No football player on Wake Forest’s roster or current undergraduate student at the university had felt the feeling of bowl eligibility until Saturday evening.
The Demon Deacons pulled out a loaded, challenging win against the Virginia Cavaliers.
Wake Forest now has a 6-3 record. They haven’t had a better one going into game 10 since 2006.
“Six is a magic number,” said head coach Dave Clawson. “Now you work like crazy to get seven. This gives us recruiting momentum, this gives us program momentum. We have some kids in there who have really busted their butts and put a lot into this program for three, four, five years … The high of moments like that is why you keep coaching.”
Saturday’s game was determined by which team could outlast the other.
The score fluctuated back and forth, and a fourth quarter 20-20 tie proved worrisome for Wake Forest fans.
The game truly could have gone either way, but a pick six by Wake Forest linebacker Jessie Bates III with 6:47 remaining put the Deacons up 27-20, where the defense effectively held the score.
This was the fifth interception for Bates this season, which is the second most in the ACC. He was awarded the honor of ACC Rookie of the Week after his four tackles (3 solos), a pass break-up, a quarterback hurry and the crucial pick six in the win.
Wake Forest had a strong defensive game all around, with three turnovers and five sacks. Redshirt sophomore safety Cameron Glenn was named the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Defensive Back.
With Virginia trying to convert a 4th-and-1 from the Wake Forest 38 yard-line in the second quarter, Glenn recovered a fumble, and the Deacons were able to convert it into a touchdown just before the half. In the fourth quarter with Wake Forest trailing 20-17, Glenn intercepted a pass and returned it 41 yards, setting up a 36-yard field goal to tie the game.
“We always go out with a ‘nothing bothers us’ mentality,” Glenn said. “Not every game is going to be the perfect game. It’s up to us to keep our heads up and play well.”
Junior quarterback John Wolford’s improvement from last week’s game against Army was as crucial to the success of the Deacs as the strong defense was.
When Virginia took an early lead, Wolford answered with a 64-yard rushing touchdown. The pocket closed in around him but he was able to find space to charge forward. He outran the five Virginia defenders chasing him into the end zone for Wake Forest’s second longest play of the season.
In addition to the touchdown, Wolford rushed for 94 yards which tied his career-high.
Freshman running back Cade Carney added 87 yards to Wake Forest’s running game, and tight end senior Cam Serigne had two catches for 24 yards.
Serigne continued to extend his lead as the all-time touchdown leader for tight ends in school history. Serigne now has 10 touchdown receptions in his career.
“After last week we said, ‘Let’s not lose the game on offense. Let’s run the football. Let’s get it to Cade. Let’s get it to Matt Colburn. Let’s try to control the line of scrimmage, and we’ll take our shots when we have them.’ We ran the ball really well. We ran for over 200 yards and controlled the clock most of the game,” Clawson said.
The Deacons looked shakier than expected against Virginia, but they pulled themselves together midway through the fourth quarter and secured the win.
“Our whole football team was disappointed in ourselves with how we played a week ago,” said Clawson. “If anything this week, we wanted to play with energy, play with passion and play hard for four quarters.”
After a much needed and deserved win, the Deacs will travel to Louisville to take on the Cardinals this Saturday. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. on ESPN2.