WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The phrase “must win” is bandied about way too freely in today’s sports world.
Though last night wasn’t a “must” win situation for the Deacs against Syracuse, it was without a doubt a game they needed to win.
Sure, the Orange had won four straight over the Deacs, but Wake’s program is simply in a better spot right now in year three under Dave Clawson than where Syracuse is in Dino Babers' first season.
Clawson’s had three years to implement his system, recruit players and develop. Babers has had to completely retool his offensive scheme under the players he inherited. They normally put points on the board, but their defense is suspect, to say the least.
Then there’s the weather, which most assumed would mute the prolific Syracuse passing attack. Then there’s three injured Orange offensive linemen, as well as injuries on the defensive front.
And it’s a game the Deacs are playing at home, in their stadium, in front of their fans.
Given all the intangibles, a loss here would have been tough to swallow.
What would happen then? Nearly everyone (except the guys in Gold and Black) assumes Wake will come home with a loss at Florida State next week. All the sudden, the Deacs could be sitting at 4-3 after starting 4-0.
Would doubt set in? Would the Deacs attack the bye week with the same focus as a team fighting for a potential “special” season?
Guess we’ll never know the answer to those questions, as the Deacs topped the Orange 28-9 Saturday night.
It’s one of those weird games that was much closer than the score indicated, but then again the score almost perfectly mirrors the play on the field.
The Deacs dominated the line of scrimmage for large chunks of the contest, and forced three-and-outs on seven of the first 10 Orange possessions.
Wake had seven more 1st downs (21-14) and possessed the ball for 34:04, a more than eight-minute advantage.
Despite dominating statistically in many ways, the Deacs were clinging to a 14-9 lead when they got the ball back with 6:53 left in the game.
That’s when a masterful, game-defining six-play, 78-yard drive essentially sealed the win for the Deacs.
Wolford had been nursing a stinger during the second half of the game, but was perfect on this drive, connecting for a 28-yard pickup to Cam Serigne on the first play, then later for 18 more on a sideline pass to Chucky Wade.
Cade Carney bounced out to his left instead of running between the tackles and converted a big 3rd-and-1 for a 17-yard gain, early in the drive, then cashed in from three yards out for the score.
A perfect drive right when the Deacs needed a little breathing room.
Then the Demon Deac secondary came up with their second big play of the night, as Brad Watson forced a fumble that was scooped by Cam Glenn, who scamped 83 yards for a touchdown that provided the final margin.
Both sides of the ball delivered a masterful performance in the fourth quarter to give the Deacs a critical conference win that moves them to 5-1 overall and 2-1 in the ACC.
They got the win they needed last night against Syracuse.
They’re now just one game away from bowl eligibility, and can now travel to Tallahassee next week in search of something a bit more.