This game was nowhere near as close as the score would indicate. Starting at the end of the first quarter, Wake Forest had a sterling sequence of 3 touchdowns in less than 3 minutes to take a 21-3 lead, and the Deacs didn’t really look back after that. It would have been 28-3 (or at least 24) if not for the worst goal line sequence of all time wherein the Deacs, from the 1 yard line, ran three wildcat runs in a row to come away with nothing after a 4th down stand by Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt’s next touchdown only happened because of a muffed punt by Taylor Morin (who otherwise had a great game) that set the Commodores up at the 24 yard line. One of the other Vanderbilt touchdown drives was aided by a 50 yard explosion on a single shot play by speedster receiver Jayden McGowan after a quarterback switch by Vanderbilt. While I’m talking about that, uh, why didn’t Clark Lea start AJ Swann? Good gracious, Wake might’ve been in some trouble with that kid playing sooner.
Speaking of quarterback play, Sam Hartman had a heck of a game. 18/27 for 300 yards and 4 TDs, all to different receivers. The Wake Forest rushing attack was unspectacular but steady, averaging 4.8 YPC with a whole battery of runners, but Quinton Cooley in particular stood out, stepping up to tally 9 carries for 57 yards, including a 24 yard touchdown scamper. The Wake Forest defense continued to show improvement, holding Vanderbilt to 11 first downs all game (including garbage time), and an absolutely wonderful (on Wake’s part) 2-13 on third down, as well as forcing three turnovers. Hartman wasn’t perfect, there were potentially a couple of concerning injuries (most notably to Coby Davis), but the team is definitely considerably better on the defensive side of the ball, and if the offense can continue to hum like this, Wake Forest might end up contending for the division title again after all.
My biggest concern today other than the one previously mentioned goal line playcalling was special teams miscues. There was the aforementioned muffed punt return, and there were several bad snaps that Ivan Mora was able to miraculously rescue, but they could’ve really paid for those. That said, I should probably be fairly forgiving given how atrocious the weather was today. It was pouring pretty much the entire game, and the fact that Wake Forest had no turnovers on offense was pretty remarkable, if I’m being honest.
If the first two games are any indication, Wake Forest should positively boat race Liberty next week, and then the fun really begins; a home game against Clemson and then a road test at FSU, who is either very much improved, or LSU is in for a rough year (or perhaps both, I suppose). The fact that Wake Forest looked as good as they did on the road against an SEC team, no matter how low in the conference they are, is at least mildly exciting. Hopefully there are no serious injuries, and the defense can continue to gel and show a level of consistency that was arguably the team’s only major flaw last season. I’m not very worried if at all about the offense.
On to the next. Go Deacs.