WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Wake appeared to show increased competition across the field and improved depth at nearly every position in fall camp.
That’s proven to be true just three games in, as coach Dave Clawson has had to plug gaping holes in nearly every unit as the Deacs improved to 3-0 after a 38-21 victory Saturday night over Delaware.
Just a week ago, quarterback Kendall Hinton and true freshman running back Cade Carney combined for an electric 24-14 road victory over Duke.
Before the first quarter wrapped up Saturday night at BB&T Field, both had been lost for the game.
We learned Carney had sprained his knee in practice Wednesday and was ruled out for the game before kickoff, while Hinton was laid out on the field untouched on a called quarterback keeper with just over three minutes left in the first quarter.
Next man up.
Matt Colburn started in place of Cade Carney and was terrific, rushing for 118 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. It was Colburn’s first touchdown since the season opener against Elon in 2015.
It was also the first time since 2004 that the Deacs have had consecutive 100-yard rushing games from different players. Carney rushed for 108 last week against Duke.
Carney wasn’t able to play against the Blue Hens, but he still gave Colburn guidance all game long.
“He was right there in my corner the whole game. He was making sure I was protecting the football, making sure I was on my assignments and looking at my progressions,” Colburn said. “We’re all brothers. Blood couldn’t make us any closer. We’re always there for each other, always making each other better. We’re trying to be the best group on the field.”
Wolford, who just six days ago was told he would be the backup for Hinton, came into the game ready to play after a solid week of practice. After starting 2-for-9 passing, he finished 13-for-14 for 155 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 70 yards and a score.
“I thought I started off shaky, which I was not happy with. I missed some easy throws,” Wolford said. “But I was able to settle in. I got in a rhythm in the second half. We ran the ball so well. It wasn’t very difficult for me to hand the ball off and watch Matt (Colburn) run.
“He made some big runs and that made my job easier.”
All told, the Demon Deacon offense hit for 481 yards while allowing a historically low 94 yards to the normally prolific Delaware offense.
It’s the lowest yardage for a Wake opponent since Furman finished with zero yards against the Deacs in 1952.
The Blue Hens came into Winston-Salem averaging 335 yards per game on the ground, and grounded out 270 last season in a loss at Chapel Hill to North Carolina.
“We challenged our guys to play physical,” Clawson said. “We knew Delaware was a physical football team. If you watch their front, they block everybody. We just had to be more physical. We were very much worried that this could become very much like the Tulane game, where they moved the chains and controlled the clock
“We wanted to get them to 3rd down to get off the field, but we wanted it to be 3rd-and-longs.”
Saturday night against the Deacs, however, they were stymied, rushing for just 56 yards on a meager 22 attempts. In fact, of the Blue Hens 11 drives, Wake Forest held them to 3-and-outs six times, including the first four Delaware possessions.
The Deacs wanted to set the tone defensively, and accomplished just that.
“I thought the front set the tone by getting penetration, allowing the backers to scrape and make run throughs and make plays,” Clawson said. “Then we got them in 3rd down. Second-and-12 and 3rd-and-14 are nice downs to play as a defense.”
The defense Saturday night, however, was also a function of competition and depth. Justin Strnad, Traveon Redd, Essang Bassey, Paris Black, Ali Lamot and other contributed — guys that weren’t necessarily at the top of the pre-fall camp depth chart.
A pair of Wake turnovers were essentially the only black marks in this performance for the Deacs — a John Wolford interception and a Tyler Bell fumble. Both the miscues led to short field touchdowns for the Blue Hens.
“I’m really disappointed in the two turnovers,” Clawson said. “That really allowed it to be a more competitive game.
“It’s certainly good to be 3-0, but with all wins, there’s a lot of things we need to work on and we need to get better. The plan is to start doing that tomorrow.”
The Deacs travel to Bloomington next week for a 3:30 p.m. game against the Indiana Hoosiers (2-0), who were off this week.