Wake Forests focus after starting 4-0: Going 1-0 this week

After best start since 2006, coach Dave Clawson has Deacs all preaching the same message heading into NC State showdown.

Marc Lebryk— USA Today Sports
Memorial Stadium reflects in the helmet of a Wake Forest Demon Deacons player. (Marc Lebryk / —USA Today Sports)

It’s a good time to be a Wake Forest football fan. A win at Indiana on Saturday gave the Demon Deacons their first 4-0 start since 2006. The program received votes in both national polls for the first time in nearly five years.This all comes after losing dynamic freshman Cade Carney and starting quarterback Kendall Hinton in consecutive weeks. In their place, John Wolford and Matt Colburn have led the offense with the “next man up” philosophy working out for Wake.How have the Deacs survived early injuries? One thing’s pretty clear: Dave Clawson has the players’ trust and, most importantly, their ears. Asked about facing NC State on Saturday, both Wolford and linebacker Jaboree Williams gave nearly identical answers.”We have to focus on NC State and going 1-0 this week,” Williams said.”It’s about going 1-0 this week,” Wolford said. “We’re fired up to play NC State.”While those statements sound strikingly similar to coach speak (“one game at a time”), it’s clearly a sentiment Clawson has his team buying in. Rather than focusing on what the team doesn’t have, Clawson is still surging behind a team that believes in the message he’s preaching.Congratulations to Dave Clawson (@CoachClawson) on his 100th career victory as a head coach. #GoDeacs pic.twitter.com/En43n3ewqP— Wake Forest Football (@WakeFB) September 24, 2016
Carney went down and Colburn responded with two straight games with more than 130 total yards. While Wolford hasn’t improved much as a passer, he’s filled in well after losing Hinton with three rushing touchdowns in the last two weeks.”Coach Clawson has always done a good job building programs, and it’s no different here,” NC State coach Dave Doeren said. “They’re not beating themselves. … They’re averaging over four yards per carry, which is pretty good.”Good football game coming up here on Saturday. Looking forward to the challenge that goes with it.”On the opposite side of the ball, the defense was the key to the program’s first road win over a Power Five team since 2010. While the offense punched in 26 points, the defense created those chances with five(!) interceptions, including a pick-six from Jessie Bates — on his second pick of the [email protected] STAYS perfect! #Deacs never slowed down after THIS PICK-6: @J_Bates_2015 pic.twitter.com/hx8tUBtClG— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) September 24, 2016
For his effort, Bates was named ACC Defensive Back of the Week, but will have a tall task this week against NC State. Since winning the job away from Jalan McClendon, Ryan Finley has not thrown a single interception in 80 passing attempts. Oh, and he also happens rank No. 1 in the country in completion percentage at 76.3 through the first three games.While those numbers have been questioned by some for the multitude of short passes Finley has completed, Clawson is still impressed by the transfer signal-caller.”I don’t care how many screens you’re throwing, 76 percent is impressive,” Clawson said. “He’s got a really good touch, he understands the offense, he can throw the deep ball and the intermediate ball.”Heading into an in-state rivalry matchup, Clawson isn’t changing his strategy at all despite still missing some star players. His thoughts on remaining undefeated heading into Raleigh? You guessed it.”The coach speak is you always want to go 1-0 that week,” Clawson said. “But I think our players have really bought into that. I think anytime that the group is winning for the first time, they don’t take it for granted. I don’t feel like our players have taken this for granted.”I really feel like they enjoy the win. They love the feeling in the locker room. Then they’re onto the next one, and make sure we make that same weekly investment we need to in order to have success.”