In front of a sold-out crowd at West Point’s Michie Stadium, Wake Forest engaged in an offensive shootout against Army, coming out on top 70-56.
The win marks only the second time in program history in which Wake Forest has started 7-0, their first since 1944. The win also places the Demon Deacons at No. 13 in the AP Poll, their highest ranking since 1947.
In the offensive battle, redshirt sophomore quarterback Sam Hartman reigned supreme, completing 23 passes for 458 yards and five touchdowns, while also adding a running score.
Hartman’s prolific play earned him the Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week award, the first time a Wake Forest player has received the honor. Hartman was also named the ACC Quarterback of the Week.
On the opening drive of the game, Hartman took to the air early to counteract the stout Army defensive line. The quarterback’s first two passes were completed to juniors Jaquarii Roberson and Christian Beal-Smith for 29 yards. A penalty on the second reception moved the Demon Deacons into the red zone.
After several failed attempts, redshirt sophomore running back Christian Turner burst through the defensive line from three yards out for the touchdown.
On their first drive, Army stuck to their bread and butter: the rushing game. Following a 39-yard completion to begin the drive, the Wake Forest defense could never regain their balance.
From there, the Black Knights rushed six times to score. On third-and-six, running back Brandon Walters took the pitch from quarterback Christian Andersen, made one cut to the inside and surged into the end zone.
After a special teams mistake on the kickoff that saw the Demon Deacons start their next drive on the five-yard line, Hartman tossed a 50-yard completion to redshirt sophomore wide receiver A.T. Perry.
On third-and-six, Hartman found Roberson, who had split the two safeties, over the top for the 41-yard catch-and-run for another Wake Forest touchdown.
On Army’s second drive, the Wake Forest defense found their footing, forcing them off the field in a three-and-out. In turn, the Army defense stopped Wake Forest on four plays, denying the offense on fourth down.
Down by seven, the Black Knights embarked on a nearly seven-minute drive consisting of 11 rushes to even the score at 14. Led by Jabari Laws and Tyheir Tyler, Army marched 55 yards on the ground. To punctuate, Jakobi Buchanan punched the ball into the end zone from three yards out.
It took only four plays for the Demon Deacons to regain the lead. Following an incompletion to Perry, Hartman completed two straight passes to Roberson for 17 yards. From the Wake Forest 46-yard line, Hartman found a wide-open Perry on the right side of the field. After the cornerback fell to the ground, Perry pulled in the pass and went untouched for the score.
Over the course of seven and a half minutes and 13 plays, Army slowly carved through the Wake Forest defense with rushes from Laws and Tyler. Inside Wake Forest territory, the Demon Deacons stopped Army on fourth down, only for the drive to continue because of a substitution penalty. Following the penalty, Tyler darted right through the middle of the Wake Forest defense from 24 yards out for the touchdown.
On the ensuing drive, Wake Forest experienced the other side of a penalty decision. After a third down incompletion by Hartman, the drive was allowed to continue because of a pass interference penalty called against Army.
After the penalty, Hartman completed four passes for 45 yards to reach the Army red zone. From there, Hartman utilized the delay option with Beal-Smith to open up space in the middle of the field, which allowed the running back to scamper for a 13-yard run touchdown.
With 35 seconds left in the half, Army knelt on their first play, letting the clock run out and giving Wake Forest a seven-point lead going into the locker room.
To begin the second half, three rushes proved vital for the Black Knights. On the first play, Tyler ran around the right edge, faked the pitch, and scampered for 22 yards. On the following play, Tyler pitched the ball to Walters on the left side for a 23-yard gain that took Army into Wake Forest territory. The third big rush saw Tyrell Robinson go 19 yards to move to the 9-yard line.
From there, a second Robinson rush brought Army to the goal line, where Buchanan capitalized to even the score.
On the third play of the next drive for Wake Forest, Hartman waited in the pocket until the last second to find Roberson, who had once again split the Army safeties. After Roberson corralled the pass at the Army 46-yard line, he sprinted all the way to the end zone.
The next drive for Army began with promise. On third down, Laws found receiver Isaiah Alston for a 29-yard completion to enter Wake Forest territory. Following a second conversion, the Wake Forest defense held strong, forcing Army to punt.
Except, in punt formation, a Black Knight circled the left edge and was left wide open to receive an incoming pass for the first down. In what could’ve been a crushing play for the Demon Deacons, the complexion of the game changed in a second.
At the last possible moment, cornerback Traveon Redd stepped in front of the pass and caught the ball in front of the intended receiver. Redd then turned on his heel and was gone. Eighty-three yards later, he was dancing in the end zone, and the Demon Deacons were leading by more than a touchdown.
With all the momentum on the Demon Deacons’ side, Army quickly responded to stay in the game. On the second play from scrimmage, running back Anthony Adkins ran straight through the middle of the Wake Forest defense for a 71-yard touchdown.
In wild fashion, Wake Forest came back and scored on the following play from scrimmage. On the delay option, Hartman pulled the ball back and passed over the middle to freshman receiver Ke’Shawn Wiliams. After the catch, Williams continued for another 60 yards into the end zone. In just 47 seconds, three touchdowns had been scored.
On the first five plays of the ensuing drive, Army rushed the ball. On the sixth play, Wake Forest forced an interception, but the play was called back due to a holding penalty on senior defensive back Ja’Sir Taylor.
The Black Knights capitalized on the mistake by going after Taylor yet again. On fourth-and-nine, down by 14, Laws hit Alston for a 21-yard touchdown pass that went over the head of Taylor.
Leading by seven, Wake Forest embarked on a drive that relied heavily on the rush. On four runs, the Demon Deacons gained 56 yards and were down to the Army goal-line.
From there, Hartman hit Roberson, who high-pointed the ball on an arching pass in the back of the end zone for the touchdown.
Starting at their own 25-yard line, a 25-yard rush from Robinson moved the Black Knights to midfield. Then, four consecutive runs took the Black Knights to the Wake Forest 25.
At the 25, Laws dropped back to pass for the first time on the drive. On the play, the quarterback found a fault in the Wake Forest coverage that left Robinson wide open for the touchdown.
After the touchdown and now down by seven, in a game in which it seemed like the scoring wouldn’t end, Army made a decision to surprise the Demon Deacons: an onside kick. The kick was nearly recovered by the Black Knights but was punched out of bounds.
Starting with good field position, Wake Forest took advantage of the missed play. Two completions from Hartman amounted to 32 yards and moved the Demon Deacons to the eight-yard line.
From there, Hartman dropped back to pass. With no receivers open, he then escaped up the middle and ran untouched into the end zone.
Following an Army fumble on the ensuing drive, Wake Forest put the game away with a 46-yard rushing touchdown by Justice Ellison. Despite one more touchdown by Army, the game was out of reach.
Wake Forest had gone to West Point and survived a shootout. They would leave New York undefeated for a second time this season.
After the game, Hartman was proud of the offensive performance, but was quick to recognize that Wake Forest has much left to play for this season.
“Coach put us in great spots and the guys made plays,” Hartman said. “[I] make the throws, and it works. It’s very fun. We’re 7-0, but that wasn’t the goal. [Our goal is] to do bigger things. We’re excited for the next challenge.”
Now the No. 13 team in the country, Wake Forest controls their own destiny. Winning out would see the Demon Deacons reach the ACC Championship for the first time since 2006. An undefeated record and an ACC Championship would give Wake Forest a strong resumé for the College Football Playoff.
But for now, all that matters is the next step. The next challenge ahead for the Demon Deacons is a matchup with Duke at home on Oct. 30.