Wake Forest played its most complete game of the season thus far by steamrolling the Elon Phoenixes 49-7 on Saturday afternoon at BB&T Field.
Led by redshirt junior quarterback Jamie Newman, the Demon Deacons experienced an offensive explosion reminiscent of the 2017 squad led by now Los Angeles Rams quarterback John Wolford.
The Demon Deacons had over three times more total yards (601) than the Phoenixes (183) in what turned out to be their most comfortable win of the season.
After Elon scored late in the first quarter to trim down Wake Forest’s lead to 14-7, it seemed that the Demon Deacons would have a tough time putting them away. However, Wake Forest followed Elon’s touchdown drive by scoring 35 unanswered points and allowing only 71 yards for the remaining three quarters.
With their win on Saturday, the Demon Deacons (4-0) have finished their non-conference schedule undefeated and are receiving some national recognition for their strong start. Wake Forest is now ranked as the No. 24 team in the nation by the USA Today Coaches’ Poll right in front of USC (3-1). This is the first time since October 2008 that the Demon Deacons have been nationally ranked for football. They have also received votes to the AP top-25 poll, which is the official ranking until the College Football Playoff Committee releases their own. They barely missed a ranked position in the AP poll as the first team outside of the top 25 with 73 points received. If they manage to get a win on the road against Boston College (3-1), not many pools will be able to keep the Demon Deacons unranked.
The star of the Elon game was Newman, who threw for 351 yards and five touchdowns while completing 27 out of 35 pass attempts. With the impressive five-touchdown performance on Saturday, Newman has now tied Wolford (2017) and Riley Skinner (2009) for most touchdown passes in a single game by a Wake Forest quarterback.
If the comparisons with Wolford were already not enough, Newman is on pace to throw for 3,834 yards and 38 touchdowns in 2019, which would set new school records in both categories. What does all of that have to do with Wolford, you might ask. Wolford is the current record holder in both categories with 3,192 yards and 29 touchdowns in 2017.
This means that if Newman keeps his production, and that is a big if considering he is about to enter the hardest part of the season in ACC play, he will have the most prolific season by a quarterback in Wake Forest history. As a unit, the Wake Forest offense is also on pace to break the single-season records for most total points (459), most points per game (35.3) and most touchdowns (57), all set during the 2017 season.
When asked about the standout performance by his quarterback, Head Coach Dave Clawson was rather economic in his remarks, choosing to take a rather pragmatic approach.
“I think [Newman] missed a couple of throws today. The one deep ball to Scotty, I think Scotty misjudged it. Scotty slowed down and the ball went over his head. That chemistry between a quarterback and his receivers — it is an everyday thing,” Clawson said as reported by Les Johns from 247 Sports. “Football is one of those things. Just because you do something, doesn’t mean that skill is cemented. You have to keep doing it and work it against different looks.”
Clawson’s comments might sound a bit harsh at first but are a great indication of the team’s mindset for the 2019 season. In 2016 and 2017, Wake Forest also started both seasons with a 4-0 record, only to finish 2-6 and 3-5 records respectively over the final eight games. Clawson knows that to be able to go beyond their middling regular-season records of 2016 (6-6) and 2017 (7-5), the team cannot settle after their non-conference stretch.
“I shared that with our football team the other day. [Starting 4-0] is nice but we’ve been here before. How did we handle it in ’16, how did we handle it in ’17, how can we be different, what can we do better?” Clawson said. “I think the fact that we’ve been in this position before will help us. I also think that this team is built a little bit differently than those teams. I think in ’16 we went into every game thinking ‘we’ve got to hold them to 20 [points] or we’re in trouble.’ And in ’17 I think we thought that if we didn’t score 40, we were in trouble. I do feel this team is capable of doing either of those things. I said this at the beginning of the year, I think this is the best balance we’ve had here between offense and defense.”
As far as comparisons go, both the good and the bad, the Demon Deacons might be better off avoiding them altogether and focusing on building an unprecedented 2019 season.
Wake Forest will now shift their attention to their ACC opener against Boston College at Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill, Mass. The game is set to kick off at 3:30 p.m. and will be broadcast by the ACC Network.