Wake Forest Plays It Safe

Wake Forest Plays It Safe
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If head coach Dave Clawson wanted to make sure he did not show too much to opposing teams during the annual Spring game, well then it was a huge success. So, Wake Forest plays it safe in the scrimmage and everyone is left to wait until Fall to see what the team has in it, coming off last year’s historic season. For whatever meaning there is in the final score in a Spring scrimmage, it was 28-10 in favor of the White team.

A Slow Start For the Offense

Both offenses were kept on a pretty tight script in the first half. The Black team and the White team played 10-minute quarters at a “thud” tempo. There was no tackling, and the players were down at first real contact.

The Black team was quarterbacked with a rotation of Mitch Griffis and Michael Kern. Sam Hartman led the white team for most of the first half before being replaced by Billy Edwards, Jr.

The two offenses spent most of the first half living between the 30-yard lines. Both Hartman and Griffis ended their first drives with 0-3 passing. The two offenses totaled 50 yards on their first four combined drives. The offensive lines were doing their jobs. The execution of the schemes was just hit and miss early on.

The Black team got on the board first, on the sixth drive of the game, with a 49-yard field goal from Zach Murphy to cap an eight-play, 25-yard “drive.”

Offense Shows Up Late In The First Half

Hartman had his first legitimate drive of the game in the second quarter. On consecutive plays, he hit A.T. Perry for 17 yards, Blake Whiteheart for nine yards, and Taylor Morin for another six yards to get his unit across midfield. But the drive bogged down there, and the White team had to turn it over on downs.

Kern took over the Black team at that point and put together the first viable drive of the day for either side. The third-year sophomore went five for five, engineering a 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive. He found a wide-open Nick Ragano in the middle of the end zone for a 27-yard yard touchdown pass to put the Black team up 10-0.

Hartman was done for the day at that point, finishing up his game by going six of 14 for 56 yards. Billy Edwards, Jr. got the White team on the board just before the end of the half with a seven-play, 75-yard scoring drive. He connected with Dez Williams on a 42-yard pass play along the left sideline to the Black 10-yard line. On the very next play, it was Edwards to Williams again in the middle of the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown to narrow the Black lead to 10-7 at the half.

White Team Pulls Away

The white offense opened up in the second half. Edwards moved the team down to the Black 23-yard line. He connected with Andy Elkins, Jr. on an eight-yard completion. Elkins fumbled, but the refs, in a “thud tempo” game, called him down by contact. Four plays later Zach Igwebe bulled his way up the middle for a one-yard touchdown run and the White team had taken a 14-10 lead.

On the next Black series, Kern was picked off by Coby Davis at the Black 35-yard line. Davis appeared to run it back for a touchdown. But with the “thud tempo” rules, he was ruled down at the Black 14-yard line. Three pays later Edwards rifled a pass on a line to Williams who went to the ground between two defenders for the touchdown reception, and it was now 21-10 White.

Brett Griffis added one more scoring drive when he completed a six-yard touchdown pass to Zavier Simpson in the closing seconds of the game for the 28-10 final.

Coming Out Injury Free

After a slow start, both teams combined for 535 total yards of offense. Clawson said the design was always to play it safe. “First of all credit to the defense. I thought the defense played well,” Clawson said after the game. “But part of it too is when you go ‘thud,’ you’re not giving guys opportunities to break tackles. You’re not giving guys an opportunity to make plays in space.”

Williams came away from the game with seven catches for 93 yards and two touchdowns. The receivers’ room has a lot of bodies, even the losses from last year’s roster. So nearing a hundred yards with multiple touchdowns, multiplied by multiple receivers per game is a possibility for this offense.

Igwebe was the leading rusher with 14 carries for 66 yards and a touchdown. With the Demon Deacons going running back by committee again this season, the totals for the two sides are what really carry the note here. The running game for the two teams managed to put together 195 yards and a touchdown during the scrimmage.

Analysis From The Coaches Still To Be Done

Clawson said the game was not unlike most of his in his two decades as a head coach. “It’s like every Spring game, guys,” he told the media after the game. “I’m encouraged by certain things, and I’ve got a pit in my stomach about others.” He added, “I’ve never ever left, in 23 years of being a head coach, a Spring game feeling like, ‘Okay, we’re in great shape.’ You agonize over the things you didn’t do well, and you celebrate the things that you did well. I don’t know if that will ever change. It would probably be better for my mental health if it did.”

Clawson said that staff will take some time to review the footage of the Spring game. He said time is needed for a more complete assessment. He added that coming to definitive conclusions immediately after the game is not productive for anyone on the team.

Main Image courtesy Wake Forest athletics