Demon Deacons bounce back in ACC play

Wake Forest’s run game paved the way to a comfortable win over Florida State


Courtesy of Florida State University Athletics

Ke’Shawn Williams (No. 13 in white) prepares to explode off of the line as the Wake Forest offense takes flight.

Ian Steffensen, Sports Editor

Wake Forest bounced back from a heartbreaking loss to Clemson with a statement win against Florida State in Tallahassee.

After falling behind 7-0 after the game’s first drive, the Demon Deacons stepped up in all areas to score 28 unanswered points and win by a final score of 31-21. For its efforts, Wake Forest was awarded the No. 15 slot in both the coaches’ poll and the AP poll.

There was a lot of uncertainty heading into this contest. Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida on Wednesday afternoon, and with Florida State canceling classes, many wondered if the game would be postponed or moved to a neutral site. However, the game went on as scheduled, and Wake Forest continued to put the nation on notice – and put to rest any concerns after last week’s loss.

“Last week was a soul-crusher, and I certainly had concerns with our ability to get them back,” Head Coach Dave Clawson said. “They just put in a great week of work and prepared, and came down here expecting to win.”

On the first drive, Florida State marched down the field and quickly found wide-open gaps in the Wake Forest defense. Defense has continued to be a liability for the Demon Deacons, and giving up some big plays early quickly shifted the momentum toward the Seminoles.

Although we are in Week 5, penalties continue to be a problem for Wake Forest – especially holding penalties. On the first drive, Clawson took a gamble and went for it on fourth down, and the offense converted — only for it to be called back for a holding penalty. Wake Forest finally got going on their second offense series. Redshirt junior quarterback Sam Hart- man connected with his favorite target, redshirt junior wide receiver A.T. Perry, on three occasions for a total of 42 yards. Running back Christian Turner capped off the 84-yard drive, punching it on the goal-line stand on fourth and goal for his third touchdown on the year. The Wake Forest defense shut down Florida State on their next series and put the ball back in the hands of their offense.

The Demon Deacons got their run game going in the second quarter, with Sophomore Justice Ellis breaking through the Seminole defense for a 35-yard rush to get Wake Forest inside the red zone. Hartman found A.T. Perry again, this time in the back of the end zone, to put the Demon Deacons on top 14-7.

Wake Forest’s defense came up with a big play on its next series. Redshirt sophomore Linebacker Jaylen Hudson hit QB Jordan Tra- vis to force a fumble, which was then recovered by junior linebacker Chase Jones to set up the offense right in Florida State territory. With pressure coming on 3rd and 8, Hartman remained calm and collected in the pocket and threw a 20-yard pass to wide receiver Dona- von Greene who made a spectacular contested catch in the end zone, which put Wake Forest up 21-7. Wake Forest looked to put even more points on the board late in the second quarter. The offense made it to the Florida State 26-yard line only for Hartman to be sacked on third down. Clawson sent out his kicking unit, but Redshirt Freshman Matthew Dennis missed the 44-yard field goal, his first miss of the season. Florida State got the ball back with three minutes left in the first half and looked to mount a charge. The Seminoles marched down the field with ease, and found themselves in the heart of the red zone at the 11-yard line. But the Wake Forest defense came up big and stopped the Florida State attack, and forced them to kick a 29-yard field goal, which kicker Ryan Fitzgerald also missed. Wake Forest led 21-7 going into the locker room. Wake Forest’s ground game was the story of the first rushing for over 199 yards in the first half.

Wake Forest continued where they left off, opening the second half with their fourth un- answered touchdown on the day. It was a balanced attack with Hartman finding Perry numerous times, and Ellison running right through the Florida State defense for a 12-yard score. The Seminoles would not go away that easily though, scoring on their next series with an 85-yard drive. The Wake Forest defense came up big yet again with Gavin Holmes intercepting the pass from Travis on their failed two-point conversion attempt to keep the Demon Deacons lead at 28-13.

After stalling on back-to-back drives, Wake Forest continued to leave the door open for a Florida State comeback. Travis continued to attack the open gaps in the Demon Deacon defense, finding his tight end Camren McDonald for 28 yards to set them up inside the red zone. Travis capped off the drive with a four-yard touchdown pass to Johnny Wilson, and with the Seminoles converting on the two-point try, they were right back in it to make it a seven-point game. Wake Forest was not about to let another lead slip away, and made sure to make the most of their next drive. Hartman found Ke’Shawn Williams three times for 30 total yards. On one of the grabs, Williams caught the ball over a defender to save an interception and keep the drive going. The offense ate a lot of clock on this series but were forced to settle for a field goal. Dennis nailed the 27-yarder to put Wake Forest up 31-21. The Wake Forest defense continued to lock down Florida State and stopped any efforts of a comeback. After Florida State was forced to kick a field goal that came up short, the game was officially over, and Wake Forest had come out on top.

Running back Justice Ellison had this to say after the team’s win: “People might say a lot of things about Wake Forest, but we’re a team. We stick together no matter what. If you’re not doing this for something bigger than yourself, what are you doing it for?”

The Demon Deacons return home to Truist Field to face off against Army next week at 7:30 p.m.