WINSTON-SALEM — After missing the final five games last year, Greg Dortch is picking up right where he left off.
Dortch returned two punts for touchdowns and caught a scoring pass, and Wake Forest beat FCS Towson 51-20 in its home opener on Saturday.
Dortch returned punts 60 and 70 yards for touchdowns in the second quarter and hauled in an 8-yard touchdown reception. He finished with 310 all-purpose yards — 94 receiving, 85 on kick returns and 131 on punt returns — and became the first Wake Forest player with four consecutive games of at least 200 all-purpose yards.
“I may be biased, I think he’s the most exciting player in college football,” said wide receiver Alex Bachman, who made a one-handed touchdown grab in the first quarter. “Every time he touches the ball there’s a chance something spectacular is going to happen.”
Dortch had 258 all-purpose yards against Georgia Tech and 216 against Louisville in his final two games last year before suffering a season-ending abdominal injury. He picked right back up with 200 yards in the season opener against Tulane last week before his latest outburst.
His 310 all-purpose yards were the third-most in a game in school history, and the punt return touchdowns were the first special teams scores of his career.
“Our first game against Tulane I had one where I had a little seam and got tackled by like the last guy and it just irked me all week,” Dortch said. “Our special teams coach said, ‘This week, we’re going to get one.’ We had our returns set up all week and we did it perfectly today.”
Freshman quarterback Sam Hartman passed for 242 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 64 yards and a score for the Demon Deacons (2-0). He threw a 10-yard touchdown to Bachman on the Wake Forest’s opening drive and the touchdown to Dortch on the second as the Demon Deacons never trailed.
Tom Flacco, younger brother of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, passed for 345 yards and three touchdowns for Towson.
Flacco kept the Tigers competitive briefly, responding to each of Hartman’s scores with touchdown passes of his own to make it 14-14 at the end of the first quarter.
But Hartman ran in a 14-yard touchdown on the third play of the second quarter to put Wake Forest up for good, and Dortch put it away with his two electrifying returns.
“I’m disappointed,” Towson coach Rob Ambrose said. “I thought there were a lot of good takeaways against a tough opponent for us, but we can’t give up two punt returns. Those are momentum killers.”
Dortsh’s first punt return touchdown came after fellow wide receiver Bachman half-jokingly gave him a directive on the sideline.
“I told him I needed a quick breather, I wasn’t ready to go back out yet,” Bachman said. “So I told him to take one to the house. And then he did.”
NOT ALL SUNSHINE AND RAINBOWS
One thing Wake Forest needs to fix is its ball security before hitting the meat of its schedule.
After throwing an interception in their own territory and losing a fumble on the Towson 2-yard-line, the Demon Deacons have five turnovers in two games after committing just 13 turnovers all of last year.
“If we keep turning the ball over like we are now we’re going to lose games,” Clawson said. “We’re not going to be able to do that starting Thursday night (against Boston College).”
Towson: The addition of Flacco, a graduate transfer from Rutgers, should be a major boon for the Tigers. Flacco completed 35 of 51 passes and showed he still has the talent to put up big numbers against FBS competition, a promising sign for Towson’s games to come against lower-tier FCS foes. By virtue of his pedigree, Flacco gives the Tigers the quarterback edge in almost every game they will play the rest of the season.
Wake Forest: Hartman became the Demon Deacons’ quarterback only after projected starter Kendall Hinton was suspended three games for violating team rules, but the true freshman may not give the job back. After passing for 378 yards in the season opener — most ever by a Wake Forest quarterback in his first career start — Hartman delivered another sharp passing performance and showed off his mobility with three rushes of at least 10 yards. He now has 778 total yards and five total touchdowns in his first two career starts and is cementing a grip on the starting job.
Towson: At Villanova on Sept. 15.
Wake Forest: Hosts Boston College on Thursday