"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

'Covers the campus like the magnolias'
"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

Sullivan: It ain’t 2018 anymore

A bowl berth is not looking likely for Wake Forest football
Evan Harris
Mitch Griffis looks at the Memorial Stadium crowd during the Oct. 7, 2023, road game against Clemson.

During his weekly pressers, Wake Forest Football Head Coach Dave Clawson likes to draw parallels between his current team and his 2018 team. Both teams started 2-0 (wins against Tulane and Towson in 2018, wins against Elon and Vanderbilt in 2023), both teams lost to Clemson and FSU (the 2018 combined point differential was 81 as opposed to this season’s modest 30), and both teams were 4-5 headed into their November matchups against NC State.

Besides Clawson’s consistent coaching staff and similar schedules, similarities between the two teams end there. 

The roster has been totally overhauled (only Michael Jurgens, a sixth-year guard, and Spencer Clapp, a seventh-year tackle, remain), offensive efficiency has plummeted (the 2023 team averages 10.7 fewer points per game, 99.6 fewer yards per game and has seen a 17.7% drop in red-zone touchdowns compared to 2018) and the team seems unable to seal the deal in winnable away games (the team is 1-3 on the road, including two one-possession losses to Clemson and Duke).

“Obviously, I want to go out and win 11 games,” Jurgens said on Tuesday. “I want to win the division, I want to win the ACC and all of that, and it’s never going to not hurt to do that, but you’re always looking for ways to get better. I think that this team has really found a way to kind of grow from adversity and come closer together.”

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Unless that team bond can translate to wins, adversity will continue. 

There is still a chance for the Demon Deacons to extend the ACC’s second-longest bowl appearance streak to eight years, but that would require two wins in the last three weeks. One of those wins will have to be on the road, either against Sam Hartman and No. 22 Notre Dame (7-3) — the Fighting Irish have not lost a home game in November since 2016 — or against Syracuse (4-5, 0-5) in the cavernous Carrier Dome.

The path to bowl eligibility is a rugged trail, but it’s not unmarked.

The 2018 Demon Deacons wound up beating their in-state rival, the then-No. 22 NC State, 27-23 in Raleigh before losing 34-13 to Pittsburgh at home and demolishing Duke on the road in a 59-7 rout to end the season. The 6-6 Wake Forest team was invited to the Birmingham Bowl, where the Demon Deacons defeated Memphis 37-34 and secured a winning record. They’ve done it once before, can they do it again?

It’s no longer 2018, so probably not.

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About the Contributor
Cooper Sullivan
Cooper Sullivan, Sports Editor
Cooper Sullivan is a senior from Winston-Salem majoring in Communication with double minors in Journalism and Art History. He enjoys long walks on the beach, dancing like no one is watching and "committing to the bit".

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