Third-quarter collapse sends Louisville over Demon Deacons

Wake Forest, now No. 20 in the nation, will face NC State next weekend


Courtesy of NBC Sports

Sam Hartman (No. 10 in white) is sacked by the Louisville defense.

Aine Pierre, Online Managing Editor

“That was a thorough ass-kicking.”

That was what head coach Dave Clawson had to say after the No. 10 Demon Deacons, now 2-2 in ACC play, fell to the Louisville Cardinals 48-21. 

On Halloween weekend, it truly is hard to imagine a more nightmarish game for Wake Forest. The loss was largely the result of the Demon Deacons’ third quarter meltdown, in which they were outscored 35-0 and turned the ball over six times. Wake Forest, which has been ranked No. 10 in the nation only twice (2021 and 2022) has lost in the next game twice — in 2021, UNC erased an 18-point deficit in the fourth quarter to stun the then-No. 10 Demon Deacons. The Demon Deacons sit at No. 20 in Week 9 of 2022.

“It was a disaster,” Clawson said of his team’s performance against Louisville. “I didn’t have them prepared today, and I have to sleep on that.” 

QB Sam Hartman (20/35, 271 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT) was involved in each of Wake Forest’s third-quarter turnovers and did not return for the fourth quarter. However, in a postgame press conference, Hartman’s team threw its support behind him.

“It doesn’t matter,” LB Ryan Smenda said of Hartman. “That’s my brother, and I love him.”

I know what our football team is made of, and now we have to come back and prove it.

— Head Coach Dave Clawson

Wake Forest’s offense started slow, only netting nine yards in the first quarter. On the Demon Deacons’ first drive, Hartman lost the ball after being ruled down. The original ruling on the field was a fumble, but it was then reversed. However, a Malik Cunningham rushing touchdown and two field goals put Louisville ahead 13-0 at the end of the first quarter.

By halftime, Wake Forest had erased that deficit. A Justice Ellison rushing touchdown got Wake Forest on the board with 11:15 to go in the second quarter. Roughly six minutes later,the Demon Deacons had the lead. 

Louisville almost took the lead before the half with a field goal, but penalties negated two successful tries, and K James Turner missed from 46 yards. With the ball on its own 29, Wake Forest made it to the Louisville 15-yard-line before an attempted touchdown pass sailed over A. T. Perry’s head. During that drive, Wake Forest ran about 45 seconds off the clock — a move that seemed intentional but baffled observers.

Before Louisville took full control of the game, officiating was a hot topic. Toward the end of the first half, Perry’s arm was held back as he attempted to grab a pass — the ruling on the field was an incomplete pass, not defensive pass interference. Wake Forest’s second touchdown, a 16-yard bullet to Jahmal Banks, was reviewed because the ball might have touched the ground. The replay official, to the chagrin of Louisville fans, confirmed the call on the field of a touchdown.

In the fourth quarter, backup QB Mitch Griffis, who is presumed to be Wake Forest’s future starter, went 6/9 for 39 yards and a touchdown. Griffis’ touchdown pass went to freshman TE Trey Boll for five yards.

Wake Forest will regroup and travel to N.C. State for a crucial ACC match next Saturday at 8:30 p.m. Elsewhere in the ACC, Syracuse — largely viewed as a key obstacle to Wake Forest’s hopes of an Orange Bowl berth (irony notwithstanding) — fell to Notre Dame 41-24 at home. UNC, however, took care of business against Pittsburgh, winning 42-24.

Clawson said that next week, and the slate of games that follow (against UNC, Syracuse and Duke) will be where Wake Forest can prove that its dismal performance against Louisville was a ghastly exception.

“We have a good football team, but we didn’t play well,” Clawson said. “I know what our football team is made of, and now we have to come back and prove it.”