NASHVILLE, Tenn. — With Sam Hartman behind center, Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson feels pretty good about his team’s chances.
Hartman passed for 300 yards and four touchdowns, and No. 23 Wake Forest beat Vanderbilt 45-25 on Saturday.
Hartman connected on 18 of 27 passes after he missed Wake Forest’s opener against VMI because of a blood clot. The fifth-year quarterback directed the Demon Deacons to 11 wins and a trip to the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game last season.
“He’s played so much football and when he goes out there, he’s just got a command of things,” Clawson said. “And I think everybody else’s play kind of elevates with him. “He’s one of the premier quarterbacks in the country.”
Hartman’s 68-yard touchdown pass to A.T. Perry lifted Wake Forest (2-0) to a 14-3 lead with 36 seconds left in the first quarter. He found Christian Turner for a 2-yarder early in the second quarter, and then threw second-half touchdown passes to Taylor Morin and Cameron Hite.
“I didn’t feel too bad, you know a little rusty,” Hartman said. “I mean, of course, it’s a rain game your first game back, but no turnovers on offense was huge. It was sloppy, you know how it goes. I missed throws here and there on some of the early ones.”
Hartman had a blood clot near his collarbone. The school originally said he would be out indefinitely due to what was described as a non-football medical issue, so missing only one game was a nice development for the QB.
It also made him realize how quickly it can all end.
“When you have to step away from it for reasons not in your control, you learn to value it more,” Hartman said. “I greatly appreciate the opportunities that I get.”
A.J. Swann passed for two touchdowns for Vanderbilt in relief of Mike Wright. Swann also ran for a 2-point conversion.
Re’Mahn Davis had 18 carries for 87 yards for the Commodores (2-1), including a 2-yarder with 11:06 left in the first half that trimmed Wake Forest’s lead to 21-10.
The Demon Deacons went ahead to stay when Wright threw a pass to the left under pressure that was intercepted by Coby Davis and returned 31 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter.
“I felt like early in the game we started fast on defense and were playing competitively,” Vanderbilt coach Clark Lea said. “But the interception for a touchdown was a momentum killer.
“We wanted to represent this program better today, but we didn’t. It’s frustrating. It’s disappointing.”
It was a solid performance by the Demon Deacons defense, which held the Commodores to 294 total yards, 113 on the ground. Vanderbilt averaged 512.5 total yards and 52.5 points through its first two games.
“It’s always hard to win on the road,” Clawson said. “So anytime you go on the road against a Power Five team, especially an SEC team, it’s a good win.”
Wake Forest returns home to play Liberty on Saturday.