Wake Forest wins ACC Atlantic crown

With the victory, Wake Forest returns to their first ACC Championship since 2006


Essex Thayer, Sports Editor

On Friday, Wake Forest fans rejoiced at the announcement of Head Coach Dave Clawson’s contract extension, which will see him stay in Winston-Salem well into the future. The next day, Clawson and the Demon Deacons gave fans even more to celebrate.

With their 41-10 defeat over Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Wake Forest won the ACC Atlantic Division Championship and will return to their first ACC Championship game since 2006.

With Wake Forest set to return to the conference championship for only the second time in program history, the excitement was palpable. Late in the fourth quarter, when redshirt sophomore quarterback Sam Hartman was pulled from the game, he raced towards the Wake Forest fan section and cheered.

“It was a cool moment to share with our fans,” Hartman said after the game. “You want to share it with them. They’re a part of this. It was a special moment for the guys and for Wake Forest.”

The win, and resulting birth to the ACC Championship, encapsulates the goal of the Wake Forest football program for this year: Good to Great. Clawson believes that although this win is a big success for the team, it’s just the beginning.

“We’ve had a great season, and we want it to be greater,” Clawson said. “There’s still meat on the bone. Whatever you define as great — whether it’s 10 wins, a division championship and ACC championship, a bowl championship — there’s still a lot to play for. We’re happy, but we’re certainly not satisfied.”

Despite even bigger aspirations for this season, Clawson got into the team celebration after the game. In the postgame media conference, he began his opening statement by holding up the division trophy and introducing it as “our new friend.”

For nearly the entire game, there was no question that Wake Forest was the team that was going to walk away with the win. This outcome was certainly aided by the fact that the Eagles were missing 10 players due to the flu, which impacted over 30 on the team throughout the week.

On their second drive in the first quarter, the Wake Forest offense found the energy that was missing most of the previous game against Clemson. With freshman running back Quinton Cooley standing behind Hartman for the entirety of the drive, the Deacons ran the ball seven times for 28 yards.

Using the run for balance, the majority of the yardage gained came from two consecutive passes to redshirt sophomore A.T. Perry for 41 yards. Those passes set up the opening score, a seven-yard touchdown rush from Hartman.

Following a scoreless drive for both teams, quarterback Phil Jurkovic and the Eagles offense made their first big mistake of the game. On third down, Jurkovic passed to the right, but the ball was short and undercut by senior cornerback Ja’Sir Taylor for the interception.

Three plays later, Hartman hit Perry over the middle for a 33-yard catch-and-run touchdown to give the Demon Deacons a 14-0 lead.

In response, Jurkovic and Boston College went on a four-minute drive that ended in a 15-yard touchdown pass to Trae Barry.

Following a field goal for both teams, with just over two minutes remaining in the first half, Hartman began a drive that restored Wake Forest to a 14-point lead. With interspersed passes and runs, the Demon Deacons moved 50 yards down the field, completing the drive with a seven-yard touchdown pass to Perry on third down.

After only gaining three points from their first two drives of the second half, Wake Forest began to separate themselves from Boston College and put the game out of reach. Hartman started the scoring drive with an 18-yard run, and then moved the Demon Deacons into scoring position with a 32-yard completion to redshirt junior receiver Jaquarii Roberson.

From there, redshirt sophomore running back Christian Turner gained the final three yards on the ground to reach the end zone and give Wake Forest the 34-10 lead.

On the first play of the ensuing drive, Jurkovic threw another interception, setting up the Demon Deacons to score one final touchdown and close out the game. On their final scoring drive, Wake Forest ran the ball 11 times. On third down at the goal line, Hartman found redshirt sophomore tight end Blake Whiteheart for the score.

With nearly 10 minutes remaining on the clock, Clawson brought in the reserve offense to run out the remainder of the clock. Then, the celebration began.

After the game, Clawson expressed pride for the win and all that the team has accomplished this season.

“[I’m] so proud of our entire program,” he said. “We knew what was at stake. This was as big of a game as we’ve coached and played in, and we knew what we had to do.”

Clawson continued: “The defense, I thought, played one of their best games of the year. Offensively, we put another 40-spot on the board. I thought our special teams were critical. We really won the field position battle. This was a great overall effort by our entire program, so we’re thrilled to be the Atlantic Division champions.”

Despite all the pride and excitement, Clawson also recognized on Tuesday what is still to come.

“Our goal was always to win the ACC Championship,” Clawson said. “Now we have that chance. We don’t want to waste it.”

Wake Forest will play to realize Clawson’s goal on Saturday night at 8 p.m. against Pittsburgh at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.