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Wake Hangs on to Beat Appalachian State on the Road 20-19, Advances to 4-0

The Deacs clung to a narrow lead in Boone and advanced to 4-0 on the season.

NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Appalachian State Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Wake Forest held on to win in Boone today, 20-19 to bring their record to 4-0 on the season.

Greg Dortch took a knee in the end zone to start the ball game. Wake Forest in all white with gold helmets took to the field and started the game out in the spread as usual, Cade Carney in the backfield and John Wolford in the gun. Before the first snap of the game Wake’s road nerves showed with a false start. Wolford faked a handoff to Carney and kept for 14 yards on first down, and Carney picked up the first down on the next play with a zone read.

Wake’s uptempo offense moved the ball quickly downfield via a quick seam to Scotty Washington. Greg Dortch caught his first pass of the game in Mountaineer territory, and then Carney picked up a first down near the edge of the red zone with two quick runs off tackle. Wolford found Scotty Washington in the empty set with plenty of time in the backfield. The first real slow down of the drive came on a penalty on Justin Herron, and the Deacs found themselves quickly in third and long with the goal to gain. From there, with less than four minutes off the clock on the drive and ten plays later, the Deacs settled for a field goal from Mike Weaver. The senior Weaver nailed it from 28 yards to go 7 for 7 on the season and put the Deacs ahead 3-0.

Weaver sent the ensuing kickoff through the back of the end zone for a touchback and Taylor Lamb led the Mountaineers in all black out on to the field. An extremely late flag for pass interference on Jesse Bates backed Wake’s defense up on the opening play. App State connected for another first down on the following play up past midfield. Terrence Upshaw carried the Mountaineers to a manageable third and short, and App went for it on 4th down but failed to connect.

Wake took over on their own 41 yard line. They could not advanced past midfield and punted on the three and out. App’s gamble paid off, though Wake was able to flip the field position script. Upshaw moved the chains running the ball, but App State struggled to stretch the field in the air, and Wake forced a punt of their own midway through the first quarter.

A short run, an incomplete pass, and a sack later Wake punted it back to Appalachian State. A deep punt from Maggio outkicked his coverage and App returned it 35 yards up the middle to midfield. Jalin Moore ran for the first time for the Mountaineers on first down quieting speculation he was injured and unable to play. A quick slant from Lamb moved the chains as App picked up their first third down conversion of the game. Jalin Moore ran for another first down, and ASU was in business knocking on the red zone. On an end around flea flicker, App State went ahead completing a 20 yard touchdown pass.

With every first down run or completion App celebrated as though they had just won the Super Bowl. The crowd was raucous and the team responded in kind. All momentum after the first App score was with the Mountaineers. At 6-3, however, Wake blocked the extra point.

Trailing for the first time this season, John Wolford came out and threw an incompletion under pressure. He ran the draw for three yards and then on third and long missed Dortch by a mile on the sideline—not a good series for the Deacs in response.

App managed to move the chains as the first quarter expired and moved them again as the second quarter began. With momentum behind them and Wake missing tackles, the Moutaineers moved again into Wake territory. The Deacon defense succeeded getting App into third and long situations, and Wake finally managed to get the ball back with 11 minutes left in the half deep in their own territory.

Two conservative runs and an incomplete pass failed to advance the ball for Wake, and the Deacs meagerly punted the ball back without taking much time off the clock. App took over in excellent field position near midfield after a 37 yard punt. Taylor Lamb marched his team down the field as the second quarter neared its halfway point. Wake was unable to take advantage of a fumble, but did force a punt.

On Wake’s fourth possession after their opening score, they once again failed to pick up a first down against Appalachian State’s defense.

On a circus catch Appalachian State picked up a big first down to retain momentum. Their drive moved quickly back into Wake’s red zone, but Essang Bassey nearly picked off Taylor Lamb. Lamb picked up first and goal, but the play was ruled illegal for a formation penalty. On their second third down in the red zone, Lamb escaped a sack and threw the ball away, and App kicked a field goal to extend their lead to 9-3.

Wake picked up a first down in their two minute drill but quickly followed it up with a false start. John Wolford put the ball right in Cam Serigne’s hands, and Cam dropped it. Wolford put it in Tabari Hines’s hands and Hines dropped it. Wake punted. Wolford finished the half 4-13 with a measly 49 yards passing. App State managed a much better two minute offense and kicked another field goal but the kick went well wide and ASU went into half up 9-3.

Wake started the season with three easy blowout victories and it seemed as though the tables were turning and Clawson’s team, full of young exciting talent was finally ready to compete again in the ACC. After a half in Boone full of conservative play calling, poor blocking, and low scoring it looked more like Wake Forest of recent seasons.

App State took the opening kick of the second half as Wake’s defense once again tried to make plays where Wake’s offense could not. Taylor Lamb picked up ten yards on the ground on third and long to keep App’s first drive of the half from going three and out. Wake’s defense made App’s receivers look like Alabama for most of the drive and a questionable unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on App held them from leading another scoring drive. Another App punt backed Wake up inside its own five yard line.

A quick 35 yard strike to Washington on the first play and an eleven yard completion to Dortch brought the Deacs up to midfield before yet another false start slowed the Wake offense—slowed but not stopped. Whatever Coach Clawson said to the offense at half time woke them up. In an empty set on 2nd and 8 Wolford ran into the red zone, and on an ensuing 2nd and 9 Wolford connected to Greg Dortchover the middle for a touchdown capping the 97 yard scoring drive and sending Wake ahead 10-9.

Momentum finally turned back in the Deacs’ direction as the third quarter neared its halfway point. It did not last long. Weaver kicked off to ASU who failed to pass the 20 yard line on their kickoff return. Wake’s defense flew into tackles and backed App up on the first play of the drive but App gashed the Deacon defense on an 85 yard jet sweep for a touchdown on the second play and went up 16-10.

Wolford took a sack after plenty of time in the pocket on first down. Arkheem Byrd picked up six on second down, but Wake failed to complete on third and punted quickly. In a huge mistake however, App gifted Wake a first down on 4th and 4 by jumping offsides. Another App penalty kept Wake’s drive alive near midfield. Greg Dortch went up high in the air to get a Wolford pass and take the Deacs into the red zone. Byrd carried the Deacs to first and goal from there. Cam Serigne caught a wide open touchdown pass from there and put Wake ahead 17-16.

Wake’s defense needed to step up and answer the call. They managed to get ASU in third and long, and Jaboree Williams blitzed up the middle and forced a throwaway from Taylor Lamb. App punted and Wake took over at their own 35 yard line. Matt Colburn took over for Byrd in the backfield for the Wake possession. He didn’t get a chance to touch the ball and Wake punted right back to App State.

With 1:03 left in the third quarter App took over on their own 25 yard line down a point. Wake’s defense didn’t have much time on the sidelines, and it showed as App picked up an easy first down. For the first time of the afternoon the Mountaineers were called for holding, necessitating an untimed down at the end of the quarter. With third down and 4 yards to go, App State started the fourth quarter with an incompletion, forced to punt back to the Deacs. Arkheem Byrd took two handoffs for five yards to start the drive for Wake, and Greg Dortch caught a pass over the middle but Wake quickly punted back to App, who took over with good field position again. Maggio’s punts on the day were not great.

Lamb connected with freshman receiver Hennigan on a big pass down the sidelines deep into Wake territory on first down. Two quick plays later App was back in 3rd and long. They settled for a short field goal attempt from there, succeeding and putting them ahead 19-17.

Wake took over on their own 22 yard line down two with Colburn in the backfield. Wake picked up a quick first down and a flag to move the ball into App territory. Serigne caught a 17 yard pass across the center. Wolford ran for 16 yards. Wake’s hurry up offense clearly troubled the App defense. Inside the red zone though Wake failed to convert on their chances, and Wake settled for a field goal attempt of their own. Mike Weaver converted from 25 yards to put the Deacs back on top 20-19 with 7:22 to go (the sixth lead change of the game).

App answered with a first down straight away but then had a big run called back for holding. They answered that call with a 19 yard run. As the clock ticked under 5:00 to play ASU moved the ball past midfield. Even with three timeouts the game became four down territory for the Mountaineers. On 4th and 4, App picked up the first down just as the play clock ticked down to zero. From there Wake’s defense stepped up and took App back to 3rd and long. Lamb nearly threw a pick from there and was forced to punt from midfield. Wake took over on their own 10 yard line with the lead and 2:13 to play.

Colburn picked up four yards and ran 9 seconds off the clock forcing App to take their first time out. Colburn picked up a single yard on second down and ran another 6 seconds off the clock forcing App’s second timeout. On 3rd and 4, Colburn could not pick up the first down, and App stopped the clock with 1:51 to go, out of timeouts. Maggio punted standing on his goal line and App took over on their own 46.

Lamb was forced to throw the ball away on first down under intense pressure from a Wake blitz. Duke Ejiofor came up huge on second down with a tackle for loss bringing up 3rd and 15. Amari Henderson broke up a pass to bring up 4th and 15. Henderson was flagged on the next play for pass interference on 4th down and the drive continued. Lamb threw it away again on first down. 55 seconds to go, 2nd down and 10. Sawvel continued to bring pressure. App picked up another first down and spiked the ball with 25 seconds left on the 32. A quick completion moved the ball to the 27 and App spiked it again with 10 seconds to play. Wake opted to ice App’s kicker. Wake then was called for offsides moving the kick an additional five yards closer. From 39 yards, Wake then blocked App’s kick and held on to win the ballgame.

Arguments within the Wake fanbase over whether Wake should deign to play such inferior competition as Appalachian State raged online from the time the game was announced. The fact of the game is that it’s not much of a win for the Wake athletic program, fun though it may be for fans to travel to Boone for an excellent atmosphere. While the game was a good tune-up for conference play, it’s never going to be a popular one with Wake fans.

One team came out enthusiastic and ready to play and another didn’t. Amari Henderson and most of the Wake secondary in particular struggled with the speed of Appalachian State. Wake’s receivers dropped a lot of passes. It wasn’t pretty, but 4-0 to start the season is a dream for any fan. This kind of game won’t be enough to win in the ACC. It was enough today, and that’s all that matters.