Winston-Salem, NC – The Wake Forest football team defeated VMI in front of the largest Opening Night student crowd ever (3,752 students) on Thursday night inside Truist Field. With the 44-10 win, the Demon Deacons have won 10-straight games inside Truist Field, marking the longest home winning streak in program history.
The streak dates back to the win over Campbell on Oct. 2, 2020 and is tied for the seventh-longest streak among Power 5 schools. Overall, Wake Forest (1-0) is now 16-2 at home since 2019.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Mitch Griffis tossed three touchdowns and threw for 288 yards in his first-career start. Wake Forest was paced on the ground by redshirt junior running back Christian Turner as he had a career-high tying two touchdowns and a personal-best 100 yards.
Through the air, the Deacs were led by Paul Hornung Award Watch List honoree Taylor Morin with five receptions for 74 yards and an impressive diving touchdown in the corner of the endzone.
With Jahmal Banks’ 14-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter, Wake Forest ran its point total to 44, which marked the Demon Deacons third-highest Opening Night tally since the turn of the century.
Defensively, 21 players tallied multiple tackles and redshirt senior defensive back Isaiah Wingfield had a career-day with four tackles and two pass breakups.
Over the last decade, Wake Forest is 9-3 in season openers including a 7-2 record in head coach Dave Clawson’s tenure. Additionally, The Deacs hold a mark of 8-1 in home openers in the Clawson era.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- After an opening-drive three-and-out by the Wake Forest defense, redshirt freshman quarterback Mitch Griffis led the Demon Deacons right down the field on a nine-play, 43-yard touchdown drive. Redshirt freshman Matthew Dennis connected on a 33-yard field goal attempt with 10:43 remaining in the first quarter.
- The attempt and made field goal were both firsts of his career.
- Redshirt sophomore Taylor Morin recorded a pair of receptions for 28 yards on the drive.
- VMI’s next offensive drive ended with a missed 48-yard field goal as Wake Forest took over at its own 38-yard line with 6:40 left in the first period.
- The Demon Deacon defense stopped the Keydets on 3rd-and-three to force the long field goal.
- Redshirt senior Isaiah Wingfield made his presence felt, notching a pair of tackles and nearly intercepting a pass.
- Redshirt junior Christian Turner broke free and found the endzone with a 35-yard touchdown rush, extending Wake Forest’s advantage to 10-0 with 5:04 left in the first.
- Turner also caught an 11-yard pass to open up the drive and added a five-yard attempt prior to the sixth touchdown of his Wake Forest career.
- The 35-yard gain was the longest rush by Turner since Oct. 30, 2021.
- Griffis lofted a perfectly-laid 23-yard pass to Morin in the endzone to push the Demon Deacons’ lead to 17-0 with just over two minutes left in the opening period.
- Wake Forest’s four-play, 74-yard touchdown drive was highlighted by sophomore Justice Ellison’s 45-yard burst to begin the drive.
- Wake Forest forced their second three-and-out of the game to end the first quarter.
- The Deacs held VMI scoreless in the first quarter, which marked the first since 2018 (Tulane) that Wake Forest did not allow the opposition to score in the opening frame.
- After a 44-yard punt from redshirt sophomore Ivan Mora pinned the Keydets at their own two-yard line, Wake Forest’s defense forced another three and out as Wake Forest continued to lead by 17 with 8:43 left in the first half.
- On 3rd-and-seven from the 5-yard line, sophomore JJ Roberts made a running stop on a swing pass to force a VMI punt.
- Dennis split the uprights from 31 yards out to cap off an eight-play, 38-yard drive while increasing the Demon Deacon advantage to 20-0 with 4:39 left in the second quarter.
- Redshirt junior A.T. Perry caught two passes for 41 yards, highlighted by a 33-yarder to open the drive.
- Redshirt junior Rondell Bothroyd stuffed a VMI rushing attempt on 4th and 1 on the Keydets’ own 34-yard line to force a turnover on downs and give the ball back to the Deacs with 2:34 remaining.
- After giving up an eight-yard completion to open the drive, the Deacs allowed just one yard on three-straight rushes by VMI.
- Wake Forest once again added to their lead with another Dennis field goal, his third of the game, to increase its lead to 23-0 with less than a minute left in the first half.
- VMI connected on a 42-yard field goal as time expired in the first half, cutting Wake Forest’s lead to 23-3 at the intermission.
- The teams traded punts to open the second half as Wake Forest forced another three-and-out.
- Wake Forest responded with a five-play, 43-yard drive, extending their lead to 30-3 as Turner pushed his way into the end zone from one yard out.
- On the drive, Turner rushed for 38 yards on four-consecutive plays. Additionally, Turner set a new career high in yards while tying his career high in rushing touchdowns.
- VMI cut into Wake Forest’s lead (30-10) with an eight-play, 60-yard drive over the next 3 minutes and 54 seconds of game action.
- Wake Forest’s lead returned as Griffis connected with Blake Whitehart down the seam on a 27-yard touchdown pitch and catch.
- The Deacs traveled 62 yards in just four plays. Griffis opened the drive with a big play, finding Donavon Greene for a 20-yard pass to open the drive before Morin reeled in a 15-yard pass from Griffis to set up Wake Forest at VMI’s own 27.
- After VMI converted a 4th and 1 on the ensuing drive, Bothroyd ripped the ball from the Keydets’ quarterback before securing the recovery and giving Wake Forest possession at VMI’s 31.
- The Deacs took advantage of the turnover as sophomore receiver Jahmal Banks caught a 14-yard touchdown from Griffis, pushing the Demon Deacon lead to 44-10 with 11:44 left in the game.
- Sophomore Quinton Cooley tallied 15 yards on the first two plays of the drive to set up Griffis’ third touchdown pass of the season.
- A defensive stretch soon took over on both sides to force a couple of three-outs before Demond Claiborne steadied Wake Forest’s rushing game to reach VMI’s own 32.
- Late in the game, sophomore Kendron Wayman recorded 1.5 sacks – the first recorded sacks of his collegiate career.
- With time winding down, Wake Forest ran out the clock to secure a season-opening win on Truist Field.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Redshirt freshman quarterback Mitch Griffis stepped right into the spotlight on Thursday evening for his first collegiate start, finishing 21-29 in pass completions for a game-best 288 yards and three touchdown passes.
Wake Forest defeated VMI in front of the largest Opening Night student crowd ever (3,752 students) on Thursday night.
The Demon Deacons impressed on both sides of the ball, totaling touchdowns from four different individuals and held the Keydets to just 222 total yards.
Wake Forest’s 44 points in the season opener marked the third-highest scoring performance in a season opener in program history.
FROM COACH CLAWSON
“It’s hard to win football games. Any time you find a way to win, you have to be happy with the effort. Our guys played hard and played physical. It was a good team win. We’re 1-0. I really want to thank all of our students who came out. It’s neat seeing that student crowd get filled up like that. We had over 3,700 students here tonight and over 2,000 at our ‘Wake the Demons’ last night. Our fan experience group and entire staff did a great job of getting that organized. I’m proud of the win, but we were really sloppy. We did a lot of good things, but just had too many penalties. We had five holds, two of them cost us a touchdown and the other one cost us a two-point conversion. There were just a lot of lack-of-discipline penalties that we had tonight.”
Wake Forest heads to Nashville for its first road game of the new season against Vanderbilt on Sept. 10 at noon on SEC Network. Members of Deacon Nation that are interested in traveling to DEACTOWN Nashville can view ticketing options here.
The Deacs next return to Truist Field for Homecoming against Liberty on Saturday, Sept. 17. Tickets are available here.