Here’s the first edition of our new football game week series called “Four Downs.”
It this first edition, we’re going to take a look at four of the most exciting season openers in Wake Football history. Since I’ve only been around the program for the last two years, I’ve solicited a little help from my friends.
Stan Cotten - Voice of the Demon Deacons, with the Wake Forest IMG radio network
Sept. 1, 2001 - Wake Forest 21 East Carolina 19
There have been a lot of crazy openers, that’s for sure, but the one that stands out in my mind was in 2001 — Jim Grobe’s first year. Wake had won only two games the year before, so he was the brand new coach. Skip Prosser was the basketball coach, and made the trip with the Deacs on the bus to East Carolina.
The Pirates had a really good team, and were actually favorites in the game. Wake found a way to win a close one on the road in Grobe’s first season. The Deacs go on to win six games and put together a winning season, after winning just two the year before. The Jim Grobe era got off to an exciting start by beating an in-state team — a team that was supposed to beat you, with Skip Prosser in tow. That was pretty exciting.
Steve Shutt - Associate Athletic Director, Athletic Communications
Sept. 1, 2007 - Boston College 38 Wake Forest 28
2007 . . . My first game at Wake Forest . . . open up at Boston College, Deacs kick off, Matt Ryan's first pass is picked off and returned for a touchdown by Alphonso Smith. Then, Riley Skinner hit Kenny Moore with a TD pass and all of a sudden we're up 14-0. Matt Ryan threw a couple TD passes to tie it up then Chip Vaughn returned a fumble for a touchdown to go up 21-14.
We were tied at 21 at half and Ryan threw two more TD passes in the third quarter to go up 35-21. I was sure the Deacons would rally but Skinner separated his shoulder late in the third quarter and while Brett Hodges threw a TD pass in the fourth, we just couldn't get the offense rolling late in the game and lost 38-28.
J.P. Mundy - Demon Deacon Digest contributor
Sept. 2, 2006 - Wake Forest 20 Syracuse 10
If Wake Forest fans had known even a fraction of what was to come in 2006, it most certainly would have made the season a lot less fun. My two best friends and I settled into our seats in section 2 of Groves Stadium with equal parts hope and skepticism as Wake prepared to open its season against Syracuse. After all, the Deacs were trying to build on back-to-back 4-7 seasons and the schedule was quite nasty- what with visits to Florida State and Ole Miss and home games against Clemson and Virginia Tech on the docket.
The game started hopefully enough, as the Deacs mustered enough offense to be tied at 10 at the half. But hope quickly turned to horror in the third quarter when quarterback Ben Mauk fumbled and subsequently injured his arm in the ensuing scrum. Enter Riley Skinner, who received the following reaction from the three of us: "What's a Riley Skinner?"
Skinner had an inauspicious start, fumbling his first collegiate snap. However, as fans would see over the next four years, Skinner was seldom rattled and on this night remained composed enough to lead the Deacs to a 20-10 win, despite only throwing one pass.
As experienced Deacon faithful, a win was a win was a win. And after the next week's victory over Duke...that entire 2006 season became much, much more.
James Shearin - Demon Deacon Digest subscriber - consistently great contributor
Sept. 2, 2010 - Wake Forest 53 Presbyterian 13
For years I was probably in many respects a typical Wake Forest football fan. I occasionally went to a game, particularly if it was at NC State, Duke or UNC since I am in Raleigh. I had three small children and a dog, so weekend time was family time. My oldest is to this day not a sports fan. So until my middle son got to an age that he loved football, I remained somewhat dormant. The timing was pretty good when he came of age as about that same time, Grobe rode into town.
Almost all of the season opening games since then are exciting to me, regardless of the opponent, as I usually have been waiting and waiting months after the last game, signing day, and spring game until the always positive news out of fall camp leaves me ready to jump out of my chair for the first game.
Most of our openers are not of the earth shattering, season impacting, Chick-Fil-A game in Atlanta type of contest. Funny enough the one that first came to mind was the 2010 game with Presbyterian. It was a blow out as you would expect against a bad FCS team but one play resonated for more than one reason. We had a four touchdown lead and had shut down the Blue Hose. Then the Presbyterian quarterback throws a pass to the sideline so poorly that it bounces off of the astroturf, right into the hands of the receiver. The receiver can’t believe how badly the pass was thrown and hangs his head in disgust so that everyone stopped….until he looks downfield and fires a perfect pass to a wide open man streaking downfield for a 68-yard touchdown.
We win the game going away 53-13 but that play hits ESPN and national sports shows everywhere, as it should. It was one of the best trick plays that I’ve ever seen. It really resonated as a typical Little Old Wake Forest headline. We don’t make the news for the great game and blowout, but for the one play when Lucy pulled the ball away and Charlie Brown bites the dust. We get our notoriety for winning a game that ends with a 0-0 score in regulation. We continue to be known as the school that under Clawson has yet to win an ACC game in which they actually scored a touchdown, then we added the high-octane victory over Boston College last year to our resume.
So the 2010 Presbyterian opener helped to highlight the soon to be changed viewpoint of our football program and LOWF. That said, the upcoming Tulane game is at the top of the list as the anticipation continues to build from the never before seen amount of coverage provided by Les and Scout.