WINSTON-SALEM — A year ago, Wake Forest gave up 56 points to Army. When the Black Knights came to Truist Field on Saturday night, the Demon Deacons felt like they had a score to settle.
“We weren’t perfect,” coach Dave Clawson said, “but we were much better as far as being in the right place.”
Last season, Army hit big play after big play against the beleaguered Wake defense, scoring on 71- and 24-yard runs en route to 431 yards and five scores on the ground. With the Deacs trying to plug the holes in the line, Army then torched Wake through the air with scores of 39, 25 and 21 yards in the fourth quarter of a wild 70-56 shootout that the Deacs were lucky to survive.
A Wake defense with something to prove took a shutout into the fourth quarter on Saturday as the Deacs beat Army 45-10 and helped wash away the embarrassment from last season’s performance.
“This was a team win,” Clawson said. “The defense more than did their part.”
The defense may have had flashbacks to last year when Army quarterback Tyheir Tyler hit Tyrell Robinson for 47 yards on the second snap of the game. The Deacs tightened up quickly, however, forcing a fumble to end that first drive. Army would have just one more play for 20 yards or more until the fourth quarter.
Wake forced two Army punts, turned the Black Knights over on downs and added a Dylan Hazen interception in the first half as the Deacs built a 21-0 lead at the break.
“It was good to see us start fast,” Clawson said. “The turnovers we picked up in the first half were big, stopping two drives.”
Meanwhile, Wake’s offense was the one running wild in Saturday’s rematch. The Demon Deacons rushed for 94 yards — more than seven yards a carry — in the first quarter and averaged 5.2 yards per carry for the game as they ran for 221, just four fewer than Army in 11 fewer carries.
“They kind of gave us the run and we took it,” Clawson said.
All three of Wake’s first half touchdowns were on rushes, with Justice Ellison, Christian Turner and Quinton Cooley each finding paydirt. Turner added a second score after halftime, and Ellison led the way with 96 yards, following up his 100-yard day against Florida State last week.
Quarterback Sam Hartman, who threw for 458 yards and five touchdowns in last season’s offensive show, played more of a game-manager role this year, completing 13 of 19 passes for 256 yards and one score.
Wake continued the onslaught in the second half, scoring touchdowns on their first two possessions to remove any drama about the result.
“Coming out in the second half, it was big for us to get that drive to go up. Putting together a 28-0 score was huge in our momentum,” Clawson said.
But it was the defense that held the day. Wake had five tackles for loss and three sacks to go with its three turnovers. More importantly, it kept Army off the scoreboard until the final quarter.
“It bothered them,” Clawson said. “Last year felt like an offensive win, and it was. This year was a team win.”
Wake hits its bye week with a 5-1 record, 1-1 in the ACC. Army drops to 1-4 and hosts Colgate next week.