Wake Forest triumphed in today’s Homecoming football game 46-10 to get to 3-0 on the season.
Wake won the toss and elected to defer to the second half, and Mike Weaver got the game underway with a touchback out of the endzone. Utah State took the field with their uptempo offense behind quarterback Kent Myers in the spread offense. Three runs and a first down opened the game for the Aggies before Duke Ejiofor blew up an outside handoff for a loss. On the ensuing play, Cameron Glenn intercepted Myers’ pass behind his man and ran it back for a touchdown but a penalty wiped it off the board for the Deacs.
John Wolford took over on the 43 and hit Greg Dortch in stride for a quick 43 yard strike down the middle. Dortch lined up in the slot and beat his man quickly off the line with easy separation and torched the secondary, trotting home for a score. This touchdown was already the fourth of the freshman’s young career. He truly looks like a receiver to watch as the team prepares for ACC play.
Utah State sputtered on the following drive, quickly finding themselves in third and long, relenting and punting and taking less than a minute off the clock. Greg Dortch fair caught the punt at Wake’s 30 yard line and the offense took over again. Cade Carney ran twice and picked up a first down as Wake picked up the tempo in the series. Wolford connected to Cortez Lewis for another first down, and on the next play found Cam Serigne wide open splitting the safeties for his second touchdown of the quarter.
Down two scores, Utah State responded with a first down on a nice throw and catch. Wake had dropped into a quarters defense on third and long with soft coverage, and Myers found his receiver with room to spare. One first down begat another and Utah State moved to midfield as the first five minutes of the game finally ticked off the clock. Their drive stalled from there, punting the ball back to Jessie Bates and the Deacs, taking over on their own 9 yard line.
Penalties threatened to stall Wake’s next drive, but John Wolford’s feet and a nice Greg Dortch first down kept the drive alive to midfield. Wolford’s first errant pass of the day was followed by the third false start of the drive. Wolford then took a sack back into Wake territory, and Wake punted for the first time of the day.
On the next Aggie series Duke Ejiofor picked up his fourth sack of the season and the first sack of the game for the Deacs, and Wake took over with good field position and two minutes left in the first quarter. Arkeem Byrd ran twice to pick up a first down, and Scottie Washington caught another first down pass to bring the Deacs into Aggie territory. As the quarter expired, Byrd carried Wake into the red zone for the first time on the afternoon. Wake settled for a field goal up 14-0, and Mike Weaver converted the chance from 31 yards.
Utah State came out and moved the ball quickly up the field on their next possession before the drive stalled near midfield. They lined up to punt, but faked and ran for a first down into Wake territory. The drive ended there with another Wake sack, this time from Justin Strnad. For the second time in the drive Utah State lined up to punt, but this time no fake, and Wake started their next drive from their own 5 yard line.
Matt Colburn got Wake out from near their own goal line with two quick runs for a first down up the middle. Two runs later he had Wake up at the 29 yard line, and from there Wolford completed to Tabari Hines near midfield. Again Wake’s offense stalled there and Dom Maggio punted to the 1 yard line where Utah State took over with six minutes left in the half.
Wake’s captain senior linebacker Grant Dawson took down LaJuan Hunt in the end zone for a safety on the first play of the drive and the Deacs took back over up 19-0. After a lengthy review the safety stood and former walk-on Grant Dawson could continue to celebrate his impact play. Greg Dortch returned the free punt past the 30 yard line where Wake’s offense took over. After a few short runs Arkeem Byrd took the ball on an inside zone handoff for an explosive 59 yard score, and Wake went up 26-0.
The teams traded punts on the following drives, and then Wake managed one final scoring drive before the half culminating in another easy Mike Weaver field goal to put the Deacs ahead 29-0.
In the first half Utah State’s uptempo offense and “amoeba” defense were a poor strategic match for Wake’s stout defense and calculated offense. Wake controlled all aspects of the game from the clock to the turnover battle. The only area of weakness was the continued procedural penalties. Cade Carney did fumble the ball near the end of the half, but Wake was able to recover it in a wild scramble. The Deacs outgained the Aggies 397-77 in the first half in total yardage.
Wake started the second half with a three and out after a great Wolford throw was dropped by Greg Dortch open in the flats. Then another false start backed up Wake’s punting team, and Utah State took over in good field position past their 40 yard line. They could not pass midfield in three downs, though Coach Clawson thought an incomplete pass ruling should have been a completion and fumble, recovered by the Deacs. His challenge was not successful, and Utah State punted it away. Utah State’s starting quarterback was injured on the quick punt play. He appeared to have potentially been concussed on the play.
Jesse Bates returned the punt all the way back to the two yard line on the return, and Matt Colburn took it in for the score from there. Backup quarterback Jordan Love came in for Utah State, and on the seventh pass of his career threw a 77 yard touchdown on blown Wake coverage down the sidelines to put the Aggies on the board, 36-7.
Two completions to Tabari Hines and a quick inside run from Arkeem Byrd and Wake was already inside Utah State’s red zone again. On third down the pocket collapsed and John Wolford scurried in 18 yards for a score on the ground.
Kendall Hinton took over for John Wolford, whose day ended with 242 yards passing and 53 yards rushing for 3 total touchdowns. Hinton led Wake down the field to an easy score to put Wake up 46-7, but it was Tabari Hines that did most of the work on a great run after catch gashing the Aggie secondary. Hinton did take an unnecessary sack he likely should have thrown away, but Mike Weaver converted his third field goal of the day.
Utah State was clearly outmatched in the game, but backup quarterback Jordan Love came in and competed. He completed another long pass over the middle of the field deep into Wake territory. They were only able to put three points on the board, but it was a decent consolation with the starting quarterback and tailback on the sidelines injured.
In the fourth quarter Wake was content to run clock, rest their starters, and hand the ball off. Arkeem Byrd ran his rushing total for the day over 100 yards and in so doing, Wake saw a 100 yard rushing performance and 100 yard receiving performance (Hines, 129) for the first time since 2011.
All sides of the Wake football team came to play for homecoming weekend, but special teams deserve a special share of praise. From coverage to returns to field goals and punts, the unit put Wake in a continual position to succeed. There were penalties and some poor kickoffs but in all, the special teams unit earned these plaudits and should be proud of their performance.
It’s especially impressive to consider that on top of the gaudy scoreline, it could have been even worse had the Deacs not taken their foot off the pedal or dropped a few passes. To start the season 3-0 is great, but to do so with three dominating performances going into the heart of the schedule builds confidence for a team stuck in mediocrity in the recent past. Today’s win was enjoyable from start to finish--here’s to more like this.