BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA — It’s safe to say Wake Forest redshirt freshman Jessie Bates felt at home today.
In many ways, he actually was.
The 6-foot-2, 200 pound safety grew up just three hours north of Bloomington, graduating from Fort Wayne, Indiana’s Snider High School.
He originally committed to Toledo before flipping to Wake in the waning days before National Signing Day 2014, with Iowa becoming his only Big Ten offer.
The Hoosiers showed interest, but never offered.
Saturday night they paid the price, as Bates continued his torrid all-over-the-field pace, producing his top game so far as a Deac as Wake defeated the Hoosiers 33-28 at Memorial Stadium.
“I didn’t want to focus on that,” Bates said. “I just wanted to be locked in on the game plan, and then after celebrate with my family.”
He had two interceptions, returning them for a total of 94 yards and a touchdown.
IU jumped out 7-0 on the first play from scrimmage and was driving on the second possession trying to make it 14-0 when Bates nabbed his first pick, in the Hoosier end zone. He came close to downing the ball there, but saw blockers in front for an impressive return.
“Yeah, but we’ve been watching Jessie do that for the last year and a half on the practice field. He has, I don’t know if there’s a measure for it but Jessie has a lot of athletic intelligence,” Clawson said. “He’s returning punts for us too. Because he’s, I always joke with him that I always like punt returners who are baseball players because they are used to judging the ball off the bat.
“And Jessie just has very good field awareness. And I knew when he took it out that it was a good decision for us and he got it out to the 45 yard line. Usually when that happens I’m saying ‘Stay, stay, stay.’ But with Jessie I just kind of keep my mouth shut. I figure he’ll do the right thing.”
He nearly had a third pick late in the third quarter, but it was knocked away from a teammate and fell into the arms of a Hoosier for a touchdown to bring IU to within five in the final seconds.
But on the subsequent play Bates sealed the game by fielding a desperate IU onside kick with just 11 seconds left in the game.
Bates finished the game not just with the two interceptions, but also with a team-leading eight tackles.
With more than 70 friends and family in attendance, Bates made the plays to help deliver Wake to a 4-0 record for the first time since 2006.