Wake moves past opener, ready for Gardner-Webb
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — New Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson isn’t going to scrap everything just because his team lost its opener in embarrassing fashion.
The Demon Deacons simply have to get better at those things — starting with Saturday’s game against Gardner-Webb of the FCS.
Wake Forest (0-1) struggled mightily in its first game under Clawson, gaining just 94 total yards and failing to score an offensive touchdown in a 17-10 loss at Louisiana-Monroe.
Clawson says making knee-jerk changes as a result of that loss is “the worst thing you can do.”
“We’re a young football team and we have a vision of where we want to go, so if we jump in there Week 2 and (change things), what message does that send?” he asked. “We certainly believe in what we do. We’ve run it through the years.”
The yardage total was Wake Forest’s worst since 1987 — when the Demon Deacons were held to 66 by South Carolina. Their five first downs also were their fewest since they had four in against the Gamecocks.
Clawson admitted there might be a few tweaks to tailor the system to the players, and said some plays might be called more often than others.
“That’s just coaching,” he said. “I don’t think you go in after one game and make wholesale changes. It didn’t go well. We didn’t play well. That’s obvious to anybody that’s ever watched a football game. The answer is to get better and make incremental improvement every week.”
That starts this week against a Gardner-Webb team that is coming off a 13-3 loss to Furman. The Runnin’ Bulldogs were outgained 328-194 and managed just 69 yards rushing.
“The main thing we’ve got to do is get Gardner-Webb better,” coach Carroll McCray said.
Some things to know about the second meeting between Wake Forest and Gardner-Webb:
GROUND GAME STALLED: Wake Forest was held to minus-3 yards rushing against Louisiana-Monroe — with Orville Reynolds’ 37 yards on the ground overshadowed by freshman quarterback John Wolford’s minus-40 yards coming on seven sacks. Nobody else carried the ball. Meanwhile, Gardner-Webb enters with a strong reputation on defense. The Runnin’ Bulldogs have held their last six opponents to 150 yards rushing or less, and they’ve given up only three offensive touchdowns in their last 12 quarters dating to 2013.
FCS VS. FBS: Gardner-Webb brings a 1-9 record against Bowl Subdivision opponents into the game, with its lone victory coming against Akron in 2010. Wake Forest won the only other meeting between the schools 48-5 in 2011. Clawson knows the mentality a FCS team brings into these types of games — his 2006 Richmond team beat Duke 16-0. “When you’re a head coach in the FCS and leading a program like that, these are your exciting games,” Clawson said. “This is your one chance to step up and knock off a BCS or FBS opponent.”
WAKE’S D: Perhaps lost amid the offense’s struggles, Wake Forest’s defense and special teams were decent against the Warhawks. The Demon Deacons kept Louisiana-Monroe off the scoreboard in the first half and Kevin Johnson recovered a punt blocked by Steve Donatell for the team’s only touchdown. “Our defense just played too many snaps,” Clawson said.
HE’S COOKING: Keep an eye on Gardner-Webb receiver Kenny Cook. The redshirt senior managed just two catches for 13 yards against Furman while fighting injuries but is considered an NFL prospect who caught 76 passes for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns last season. He led the Big South in all three categories.
GROWING UP FAST: Wake Forest played eight true freshmen against Louisiana-Monroe — including Wolford and center A’Lique Terry. Last year, in Jim Grobe’s final season as coach, 11 true freshmen saw the field. That’s a drastic change — between 2001 and 2012, the Demon Deacons never played more than three true freshmen in a season.