Forget the omens for a moment: threatening skies, a pregame gully washer, the Deacon’s motorcycle blowing an engine at midfield. No matter the circumstances, Wake Forest’s 2016 season opener against Tulane was supposed to be step one in the Deacs’ march to a bowl game and after a 7-3 victory, mission accomplished.
A win is a win is a win, but Thursday night’s lid-lifter felt like a loss to many. The Deacs are 1-0, but the more pertinent number is 175. As in, 175 yards of total offense gained by the most talented team assembled in the Clawson era. The more alarming number is 79, which represents the Deacs’ rushing output against a Tulane Green Wave team coming off a 3-9 2015, and entering 2016 with similar prospects.
“We had a really good camp. I didn’t think this would happen…” – Dave Clawson, postgame.
Clawson alluded to the lack of explosive plays made by his team, an emphasis in preseason. To the commoner’s eye in the stands or watching on television, though, it would seem that the play-calling was largely devoid of explosive opportunities. Perhaps the game plan was to use an abridged playbook in advance of next week’s conference tilt at Duke. When you’re Wake Forest, and you’re desperate to reach a bowl game, I respectfully submit that you simply can’t do that.
I don’t imagine the faithful were happy with what seemed to be an endless series of runs up the middle (That is, when they had the ball. Tulane owned time of possession), but I certainly understand Clawson’s persistence. For the Deacs to have any hopes of going bowling, they are going to have to run the ball effectively. The oft-maligned offensive line kept John Wolford and Kendall Hinton free from any real harm, but failed to spark the ground game. Given the opponent (no disrespect to Tulane’s effort), there should be some real cause for alarm over at the football offices.
But, it’s a win. And it wasn’t over Presbyterian or Elon- which is a plus. The opportunities are still there for the taking, and by “opportunities” I mean: Delaware, Syracuse, Army, and Boston College. Pull off a win over Duke, Indiana or Virginia, and it’s a happy holiday season for all in Deaconland.
The next game is in Durham against a group of Blue Devils beset by the injury bug. The absence of quarterback Thomas Sirk should be a real boost for the Deacs’ stingy defense. But defense isn’t where a boost is needed. The truth remains that, unless Wake Forest can finally show some progress on offense, 2016 will be more of the same.
The fans are looking for a reason to get excited. A win over Duke would be a big step forward in doing just that.