A lot to teach but Wake Forest 1-0 after edging Tulane

The Demon Deacons had just 175 yards of offense in the win

Jeremy Brevard—X02835
Sep 1

WINSTON-SALEM — Dave Clawson has earned a reputation for being the Bob Villa of college football, a fix-it man adept at coming in and restoring distressed programs in need of a facelift.It’s a building process that doesn’t happen overnight. But it does has a proven timetable.After averaging only 3.25 wins in his first two seasons at Fordham, Richmond and Bowling Green, Clawson’s teams have jumped to an average of 6.0 wins in the third year of each coaching stop. That should be reason for optimism among Wake Forest faithful as the Deacons enter the third season of Clawson’s latest reclamation project.And yet, while Wake may eventually take that definitive step forward before all is said and done in 2016, its first effort of the new season looked ominously similar to those of the past two — both of which ended with 3-9 records.The best thing that can be said about the Deacons’ 7-3 victory against Tulane at BB&T Field on Thursday is that they won and are off to a 1-0 start.Wake mustered a paltry 175 yards in total offense, including just 59 in the second half. While its defense gave a much better accounting of itself, holding its opposition without a touchdown and coming up with several key stops late in the game, at least some of that success can be attributed to an offensively-challenged Green Wave team.Despite claims of a deeper roster, more talented playmakers and a better understanding of their system, the Deacons won for the third time in the Clawson era while scoring seven points or fewer.”One of the things I thought we did a better of this year in camp is I thought we got a lot more explosive plays,” Clawson said. “We didn’t make any plays on deep balls, so the result is it looks a lot like the other games we’ve won here.”We’re 1-0 and we’re excited and there’s a lot to teach off of, but clearly we have to be a lot more productive on offense. Certainly that was the disappointment of the night, but I’d rather be coaching those mistakes being 1-0.”As much of a struggle as Thursday’s opener was for Wake, at least one member of its offense is convinced that his unit isn’t as far off as it might have looked as it prepares for its ACC opener next week at Duke.Quarterback John Wolford pointed to several near misses during the course of the game that could easily have led to a bigger, more encouraging number on the scoreboard. The most glaring of them came just after halftime when Wolford under threw a wide open Cortez Lewis deep down the middle of the field on a play that would almost certainly have resulted in a touchdown.In all, Wolford took eight shots down the field. All eight passes fell incomplete. That allowed Tulane to bring a safety into the box, effectively stuffing a running attack that was held to 79 yards.”We had a few deep balls that were an inch away,” said Wolford, who was 9 of 17 for 79 yards. “Those are plays we’ve got to hit in order to be more successful. If you watched our offense all camp and preparing for this game, you’d say this was an anomaly. We’re going to be okay. This is no reason to abandon ship.”Part of Wake’s offensive problems came from a quarterback merry-go-round that saw Wolford and backup Kendall Hinton alternate every other play for several drives.It was only after Hinton stayed in for six straight plays late in the first quarter and early in the second period that the Deacons finally gained some continuity. The sophomore led his team in rushing with 26 yards and scored Wake’s only touchdown on a 1-yard run.But after carrying the ball six times in the first half, Hinton only rushed twice more the rest of the game.”It can get tough to find a rhythm,” Hinton said of the quarterback rotation. “But it’s the coach’s decision.”Like the offense, Wake’s defense still has some kinks to work out as well.It allowed the Green Wave to roll up nearly 19 minutes of possession time in the second half and twice allowed Tulane to get into scoring position. But each time it did what it had to do to prevent the go-ahead score, getting a blocked 43-yard field goal by Chris Stewart and a decisive stop by Wendell Dunn on a fourth-and-three play at the Wake 14 with just under five minutes remaining.They were plays that according to Stewart, show that things are actually different from the past two seasons and that while still a work in progress, are an encouraging sign that Clawson’s building effort is right on schedule.”Last year there was a lot of games that were put in the defense’s hands and we couldn’t finish,” Stewart said. “That’s something we’ve worked on — fourth quarter, finishing games. Tonight you saw that pay off.”