Gritty defense, Hartman history lifts Wake Forest to Gasparilla Bowl win

Sam Hartman shatters the ACC passing touchdown record as Wake Forest earns second-straight bowl game victory


Courtesy of Wake Forest Athletics

The Demon Deacons celebrate at midfield after winning the Gasparilla Bowl.

Aine Pierre, Online Managing Editor

The ball was on the 9-yard line, right in front of the Spirit of the Old Gold & Black and the Wake Forest crowd. The snap went from Michael Jurgens to Sam Hartman, roommates since 2019. Sam Hartman took a knee, and the Wake Forest Demon Deacons secured a 27-17 victory over the Missouri Tigers in the Gasparilla Bowl.
Wake Forest ends the season 8-5 in a year that has had its fair share of ups and downs.
“I think [8-5] is one of the top 10 records in Wake Forest history,” Head Coach Dave Clawson said after the game. “It shows how we have progressed that some people will see this season as a disappointment. I think finishing 8-5 with a bowl victory is a good season. I am especially proud that our players did not opt out and instead chose to finish the season strong.”
The outcome of the game was not assured until Hartman, who was named MVP of the game, fired a 16-yard TD pass to Taylor Morin. In addition to cementing the win, the throw was Hartman’s 110th career pass, which is the new ACC record for career touchdowns passing. Hartman finished 23-36, 280 yards, two TD passes and an interception. A.T. Perry set the Gasparilla Bowl record for receptions with 11, good for 116 yards.

Sam Hartman kneels after receiving his final snap as a Demon Deacon to end the Gasparilla Bowl. (Aine Pierre)

“I was happy to end on a high note,” Hartman said after the game.
The defense, which has been much maligned this season, held Missouri below 20 points after giving up no fewer than 30 in the last five games. The defense also held Missouri below 350 yards. Leading the defense were Ryan Smenda with 11 tackles and Chase Jones with eight. Clawson noted that he thought the defense played the best it had all year.
“We could go all night,” Smenda said after the game.
Hartman got his record-breaking touchdown early in the game on a 5-yard pass to Taylor Morin. The fifth-year redshirt junior said that he will not be returning to quarterback for Wake Forest next year and joked after the game that he wants to find the place with “the coldest drinks.”
A Missouri field goal and a Justice Ellison touchdown made the score 14-3. With about seven minutes to go in the second quarter, Missouri mishandled a punt and gifted Wake Forest prime field position for extending the lead. With the ball on the Missouri 35-yard line, Wake Forest seemed poised to score until Hartman threw an end-zone interception. The offense assumed they had a free play, but the offsides penalty they were looking for was never called.
After the Demon Deacons came up empty on the first drive of the second half, the teams traded touchdowns, though kicker Matthew Dennis missed the PAT. The score remained 20-17 for the remainder of the third quarter and well into the fourth quarter. It appeared as though the Demon Deacons had a scoop-and-score brought in by defensive back Evan Slocum, but it was eventually ruled an incomplete pass.
“When you have those big plays that don’t swing your way…you really do have to…lock back in,” Smenda said. “I think we did a good job of that.”
After the game, Clawson praised his team for finishing the year strong, citing the strong retention rate on the roster for the game.
Wake Forest is now 4-2 in bowl games in the Clawson era and 3-0 against the SEC. The team will look to continue its success next year. When asked about his message for the younger guys, Perry said this:
“Keep your chin up.”
The 2023 campaign kicks off on Aug. 31 at Truist Field as the Demon Deacons take on the Elon Phoenix.

Update Jan. 10: This story has been updated to reflect Wake Forest’s announcement today that Wake Forest will face Elon on Aug. 31, not Sept. 2.