Balance is key for Wake Forest offense that has been rolling through its first two games

There’s no secret in the sauce that makes up Wake Forest’s offense. A balanced running game that takes the pressure off quarterback Mitch Griffis to have to throw on every down isn’t anything new. In Saturday's 36-20 win over Vanderbilt, the running game came to life despite the loss of the injured Justice Ellison, who was out because he was in concussion protocol.

Coach Dave Clawson and offensive coordinator Warren Ruggiero unleashed sophomore Demond Claiborne and redshirt freshman Tate Carney, who are both talented running backs. And the offensive line was more than up to the task in opening holes. “We really felt that this was the game we were going to have to run the football and run it consistently,” Clawson said referring to the way Vanderbilt’s defense was set up.

“And we did, and obviously it starts up front with the (offensive line), but I thought Demond and Tate really did a great job. ” Center Luke Petitbon, who is also getting his first chance to be a full-time player this season, loved the way the running game was productive. “It was awesome to see the run game run as good as it did,” Petitbon said.

“It’s something we’ve worked hard on in the off season and all the guys in the running backs room, the receivers and everybody takes pride in running the ball and seeing it work is awesome . . .

I was fired up and the whole line was fired up. ” Both Claiborne (165 yards on 26 carries) and Carney (117 yards on 13 carries) had career highs with Carney, a Davie County High School graduate, playing in just his fifth career game. As a team, the Demon Deacons ran for 288 yards averaging six yards a carry.

What was also a key statistic was the Demon Deacons were 10 of 15 on third-down conversions. That does a lot for a team's confidence moving forward. Griffis said he noticed right away that the Demon Deacons’ running game was going to have a good day.

“They only had five men in the box and sometimes they would have six and football’s a numbers game so they gave us some good numbers to run the ball and obviously our offensive line played their tails off,” Griffis said. Clawson loves the depth the offensive line has this season. Even with Spencer Webb not playing because of a slight ankle sprain, and the in-game ankle injury to Nick Sharpe, the line didn’t miss a beat.

“I thought who really did well was Eric Russell,” Clawson said. “He's really had a good spring and good camp and he's coming on. I just can't say enough about the job that (offensive line coach Nick Tabacca) has done in developing our line.

We lost three starters from last year, but we still have a very good line. ” The only mistake was a fumble by Carney near the goal line in the second half, Also having a more steady game was Griffis, who was 17 of 26 passing for 196 yards and two touchdown passes with one to Jahmal Banks and the other to Ke’Shawn Williams. “I didn’t have to do too much today,” Griffis said.

Griffis said in the opener against Elon, the defense had seven players near the line of scrimmage so the running lanes were harder to come by. “Like Demond said, it starts with Justice and he was devastated he couldn’t go,” Griffis said of Ellison, who was the team's leading rusher last season with 740 yards. “We were heartbroken for him because he’s a warrior.

Just his attitude you would have thought he was still going out there to play and he was getting those guys ready and was encouraging and in their ear. He’s such a great leader. ” Through two games, the 2-0 Demon Deacons, who play at noon on Saturday at Old Dominion, have 438 rushing yards and 386 passing yards.

That’s good balance so far. .

John Dell
Filed 09.12.2023

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