DeaconsIllustrated – Wake Forest holds off comeback, notches road win


So much for Wake Forest being scared to play at Florida State.

No. 22 Wake Forest stormed out to a three-touchdown lead early in the third quarter and held on for a 31-21 win against No. 23 Florida State on Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium.

“Thanks to our staff and players for all of their hard work, especially after last week’s game,” coach Dave Clawson said early in his opening remarks, not beating around the bush of last weekend’s double OT loss to Clemson. “That was a soul-crusher. And I was concerned with our ability to get them back.

“They just put in a great week of work and prepared and came down here and expected to win.”

The Deacons (4-1, 1-1 ACC) saw a three-touchdown lead whittled down to a 28-21 lead with 9½ minutes left. To that point, Wake’s previous two possessions had netted minus-6 yards, while FSU got back into the game with touchdown passes from Jordan Travis to Mycah Pittman and Johnny Wilson.

An answer came in the form of Wake’s most-important drive of the game: An 18-play, 66-yard marathon that included three third-down conversions and one fourth-down conversion – one of the third-down plays and the fourth down were Sam Hartman-to-Ke’Shawn Williams connections, and the other third downs were Christian Turner runs.

That drive ended with Matthew Dennis’ 27-yard field goal, giving the Deacons a 10-point lead with 2:55 left.

FSU (4-1, 2-1) attempted a 55-yard field goal with more than a minute left but it was missed, sealing the Deacons’ bounce-back victory after last weekend’s double OT loss to Clemson.

After the Seminoles started the game on a high note, Wake Forest seized control and didn’t lose it until about midway through the third quarter.

FSU took the opening drive of the game 83 yards on six plays, the last of which was an 18-yard strike from Travis to Pittman.

Wake’s defense buckled in after that, forcing three punts and a turnover, with the fifth possession resulting in a missed field goal.

And Wake’s offense got rolling to the tune of 28 straight points.

The Deacons’ first two drives were marches, going 80 yards in 13 plays and 90 yards in 12 plays. Christian Turner capped the first drive with a 1-yard touchdown push on fourth-and-goal; Hartman threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to an open A.T. Perry – native Floridian, by the way – to give the Deacons a lead early in the second quarter.

That’s where the turnover came in, with Jaylen Hudson popping the ball loose from Travis and Chase Jones recovering. It set up Hartman’s 20-yard touchdown strike on third-and-8 to Donavon Greene – his third touchdown in the last two weeks.

“We had a great week of preparation,” Clawson said. “Despite what some people might think, we were not scared to play this game. We were very excited to play this game.”

Both teams missed field goals in the last few minutes of the first half; Dennis’ miss was the first of his Wake Forest career after starting the season 8-for-8.

Wake Forest took the opening drive of the second half and went 75 yards on seven plays – six of the plays gained at least 7 yards – and ended it with Justice Ellison’s 12-yard touchdown run.

Ellison, a third-year running back from Ashburn, Va., had the first 100-yard game of his career with 18 carries and 114 yards.

“We thought we could run the ball against them,” Clawson said. “We went into this game and we thought it was really important that we were balanced because of the way we threw the ball last week.”

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