WINSTON-SALEM — Parents weekend at Wake Forest University meant an unusually large crowd on Saturday at BB&T Field. Fans came in expecting a victory and the home team delivered with a 56-24 win over Rice.
Coach Dave Clawson wasn’t gun shy when it came to discussing Saturday’s win.
“I’ll be the first to admit, Rice isn’t Notre Dame. There was going to be improvement,” he said, referencing the team’s blowout loss to the Irish.
And, improvement there was. The Demon Deacons played better in every facet of the game than they did against Notre Dame against an admittedly lesser opponent
Offensively, the Demon Deacons came out fast. Star wide receiver Greg Dortch continued his onslaught of the Wake Forest record books, making 11 receptions for 163 yards and four touchdowns. The four touchdowns tied his own record that he set last year in the Demon Deacons’ upset over Louisville.
Freshman quarterback Sam Hartman rebounded nicely after a tough showing against the Irish.
“A week ago, at times, he got spooked,” Clawson said. “He bailed the pocket when it was clean, guys were open.”
Against Rice, Hartman finished with 241 yards and four touchdowns, relieved early of his duties due to a blowout score of 42-3 by the end of the half.
After allowing 41 and 56 points to Boston College and Notre Dame, respectively, Clawson dismissed defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel. The results were better against the Owls.
“That’s a unit that, the eight quarters before that, had it handed to them pretty good,” Clawson said.
Cornerback Essang Bassey had a 51-yard fumble return touchdown against Rice, and, as a unit, Wake Forest allowed just 100 passing yards. Luke Masterson led the Deacons with eight total tackles.
“We needed to just come out and play after the last two weeks,” Clawson said.
Wake Forest looked the part, playing disciplined and, more importantly, like they were having fun again.
Next up is a true test: No. 4 Clemson will visit Winston-Salem on Saturday after surviving a scare against Syracuse last week. It’s possible that starting quarterback Trevor Lawrence will be out of commission for Saturday’s game.
“We’re very aware as we head down the stretch here, we have seven ACC games ahead of us,” Clawson said. “We have to keep getting better, and I think we got better from a week ago to today. We have to keep making progress to win games in the ACC.”