Another year, another Wake Forest football season underway. Year two of the Dave Clawson era at Wake Forest started with an emphatic win over Elon. The season opener at Grove Stadium saw the Demon Deacons run rampant of the Phoenix, 41-3. The offense outgained Elon 591-151.
After a slow offensive start, the MVP of the first quarter was Alex Kinal. The defense held Elon to one first down in the first quarter, but Wake Forest wasn't much better with 90 total yards of offense. It was no surprise to see the defense come out strong and the offense start rusty, but after a sluggish first quarter Wake didn't look back, scoring the game's first 3 points and continuing to lock down the game defensively.
A Cam Serigne block on a 21 yard Matt Colburn run set up the first big play of the game, and then Serigne came back with a big catch on the following play. He'd go on to catch a touchdown two plays later, and from there the game really opened up.
After the touchdown Hunter Williams came up with an interception on the ensuing drive, but the referees incorrectly ruled it an incomplete pass. Elon couldn't capitalize on their good fortune, and Wake took back over possession. Through the first six Elon drives, Wake still gave up just one first down. Elon gained just six first downs all game.
Big running back Matt Colburn scored the second touchdown for the Deacs on the day after a couple big powerful runs. Colburn would go on to rush for 38 yards on 12 rushes.
Elon got their third and final first down of the half with 5:00 to go in the 2nd quarter. They promptly followed it up with a procedure penalty and a short run, putting them in 2nd and long. Wake Forest's defense was completely dominant in the first half. Throws were rushed and inaccurate; rushes were quickly sniffed out.
On the ensuing possession, John Wolford ran for 70 yards and a touchdown on a broken play. Lead blocking from Cam Serigne allowed Wolford to walk in and score the first rushing touchdown of his career. Wolford has flashed speed in the past, but nothing like that run.
Elon got the ball back with less than three minutes to go in the half but could only pick up 5 yards.
That allowed Wake Forest to practice their two minute offense for the first time this season. The half ended with a field goal that Mike Weaver hooked and missed. At half, Wake generated 343 yards of offense and led 24-0. Elon registered just 77 total yards and 3 first downs.
Elon came out fired up in the second half, forcing a punt and then picking up a quick first down after ramping up tempo. Once the Wake defense got set, however, they were able to hold Elon to a long field goal.
Wake responded strongly on offense. Wolford looked excellent in the pocket, showing poise under pressure and accuracy on his passes. Cortez Lewis, master of handshakes, caught the first touchdown of his career on a wide open look from 25 yards. Chuck Wade added a touchdown on the next Wake possession with a nice run after catch and 3:30 left in the 3rd quarter, bringing Wake's lead to 38-3. Wake's 4-2-5 defensive look and the lack of outside linebackers gave Elon fits up the middle. Their biggest plays offensively were to the sidelines, where Wake should see improvement in the secondary as the season progresses. Wake stacked the box repeatedly in the second half with the second and third units to get young players some experience.
When the second offensive unit entered Hinton looked fleet of foot, and after missing an open man on his first throw connected for a first down on his second college pass. After that, he looked very efficient. When he stayed in the pocket, he withstood pressure, but when he rolled out, he really looked dangerous. If Wake's offense stalls this season, I wouldn't be surprised to see Hinton come in to provide more mobility and a completely different offensive look. Hinton drove the ball down the field with a mixed run-pass attack, eventually missing on a fade to the back corner of the end zone, resulting in a Weaver field goal and a 41-3 lead.
When the Deacs got the ball back with 9:00 to go, they tried out the Jumbo set and picked up a quick first down. Hinton attempted to manage the clock after that, but some of his throws lacked accuracy, or the timing of his receivers' routes may have been suspect.
It's nearly impossible to extrapolate the results of this game to the entire season, but there were many positive signs in tonight's game. The offense was efficient, and the defense was stifling. Isaiah Robinson looks to be the primary back, Colburn looks like the third down/short yardage/power back, and Tyler Bell gives a different look altogether with fast feet. Playcalling on both sides was much more diverse than last season. The offense stayed tight in formation, but KJ Brent was a clear WR1 target, and Cam Serigne continued to add routes to his repertoire. Wolford's feet were a welcome surprise, and his vision was generally very good.
This game was a great way to open the season because the team was able to try out a few different looks, Wolford had 4 total touchdowns, and the defense was completely dominant. Looking at total yardage numbers, no game remotely resembled this sort of output last year. If improvement is the goal this season, this is an encouraging way to start.
Wake had a slow first quarter, but scored 21 in the second quarter and 20 in the second half. Wake was a 28.5 point favorite entering the game and did not disappoint on either end or in special teams. Last year, the defense and the punting unit jockeyed for the most impressive 11 on the team. This season, while the defense misses key personnel, the offense looks to take a big step forward especially at the skill positions. The standout player on defense was Hunter Williams and on offense, John Wolford.
Looking forward to next week at Syracuse and the rest of the season, it'll be fun to watch this team when they face truly tough opposition. If Wake can get off to a big 3-0 start, I wouldn't count a Dave Clawson–coached team out of picking up three more wins over the course of the season and getting his team bowl eligible. Perhaps what is most impressive with this team is the young talent. Most of the big plays were made by young players recruited by Dave Clawson. If this is a sign of his long-term vision for the program, it feels like Wake is in good hands. Syracuse should be a nice test for this very young Wake Forest team.