the offensive line returned, however, giving up yet another holding penalty. Still, Wake managed to move the ball on a long throw to the sideline and KJ Brent's first catch of the game. Wake started the fourth quarter still down 14 points, but with a first down and a bit more momentum again.
After the running game showed some promise in the first half, the coaches tried to air out the ball a lot more for Wake in the second half, mostly because they were chasing a lead, but also because Hinton was the only one having any success. Starting the 4th quarter, though, Matt Colburn managed a nice five yard run outside and allowed Wake to open the playbook on a fake jet sweep and a quick WR screen to Cortez Lewis. FSU's penalty problems continued with a late hit out of bounds, adding 15 yards to the end of the run, and Wake had 1st and 10 on FSU's 23. Indeed, injury problems spread even further too, as a line judge sustained an injury and had to continue short on personnel.
Matt Colburn and Tyler Bell contributed some nice rushes, and Kendall Hinton also took what the defense continued to give them. A costly procedure penalty on Cortez Lewis forced Wake Forest into 2nd and 13. Hinton then threw two incompletions forcing the punt team out on the field again. Weaver converted from 34 yards, and Wake drew within 11. Still the drive was not fulfilling. The difference between field goals and touchdowns was the difference in the ball game. Where Florida State converted 3rd downs, Wake could not, and where FSU scored touchdowns, Wake was held to field goals.
Wake Forest's defense came out strong yet again on the following FSU drive, forcing FSU into a 3rd and long after a big sack. On that 3rd down play, Wake got into the FSU backfield and forced a near fumble, though the officials ruled an incomplete pass on the field. After review, the ruling stood, and FSU was forced to punt. Wake took over on their own 30 with a ton of time left (9:30), down just 11.
The penalties continued for Florida State with a big pass interference call on the first play of the next Wake Forest drive, and Wake was already near midfield. Wake was unable to move the ball after that, though, and on a huge pass breakup on third down, Wake went for it on 4th and 5 and got it. Cortez Lewis yet again showed he wasn't afraid of one of the best secondaries in the nation. The next play, Hinton missed an open Cam Serigne on what could have been a touchdown throw. They'd connect two plays later for another first, continuing the drive over the middle of the field again.
From the 'Noles 25, Colburn dropped the handoff but jumped back on it, losing a valuable few yards. Cortez Lewis, however, didn't read the papers about FSU's defense, and kept the drive going yet again inside the red zone as the clocked ticked under 5:00. The offense was faced with another 4th down, however, and opted to take the field goal from 24 yards. Weaver was good again, though forced to repeat his kick after the second procedure penalty from Wendell Dunn. The field goal brought Wake within 8 points, and again forced the mantle on to Wake's defense.
Instead of onside kicking with 3:34 to go, Wake kicked long, and Florida State took over on their own 26. Wake had its full slate of timeouts and looked to force a quick 3 and out. A late pass interference flag from the field judge on Ryan Janvion gave Florida State a first down, however, and the Seminoles were able to run clock down under two minutes before an incomplete pass stopped the clock. Florida State thus had 3rd and 7 with 1:57 to go from their own 37. Marquel Lee came up with a sack on that play and the defense proved again they're willing to play with any team in the country. Wake got the ball back with two timeouts down 8 points with 1:42 on their own 35 yard line.
With the most pressure of his young career on his shoulders, Kendall Hinton took over possession trying to run a two minute drill. As the wind picked up and swirled, and with two timeouts left, the freshman attempted to lead his team back, but fired incomplete on his first throw. Serigne caught a short pass in bounds for six yards, but the clock was quickly ticking away. Hinton kept for a first down near midfield on the following play. KJ Brent caught a quick throw on first down, but couldn't get out of bounds, and Wake was forced to take a timeout with 0:44 left in the game.
Hinton and Brent kept the drive alive, completing again and stretching the drive into FSU territory. And once again, the Seminoles shot themselves in the foot with their tenth penalty of the game, as a facemask penalty added 15 more yards and took Wake into FSU's red zone. After an incompletion on first down, Wake had 0:26 to go and 2nd and 10. Kendall Hinton had Cam Serigne open on the goal line and overthrew him by a few inches, and FSU safety intercepted the pass, ending the comeback attempt and the game.
Pulling together takeaways from a game like this can be tough, but the easiest is looking at the offensive line play. Against their toughest competition to date, they controlled the line of scrimmage for most of the day, got the run game going, and gave Hinton decent time in the backfield. Another key takeaway continues to be Hinton's competence and poise at quarterback, not afraid of any competition, acquitting himself very well replacing John Wolford. Finally, progress is clearly being made with this team. Matt Colburn also had a very good game, rushing for over 140 yards and pushing the pile on short yardage plays.
Still, comparing this performance to the past three games against FSU where Wake Forest was outscored 154-6, Deacon supporters can't be too disappointed. Today's game may have gotten away some in the 2nd half, but Coach Clawson is a fiery competitor on the sidelines, running wildly, barking at the referees, and showing his passion for the young Deacs. This contributor feels that Dave Clawson is absolutely the right man for the job at Wake Forest, and before too long, he will have the Deacs competing for the conference championship again.