WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Redshirt junior reserve defensive end Julian Jackson was greeted on the sideline by Wake coach Dave Clawson, who congratulated him on his first career sack.
“No, coach,” Jackson said. “I got my first three sacks.”
Officially, in the record book it went as two, as the first two Jackson felt he had were scored as .5 sacks, shared with Duke Ejiofor and Thomas Brown.
But that last one, though — that one really counted.
With the Deacs clinging to a 7-3 lead in the final minute of the game, Jackson led the charge on a Tulane 4th-and-10. He got to Green Wave quarterback Glen Cuiellette, registered the solo sack, but also knocked the ball loose. Wake senior defensive lineman Shelldon Lewinson fell on the ball and the Deacs were able to secure the 7-3 victory Thursday night at BB&T Field.
“We had to go out there and make plays,” Jackson said. “Whoever is the most physical team is going to win, and I felt like we were the most physical.
“It came down to the wire and the defense had to make a big play.”
It didn’t exactly go according to script. A Wake Forest offense, thought to be improving with young and talented skill players littered across the field showed no improvement. The highly-touted group of six Wake wide receivers on the two deep combined for just five catches and 39 yards, with a long reception among the group of 12 yards by Alex Bachman.
“If a team is going to load the box and play press man, you have to get open on the outside,” Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said. “We didn’t win those matchups. You throw deep balls and those guys have to make those plays.”
Often starting quarterback John Wolford threw deep, but he never found his mark.
“We missed a few deep balls that were an inch away,” Wolford said. “We have to be more explosive. If you’ve watched our offense play all camp and prepare for this game, out there on the field was an anomaly.
“We’re going to be okay. There’s no reason to abandon ship.”
Meanwhile, the Tulane defense continued to load the box and generally stuffed the Wake rushing attack, allowing just 95 yards on 34 attempts.
But the Wake defense kept the Deacs in the game, then eventually sealed the victory in the 4th quarter with the sack and forced fumble.
“He rushed the passer and did a great job. That’s an unsung guy that hasn’t played a lot. He got his opportunity today,” Clawson said about Jackson. “We didn’t play Duke (Ejiofor) as much as we’d like to. He had a couple sacks.”
First-year Tulane head coach led an offense at Georgia Southern last season that lead the nation in rushing yards at 363 a game. The Wake defense held Tulane’s running back-heavy system to just 146 yards Thursday. Cuiellette attempted 23 passes, but eight of those came in the last desperate drive, with the Green Wave down four points with just a little more than a minute left.
Wake allowed 105 more yards (280-175) and lost the time of possession battle by nearly 10 minutes, but largely bent without breaking. They made the one Demon Deacon touchdown stand up as the winning score with their play.
Jessie Bates led the Deacs with eight tackles, and Wendell Dunn and Brad Watson contributed seven each.
Wake had four sacks and seven tackles for loss. The Deacs only had four or more sacks twice all last season.
The Deacs took a 7-3 lead early in the 2nd quarter on a 12-play, 53-yard drive capped by a Kendall Hinton 1-yard run where he walked into the end zone untouched after faking the handoff to Colburn.
Both Wolford and Hinton contributed on the drive, but Hinton got the momentum rolling with a pair of 1st-down rushes for a combined 17 yards.
Tulane struck first with a 41-yard field goal by Andrew DiRocco on the Green Wave’s first drive. Wake forced a three-and-out, but Tulane got a second chance after Steven Claude was flagged for roughing the kicker on the punt.
Tulane threatened late, but a 4th-and-3 on the Wake 14 was snuffed out with 4:30 left in the game.
Wake was unable to run out the clock, and Tulane got the ball back with 1:35 left in the game at their own 36. The Green Wave converted a 4th-and-10 from their own 36 for 17 yards to extend the drive with 1:12 left. After three incompletions, Julian Jackson forced the fumble that was recovered by Shelldon Lewinson to secure the Wake victory.
Jackson really had little reason to believe he would be such a vital cog in the Wake win.
“I went out there and did what I could to help my team win,” he said. “Mostly that’s been special teams. I do whatever I can, whether it’s for one play or 20 plays. I want to do whatever I can to help. Hard work pays off.”
Jackson laughed about only being credited with .5 a sack a couple times.
“I get to share it with my best friend,” Jackson said. “We sort of got there at the same time. I’ll say I got the sack, though.”