It’s not often that the Wake Forest football team, representing the smallest school in the Power-5 conferences, makes national headlines for its play on the field.
It’s even less likely that the Demon Deacons find themselves the subjects of superfluous off-the-field controversies in major media outlets, like conference rivals North Carolina or Florida State.
As a result, when a Wake Forest offensive assistant stumbled upon a Wake Forest playbook containing previously-unused plays in Louisville’s Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium on Friday, November 11, 24 hours prior to the then 6-3 Demon Deacons matchup with the then No. 6 ranked Louisville Cardinals, nobody could predict the impending scope of the scandal that was to be revealed.
Wake Forest lost that game, 44-12, kicking off a streak of three straight losses to end their season and cementing their place in the mid-level Military Bowl.
The box score would show an unsuspecting observer that Wake Forest was simply another victim of Heisman-to-be quarterback Lamar Jackson’s offense, but following the news of the found playbook on Nov. 16, a seemingly predictable and innocuous Cardinal victory became mired in controversy. Wake Forest launched an investigation into the “confidential and proprietary infomation” stolen from them in the form of the playbook that spanned the remainder of the Demon Deacon’s season, resulting in the firing of former assistant coach and then-team radio announcer Tommy Elrod. Elrod’s gift of Wake Forest football plays to opposing teams spanned from 2014 to 2017, and the investigation concluded that Elrod, since fired and banned from campus facilities, worked alone in delivering stolen information to opponents for seemingly no personal gain.
Why is this excessively long, drawn-out backstory necessary in this game preview?
This Saturday, Oct. 28, many of the Wake Forest players and coaching staff will participate in the second-most emotionally charged game of their lives, second to only last season’s Military Bowl victory over Temple. In many ways, this contest is an opportunity for the Deacs to both avenge last season’s injustices and move forward as a program.
Wake Forest, who has dropped their last three matchups to perennial ACC powerhouses, will need to limit the always-explosive Lamar Jackson on defense and maintain a respectable time of possession on offense in order to defeat the Cardinals, who are much more reliant on Jackson this year than last.
Thus, expect the normally tame Wake Forest crowd to be raucous, and the Demon Deacons to leave it all on the field.