If you had told me Wake Forest would win this game after being down 24-13 with 12:22 remaining (a 92.6% chance to win for ODU according to ESPN), I’d have called you crazy. But somehow, Mitch Griffis shook off an absolutely catastrophic early game (including two picks, one for a TD, and a fumble for a score) to eat just enough at the table the defense set to escape with a win. Make absolutely zero mistake, Brad Lambert and the defensive side for Wake Forest were Atlas today, taking the weight of the world on their shoulders and saying “not today” to the prospect of the upset. The defense forced two turnovers (both of which SHOULD have led to points), had a school record 10 sacks, and held ODU to a paltry 3-16 on third and fourth downs and, if I’m not mistaken, gave up only five net yards of offense to ODU THE ENTIRE SECOND HALF. To call it an insane lift would be an understatement. The madness doesn’t stop there. On the ground, ODU was held to 1.9 YPC. I sincerely don’t remember the last time I saw a YPC that low for an entire game.
The offense did have their moments. They outgained ODU 409 yards to 300, and even though Mitch did have a brutal game in terms of key moments, the stat line looks at least fairly respectable at 24-41 for 312 yards, three TDs, and the aforementioned two picks. The offensive line that came out in the second half looked decidedly improved from the one in the first, giving Mitch a lot more time to settle in and do just enough, and allow the Deacs to win the TOP battle by nearly 10 minutes.
The red zone offense continued to be woeful, however, as two first and goal opportunities for the Deac offense somehow led to an overall +4 swing in ODU’s favor between the fumble by Griffis returned for a score, and having a 1st and goal be turned away for a field goal (that thankfully, Matthew Dennis was able to convert). There were flashes of effective offense, with highlight reel catches made by Jahmal Banks and Taylor Morin, and a near highlight by Wesley Grimes being overturned on review. For perspective, Morin, Banks, and Grimes all had grabs of 30+ yards on the day. If the offensive line of the second half (and thus, the more composed Griffis) had been there in the first two quarters, this game probably would’ve been a laugher for the Deacs.
As it stands, however, Wake Forest is 3-0 through sheer grit and a little bit of luck, and Brad Lambert continues to showcase why he is absolutely a premier defensive coordinator in college football. Just absolute domination by the Wake Forest defense. There’s no other word for it. And I will say this for Coach Clawson: he has some points where you might question him, but the sheer grit, fight, and poise he clearly instills in his players really is something else. There have been many games over the years where Wake seemed almost definitely down and out, but players in every phase of the game on various occasions have dug deep and flipped the script, and when it can come from all three phases of the game, that reflects incredibly well on the head coach. Well done, Coach Clawson and team. Now I need to go grab a defibrillator.
On to the next. Go Deacs.