This week’s ACC spotlight shines on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons following their win at Boston College in their ACC opener.
When Dave Clawson took over the Wake Forest football program, the Demon Deacons had just experienced five losing seasons in a row. Nobody thought it would be a quick fix; as it’s a daunting task for anybody to have to rebuild a program while competing in the Atlantic Division of the ACC.
Clawson’s first two years had their fair share of growing pains as he worked to retool the roster to fit his schemes. Both seasons ended with disappointing, but not surprising 3-9 records. His teams started 1-1 each year and 0-1 in the ACC. In fact, the Demon Deacons only won one ACC game each season during Clawson’s first two years in Winston-Salem.
Then came the 2016 season where you could see all the pieces starting to fall into place for a breakout season, and breakout they did. Wake Forest won their first four games of the season after never finishing with more than four wins in a whole season during the previous three years. Clawson’s team also started the ACC season 1-0 for the first time in 4 years. At the end of the season they broke their five-year bowl drought by getting invited to the Military Bowl where they defeated Temple, 34-26.
After their first winning season in seven years, Wake Forest has started the 2017 season with two wins and no losses. After an easy win in week one against an overmatched Presbyterian team, the Demon Deacons traveled up north to play at Boston College. Both of these teams look at that matchup as a must-win game if they plan on making it to a bowl game. When you play in the same division as Clemson, Florida State, and a highly-ranked Louisville team, you have to win the games against the other divisional foes in order to have a chance at the post season.
Well, it looks like Wake Forest has the inside track to reaching a bowl game after coming out of that game with a 34-10 victory. Some may say, “So what? They beat Boston College.” The “So what?” is that the Demon Deacons won a conference game on the road, something Clawson’s Wake Forest teams have only accomplished twice in his previous 3 season in Winston-Salem. The “So what?” is that they did so easily, winning this game by the largest margin against an ACC opponent in Clawson’s tenure.
The “So what?” is that this game featured great games by both the defense and the offense. In his first three seasons, Clawson’s teams have struggled to have all three phases of the game clicking at the same time. One game the offense would play well but the defense would not, and vice versa. This past Saturday the defense forced four Boston College turnovers and the offense enjoyed a solid multi-dimensional performance by quarterback John Wolford.
Wake Forest’s win did a few things for them moving forward. First, it gives them a chance to be 4-0 heading into their next big ACC matchup in a few weeks at home against Florida State. The Seminoles have had problems in the past when they visit Winston-Salem and this year’s Demon Deacons may be the best squad Clawson has put together to have a chance at the upset.
Second, the defense showed that they have not missed a beat since the departure of defensive coordinator Mike Elko. If they can continue to force turnovers, they have a chance at some upsets. Defense is what may keep them in close games within the conference.
Last but not least, the offense is scoring points. They have scored 85 points combined in the first two games. Last season they scored 31 points combined in the first two games and it took them four games to accumulate the 85 points they’ve scored in the first two weeks of 2017. Wolford threw for 151 yards and one touchdown and also ran for 92 yards and another score. If he can build off of that each week, this Wake Forest team will be a tough out for teams that may overlook them.
Wake Forest has a path to bowl eligibility. They have a brutal stretch in the middle of the season, but if they can win the games they should and then find one upset on their schedule, there’s no reason they can’t match last year’s record.
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