For the first time since 2011, the Wake Forest football team will be playing in a bowl game. The Deacs will take on No. 23 Temple in the Northrop Grumman Military Bowl in Annapolis, Maryland, at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
For Wake Forest – who went 6-6 in the regular season but only 1-5 over their final six games – getting to a bowl was the objective of this season.
“A major goal of ours at Wake Forest was to get to a bowl,” head coach Dave Clawson said.
For Clawson, this is the sixth time in 17 seasons, as a college football head coach, that he has reached the postseason. He is right on schedule for his time at Wake Forest, though.
In Clawson’s third year as head coach, he’s transformed a program that hadn’t reached six wins in five years into a program that has prided itself on a defensive identity gained through tough ACC matchups week after week.
Wake Forest has also had to fight through its share of adversity this season with sophomore quarterback Kendall Hinton sustaining a season-ending injury in the third game of the season after being named the starter prior to the first game.
In his place, junior quarterback John Wolford has shown great improvement from his first two years at the position and led the offense to a place that solidified Wake Forest as a team that opponents must prepare for on defense. As a result, Wake Forest will play in their 11th bowl game as a program and hopes to improve on their 6-4 all-time record. Playing Temple will be a test for a Wake Forest team that has struggled recently, especially against teams with explosive offenses such as Temple’s. The Golden Owls will be coming into the Military Bowl having outscored their last five opponents a combined 157 to 33, and while Wake Forest’s defense is the best it’s been in years, the offense will have to prove it can consistently stay on the field.
“We’re excited for the challenge of the opponent,” Clawson said.
Wake Forest will be relying on freshman running back Cade Carney and the running game to maintain drives, as they have all year. Temple finished the regular season third in total defense, though, so Clawson and his coaches will have to design a playbook that maximizes yardage everywhere possible. Bowl games often feature trick plays and schemes that offenses haven’t had a chance to run all season, so Deacon fans should expect to see some creativity from the coaching staff. For seniors, reaching the bowl game means fulfillment of a goal that they stepped into college with. As Clawson echoed in his press conference, though, simply reaching the game isn’t the end goal.
“We want our players to enjoy it, but we’re also there with the purpose of winning a football game,” Clawson said.
Wake Forest has shown love to the Military Bowl throughout the season, and with a large alumni community in the DMV area, the Deacs are expected to have a large fan presence at the game.
Wake Forest will be excited for the opportunity to take the program to the next level, and a win would do just that.