Behind a career passing day from quarterback Riley Skinner the Wake Forest Demon Deacons cruised to victory over the Elon Phoenix, emerging with a 35-7 win. Offense, defense, and special teams all did their jobs for the Deacons and Elon never even seemed to have a chance.
"I think we beat a good football team tonight," said head coach Jim Grobe. "I think we did a good job getting our players in the mind frame that they needed to respect Elon and prepare for them. I thought we played good tonight."
A strong start
For the first time all season Wake received the opening kickoff, and for the first time all season Wake came out and dominated the first half. It's hard to know whether those things are correlated, but whatever the reason the Demon Deacons looked very good in the first half.
After going three and out on their first drive, Wake's defense forced a punt that only went 22 yards, giving Wake a short field to work with. Riley Skinner led the Deacs down the field with a 36 yard pass to Cameron Ford and found Jordan Williams in the endzone three plays later for a touchdown.
The defense forced another punt, which was once again shanked for 23 yards, and Wake had the ball again with another short field. Wake held the ball for 16 plays and 7:19, driving 71 yards for their second touchdown. A good mix of run and pass plays ultimately led to a one yard Mike Rinfrette rush for a touchdown, giving wake a 14-0 lead. Rinfrette now has a touchdown run in each of Wake's three games.
After some shaky kicking by Shane Popham in the first two weeks, Jim Grobe and his staff had a bit of a surprise up their sleeve, deciding to burn the redshirt on freshman kicker Jimmy Newman. Although he only had the opportunity to kick extra points, he did so flawlessly, going five for five on the night.
In the second quarter Wake's defense continued to keep Elon off the field, and by the end of the half Elon only had 10:08 of possession while Wake held the ball for 19:52. With 3:20 left in the second quarter Skinner threw a deep ball to Chris Givens. The coverage looked pretty good until the Elon Defenders feet got tangled up, leaving Givens momentarily open for the 54 yard touchdown catch. It was the first touchdown catch of Givens' career.
Wake got the ball one last time with about two minutes on the clock, however Skinner threw an interception that gave Elon the ball at Wake's 30 yard line. Wake's defense held once again, and Adam Shreiner's field goal attempt never had a chance for the Phoenix. Wake took a knee and went to the half holding a 21-0 lead.
Not only did Wake dominate first half time of possession, but they also held a 14-4 first down advantage, and has 273 yards of total offense to only 100 for Elon. It was clear the Demon Deacons were not going to take Elon lightly on this night.
"I think our players realized that it's not okay to use the first and second quarters as warm up for the second half," explained Grobe. "We got a better effort tonight, I think our guys were a little more focused."
Maintaining momentum with the lead
If there was any worry that Wake might lose their edge at half time, they put those thoughts to rest on Elon's first drive of the half. Wake prevented Elon's offense from moving the ball, and on the Phoenix's punt attempt Gelo Orange found his way through Elon's specialists to block the punt. It was the third blocked kick of Orange's career.
It only took Wake three plays to punch the ball in the endzone and take a commanding 28-0 lead. Skinner completed a pass to Cameron Ford who quickly fumbled the ball, but Josh Adams was right there to scoop it up and advance the ball to the one yard line. One play later Adams ran one yard for his first touchdown carry of the season.
Record setting touchdown pass
Two Wake Forest Drives later Riley Skinner connected with Marshall Williams for an 80 yard touchdown pass on a perfectly executed play action fake to Brandon Pendergrass. The pass set all kinds of milestones. It was the longest TD pass of Skinner's career, the longest reception of Williams' career, the longest ever by Wake Forest at BB&T Field, and the third longest in school history. The pass, which was the last Skinner would throw on the night, gave him 289 passing yards, his career-high. His three touchdown passes tied a career.
To start the fourth quarter senior Ryan McManus came in at quarterback along with several reserve receivers including Matt Hartford and Danny Dembry. Running a very conservative offensive package they would not accomplish much in the quarter, gaining only 46 yards over three drives.
Defense plays well
Against a variety of second and third string Demon Deacon defenders the Elon offense finally had a successful drive in the fourth quarter, driving 76 yards in 14 plays to end the Wake Forest shutout. Nonetheless, the defense had a stellar day, holding Elon to 263 yards of offense and only allowing them to convert eight of their 19 third down attempts.
Scott Betros and Joey Ehrmann led the Wake defense with seven tackle each, while Ehrmann and Boo Robinson combined for Wake's only sack of the day. Mike Williams broke up three passes in the secondary, and Kenny Okoro did a commendable job defending vaunted Elon receiver Terrell Hudgins.
"Overall defensively I felt we played really well against a really quality offensive football team," said Grobe.
Wake Forest had clearly prepared well for Elon and executed more consistently than they have in any other game this season. Now, however, Wake must prepare for their first road game and first conference game of the season as they head north to face Boston College next weekend. This victory may prove to be just the confidence boost they need for the trip.