Wake Forest routs Syracuse to cap perfect October

The Demon Deacons improved to 4-2 on the season

Wake Forest running back Christian Beal-Smith carries the ball during the Demon Deacons' 38-14 win Saturday at Syracuse. (Dennis Nett / The Post-Standard via AP)

Wake Forest scored three touchdowns in the third quarter to break open a tighter-than-expected game. The Demon Deacons extended a 10-point halftime lead to record a 38-14 win at Syracuse.

The win was the third straight ACC victory for Wake and capped an undefeated 4-0 October as the Demon Deacons (4-2, 3-2) continue to turn around an 0-2 start.

Wake scored on an 80-yard pass early in the second half, then returned an interception for a touchdown on the next snap to more than double the halftime lead. The Deacs never looked back and were able to rest starters in the fourth quarter.

Three thoughts

1. The season is two months old, but this was Wake’s first flight of the season. The Deacs only other road game this year was a bus trip to NC State.

“I just passed out,” quarterback Sam Hartman said of the experience getting to Syracuse. “I put the pillow against the window and I was out.” He planned to do the same thing for the trip back to Winston-Salem.

2. Wake is known for a high-tempo offense that keeps opposing defenses on the move, but the Deacs slowed things down as they extended their lead against Syracuse, eventually winning the time of possession battle by a very un-Wake like 36:14 to 23:46.

“I really like way we handled time of possession today,” Clawson said. “That’s not usually a forte of ours, to get a lead and change how we play and keep our defense off the field.”

3. Wake also won the turnover battle getting two interceptions and recovering a fumble while not giving up the ball once.

“Winning the turnover margin really took this from a close game to not a close game,” Clawson said. “The pick six (by Gavin Holmes, nine seconds after Wake scored on an 80-yard pass) gave us a nice little lead there.”

Number to Know

23 — Defensive end Carlos “Boogie” Basham was held without a tackle in the game. That ended his streak of games with a tackle for loss at 23 straight. Despite not filling up the box score, Bahsam still impacted the game, Clawson said.

“Boogie’s presence out there, people have to account for him,” Clawson said. “I don’t think anybody goes into a game without saying, ‘That (jersey number) nine on Wake Forest — he’s a problem.’ I think sometimes, people don’t want to run it at him, or they slide their protection toward him, which opens up opportunities for other guys.”

They Said It

“I basically punted it to him. It wasn’t the prettiest ball, but I got it to him”

— Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman on his scrambling heave for an 80-yard touchdown pass to Jaquarii Roberson

Player of the Game

Kenneth Walker III, Demon Deacons running back —  Wake Forest didn’t have a back rush for 100 yards for the first time since the opening game, but Walker still starred for the Deacs. He rushed for 79 yards and a team-high 4.9 yards per carry and scored three touchdowns on the ground. He’s now rushed for 11 touchdown in six games, which is the sixth best season in team history and four away from the Wake one-year record.

Critical thinking

As impressive as the second half was, Clawson was not happy at halftime. In particular,  sequence of plays right before half irked him.

“I thought the seven (points) we gave them was the result of not converting a third-and-1,” he said.

Wake got the ball midway through the second quarter and gained nine yards on two Walker rushes. Walker was then stuffed for a loss of one yard on the third-and-1 play, forcing the Deacs to punt. Syracuse’s Nykeim Johnson returned the 47-yard punt 26 yards, setting up the Orange in Wake territory. Johnson caught a 21-yard pass four plays later for Syracuse’s first score.

“Giving up a big punt return, the guy cutting loose, that was just an awful sequence for us. … That was really disappointing.”