Well it wasn’t a work of art or a masterpiece that will go down in the Wake Forest Football Hall of Fame, but a win is a win, and that’s all that the Demon Deacons needed on Saturday night. The Deacs braved the elements and were able to overcome their own shortcomings in the red zone to defeat the Florida State Seminoles 22-20 and get to 6-1 headed into their second bye week.
Let’s focus on the good stuff first…
Wake Forest is now bowl eligible for the fourth consecutive season for the first time in school history and can focus on continuing to rack up the wins for a late December or early January bowl game.
Kicker Nick Sciba and wide receiver Sage Surratt once again showed that they might be the best players in the nation at their respective positions. Sciba went 5-5 on field goals and has made a school record 23 straight field goals, while Surratt caught 7 balls for 170 yards, including two more highlight reel circus catches. We absolutely don’t win the game without both of these guys performing at a very high level.
I actually want to give credit and kudos to the entire special teams unit. Coming off what was possibly the worst special teams game Wake has played in the past few seasons against Louisville, everybody stepped up this week, from the coverage units, to Dom Maggio, to Dayton Diemel snapping. The conditions quickly deteriorated in the second half, but the ST Unit got the job done in pretty much every possible way.
Also want to give a massive shoutout to Sam Hartman. In today’s climate of college football you somewhat expect talented quarterbacks to transfer if they do not win the starting quarterback gig, but Hartman stayed true to Wake Forest when Jamie Newman was the guy, and is clearly in it for the long haul with the Deacs. He threw for over 300 yards and managed the game extremely well for the offense. Michael Kern looked great against Elon, but having Hartman stepping in when Newman wasn’t 100% is no doubt a big reason why we got the win.
Things weren’t all sunshine and rainbows on a dreary Saturday night though. The red zone offense continues to be an enigma for Clawson and the staff, and settling for four field goals early on could have easily cost the Deacs the game. Wake should have been up 2-3 touchdowns after the first 20 minutes and instead found itself only up 9-7, and eventually down 14-12.
It was only when we went with some unconventional Wildcat plays with Cade Carney that we were able to break the seal and get a touchdown. It’s very rare that you can settle for five field goals and still win a conference game, but we were able to do just enough to get the job done.
There were also a couple of massive breakdowns pre-snap defensively that could have spelled disaster for the team. If it weren’t for an absurdly athletic play by Nasir Greer on a 4th down and 2 and James Blackman inexplicably missing an uncovered receiver on a play that Amari Henderson was lined up inside, then the Deacs would’ve allowed another touchdown. These are things that cannot continue to happen with regularity if we want to reach the 10-win plateau this year.
The biggest blow from Saturday could be the injury to linebacker Justin Strnad, as the staff fears that he may have a long-term injury to his shoulder/bicep area. This would be a massive injury for a defense that has been hit or miss most of the season already. Hopefully this is not something that will sideline him for a long period of time, but the initial prognosis was not good.
Regardless of the negatives, Saturday night was an overwhelming success overall. Wake Forest got its first ACC home win in a year and a half (hard to believe), achieved the first goal of the season in reaching bowl eligibility, and snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Seminoles.
Now the Deacs get another bye week to rest up for in-state rival N.C. State on November 2nd. There is a very good chance that this game will be on national television, and perhaps an outside shot at College Gameday. The slate for the first weekend in November is very weak, and aside from SMU at Memphis I think there are a lot of reasons to believe ESPN could bring their setup to Winston-Salem for the first time ever.
There will be more on the curious bye-week stat (0-7 coming off of an open date mid-week under Dave Clawson) from BSD later this week, but the State game is one that the Deacs simply have to take care of. It would put us in great shape to take down another State Championship, and would give us the inside track to finishing second in the Atlantic Division.
It also would also set Wake up for two really big road games in Blacksburg against Virginia Tech, and then Death Valley for Clemson the following two weeks.
The season is still there for the taking and the win on Saturday night against Florida State showed that this team has the resolve that we needed to see after the bizarre 62-59 loss to Louisville.
Enjoy this one folks – it’s always great to see “Little Old Wake Forest”, full of 3 star recruits, take down a team like Florida State (who has signed over 40 4-5 stars in the past 4 years alone).
This is a special team and despite some of the frustrations that I felt during the game in certain spots, it is only because I feel this team is capable of doing a lot this season. That’s a far cry from year’s past where I felt like there was a ceiling on what we could achieve.