Wake Forest shuts down Virginia Tech

The Wake Forest defense forced three turnovers in an impressive defeat of No. 19 Virginia Tech


Safety Nick Andersen (right) had three interceptions on Saturday (Photo courtesy of Wake Forest Athletic Communications)

Ben Conroy, Sports Editor

The sun glimmered high above Truist Field on Saturday afternoon as Wake Forest hosted No. 19 Virginia Tech in a pivotal mid-season contest. The Deacs entered this week on a high note, having come away with a resounding 40-23 victory over the Virginia Cavaliers in their previous matchup. Likewise, the Hokies marched into Winston-Salem boasting a 3-1 record, including impressive wins over the likes of North Carolina State and Duke. The two sides collided for a memorable, hard-fought game, as neither squad managed to attain more than a 10-point lead throughout all 60 minutes of gameplay. When the dust settled, however, Wake Forest emerged with a 23-16 victory after Virginia Tech QB Hendon Hooker threw his third interception in the waning moments of the fourth quarter.

As has been the case several times this year, the two-headed monster in the Wake Forest backfield helped seal the deal for the Demon Deacons. RBs Christian Beal-Smith and Kenneth Walker III dazzled once again, combining for nearly 200 yards on the day and carrying the load for the offense. In a contest where offensive touchdowns were hard to come by, Wake Forest’s halfbacks gave the squad the edge they needed to snag a monumental home victory. 

While redshirt sophomore QB Sam Hartman didn’t quite stuff the stat sheet on Saturday, his mistake-free performance and resiliency during crunch time put the rest of the offense in position to make plays when the game was on the line. Though Hartman only finished with 110 passing yards, he completed 12/17 passes and picked up a rushing touchdown along the way. Don’t be fooled by the numbers, though; Hartman showed on Saturday that he can sling the pigskin with the best of them. He made a couple game-changing throws, including an improbable 36-yard completion to WR Donavon Greene in the fourth quarter that helped set up a crucial Wake Forest field goal.

The x-factor in this victory, however, was the Demon Deacon defense. They held Virginia Tech QB Hendon Hooker to a lackluster 17/33 passing performance in which he coughed the ball up on three separate occasions. Redshirt senior Boogie Basham also made his presence felt on the defensive line, finishing with nine tackles and a late-game sack to further extend his TFL (tackle for loss) streak. It’s worth noting that the Virginia Tech offense has, up to this point, been a force to be reckoned with in the ACC. Prior to Saturday’s game, they’d put up 40 or more points in three of their first four matchups. The Deacs, however, had all the answers, stifling the Hokies in just about every way imaginable.

With this win, Wake Forest has taken a huge step toward achieving relevance in the ACC this year. Their next two contests will be excellent litmus tests to see if the Deacs are for real, as they’re set to face Syracuse and No. 15 UNC Chapel Hill in a challenging pair of road matchups.

There were no shortage of noteworthy performances in Saturday’s victory. Players from both sides showed grit and poise down the stretch, and the decisions for offensive and defensive MVP were difficult. Here’s who ended up with this week’s honors:

Offense: RBs Christian Beal-Smith and Kenneth Walker III

At the end of the day, it’s hard to dispute that these two are worthy of all the praise they’ve been given. The dynamic duo accounted for nearly two thirds of Wake Forest’s total offensive yardage, and Walker III scored one of the Deacs’ two offensive touchdowns. This pair of elite backs changed the game in a crucial way.

Defense: S Nick Andersen

True freshman Nick Andersen was truly the man of the hour on Saturday, snagging three interceptions and leading the Deacs’ defense with 11 tackles on the day. This is one of the more memorable individual defensive performances in Wake Forest history, and it came during the team’s most important win of the season thus far. Andersen was showered with accolades in the days following the game (ACC Rookie of the Week, co-ACC Defensive Player of the week), and deservedly so; it’s clear that Andersen will continue to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks for many seasons to come.