It appears that Wake Forest’s turning the page last week was not so difficult after all. Much, in fact, too much was made of head coach Dave Clawson’s response to Hurricane Ian and the potential for change it could have on the Florida State game. And then there was the issue of how to move on from the heartbreaking loss to Clemson from the week before. Seems as though that was not nearly as difficult as it could have been either.
Moving Through Florida State
The Demon Deacons handled Florida State 31-21 in Tallahassee Saturday. That also meant pushing aside the Seminoles’ fan base which was intent on claiming that Clawson wanted to reschedule the game and was using the hurricane as an excuse. Now both the Seminoles and their fans are in Wake’s rear-view mirror as they prepare to face Army at home this Saturday.
Clawson proclaimed himself to be, “In a really good mood” after the game Saturday. It would be hard to blame him. At one point his offense scored 28 unanswered points against the previously undefeated Seminoles. The Wake offense had balance throughout the game with 234 passing yards and 171 yards on the ground. Just as importantly they had zero turnovers.
“We have an older, mature team,” Clawson said after the game Saturday. So turning the page, with a focus on what was ahead, was presumably a little easier. “After losing to Clemson last week and having an ACC loss, they knew what was at stake. We really didn’t have to talk about it much. But we did not want to take a second conference loss.”
Getting Past Clemson
Clawson said he could see early in the week of prep that his team was in the right mindset even with the loss and the potential weather distractions. “In the Tuesday practice, guys were focused and gave great effort and were into it,” he said. “It wasn’t a group that was hanging its head and I didn’t feel there was a hangover from Clemson on Tuesday.”
And the haranguing from the Florida State bloggers and fan sites that Clawson’s comments about the hurricane were gamesmanship to get the game rescheduled? “You know, despite what some people might think, we were not scared to play this game. We were very excited to play this game.”
Quarterback Sam Hartman talked after the game Saturday about the team’s mental and emotional approach. “Obviously we could have broken after the Clemson loss. We could have broken after that first drive when they [Florida State] go down and score. But the resilience is huge.”
Running Back Justice Ellison had a career day with 114 yards rushing and a touchdown on 18 carries. He said it took a day to get over the Clemson loss, but by Tuesday, the team was back to a strong work model. “Monday it was tough watching that film and just knowing that maybe one more play and we could have beat them,” he said. “But we had that next play, next game mentality. Once Tuesday’s practice came it was on to Florida State.”
Defensive lineman Kobie Turner talked about how a key to getting past the previous week and the noise of the current week was a focus that he said is particular to an experienced roster. “After the Clemson game, it was a very tough loss. And everybody took accountability for what they could have done better.”
Hartman, like Clawson, said the approach comes from having a veteran lineup, one of the most experienced in the country. “We don’t flinch,” he said Saturday night. “There is not a lot of rah-rah on the sidelines. There is not a lot of ‘We’ve got to stick in this. We’ve got to stay together.’ Our jobs are to do our jobs together.”
The Clawson Factor
He put much of the mental makeup of the team squarely on the shoulders of his head coach. “You’ve got to give a shoutout to Coach Clawson. He’s not this coach that’s screaming at us when we get a three-and-out or running down the sidelines when we score a touchdown. He’s Coach Clawson. And I think we reflect that in the way we play. He’s an even-keeled guy.”
The reward for the focus in Tallahassee and the win is that Wake Forest is now ranked 15th in both the AP Poll and the Coaches Poll this week.
Hartman said if they do their jobs, the team believes they can play with anybody. The focus on getting the job done this week will be, in part, not to overlook the opponent. This is not an undefeated conference rival with a game played on network television. This is an Army West Point team that is 1-3. The Black Knights’ one win is against FCS level Villanova. After having one of the nation’s premier games for two weeks in a row, Wake will now be playing at night on a regional sports network that much of the country will not be watching.
A different type of maturity will be needed to get through this game.