Winston-Salem, NC – On a special Opening Night when the home of Demon Deacons football donned its new name, Allegacy Federal Credit Union Stadium, Wake Forest University hosted its first season-opening sellout crowd since 2011 and its sixth sellout overall since 2021 as the Deacs downed the Elon Phoenix in dominant fashion, 37-17.
Along with a capacity crowd on hand to witness Mitch Griffis lead the offense with three touchdown passes, ACC Network broadcasted live from Allegacy Stadium for eight hours on Thursday as the Demon Deacons officially kicked off the 2023 season for the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Additionally, Thursday’s victory marked the 150th in the head coaching career for Dave Clawson as he began his 24th season as a head coach. Coach Clawson ranks 16th in the FBS among active coaches in total wins and the Deacs are now one of just nine programs in the country with 20 victories since the start of the 2021 season.
Beyond Griffis’ three touchdowns, three different Demon Deacons recorded more than 75 receiving yards on the night: Jahmal Banks (six receptions, 108 yards, one touchdown), Cameron Hite (four receptions, 91 yards, one touchdown) and Wesley Grimes (three receptions, 76 yards, one touchdown).
Defensively, both Demarcus Rankin and Dashawn Jones recorded interceptions as Wake Forest held Elon scoreless in the first half with just 251 total yards for the game.
Over the last decade in the Coach Dave Clawson era, Wake Forest is 8-2 in season openers and the Deacs hold an 7-1 mark at home in those contests.
Speaking of contests inside Allegacy Stadium, behind record-setting crowds, multiple sellouts and raucous student sections, the Deacs have been among the toughest teams to play inside their home stadium over the last three years. Wake Forest holds an 18-3 (.857) record inside Allegacy Stadium since the start of the 2020 season which included a program-record 11-game winning streak spanning from the 2020 to 2022 seasons. The 85.7 percent win rate ranks second in the ACC during that time period.
Additionally, the Demon Deacons are now 21-4 at home since the start of the 2019 season.
Wake Forest will look to continue its winning ways at home next week when the Vanderbilt Commodores come into Winston-Salem for an 11 a.m. kickoff. Less than 1,000 tickets remain for this seismic ACC-SEC clash.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- After the Demon Deacon defense forced a three-and-out to start the game, Wake Forest drove 53 yards in seven plays as Mitch Griffis found Wesley Grimes wide-open for an 18-yard touchdown.
- Wake Forest’s defense continued early pressure on the Phoenix during Elon’s second drive, as Jacob Roberts – making his Deacon debut – registered a third-down sack.
- Nick Andersen tallied his first career half-sack on Elon’s third drive of the night, before Wake Forest helped lead the Demon Deacon defense to a third consecutive three-and-out.
- Fueled by a 49-yard connection between Griffis and Grimes, Wake Forest added a field goal with 2:54 left in the first quarter to go up 10-0.
- The strong defensive effort carried over to the fourth drive with another three-and-out.
- Wake Forest closed out the first quarter allowing -3 yards.
- A spectacular 33-yard touchdown completion from Griffis to Jahmal Banks capped off a five-play, 65-yard drive that opened up the second quarter.
- Elon’s fifth drive also ended in three plays, as Kendron Wayman took down Phoenix quarterback Matthew Downing on 3rd-and-6.
- Wake Forest closed out its sixth appearance on the field with an interception in the end zone, as DeMarcus Rankin jumped a route and hauled in a third career pick.
- The Deacs would take advantage of their first turnover generated this season, as Wake Forest needed just three plays to drive 80 yards as Griffis found Cameron Hite for a 69-yard score.
- Fueled by passing completions of 24 yards to Taylor Morin and 31 yards to Banks, Wake Forest opened the third quarter with a Matthew Dennis 29-yard field goal.
- Responding to 14 unanswered points from Elon, Wake Forest took advantage of a 47-yard kickoff return by Ke’Shawn Williams to add three points via the foot of Dennis to retake a 16-point lead with 58 seconds left in the third quarter.
- Dashawn Jones registered the second Demon Deacon interception of the game with 6:24 left in the fourth quarter.
- Wake Forest would convert the turnover into the team’s fourth touchdown of the night, courtesy a 10-yard rushing touchdown from Demond Claiborne.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Starting quarterback Mitch Griffis manned a potent passing attack on Thursday night, connecting on 19 completions for 329 yards and three touchdowns to three different receivers. In the first quarter, the Ashburn, Va., native found Wesley Grimes for an 18-yard touchdown before hitting Jahmal Banks over two Phoenix defensive backs. He completed his trio of touchdown passes with a 69-yard strike to Cameron Hite. It was the longest Demon Deacon touchdown since the 2021 season.
Prior to the season and with just one start entering the 2023 season, Griffis was named to the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award Watch List. The award is presented annually by the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Educational Foundation, Inc. to the nation’s top quarterback who best exemplifies character, scholastic and athletic achievement.
Capturing his 60th win at Wake Forest, Demon Deacon head coach Dave Clawson has now amassed 150 wins over the course of his 24-year coaching career with the win over Elon Thursday night.
- He has plenty of memorable moments in his route to the historic milestone:
- Win No. 1
- September 9, 2000
- In the second game of the season, Clawson and Fordham dominated en route to a 34-7 home victory.
- Clawson and Rams Clinch 2002 Patriot League
- November 23, 2002
- Clawson and the Rams clinched a spot in the I-AA playoffs and a Patriot League title with a win at Bucknell, 34-7.
- Spiders Win First of Two Titles Under Clawson
- November 19, 2005
- Finishing the regular season on a 7-game winning streak, Clawson won the first of two conference titles at Richmond with a win over rival William & Mary.
- 2013 MAC Champion
- December 6, 2013
- In his last game before becoming Wake Forest head coach, Clawson defeated No. 14 and undefeated Northern Illinois, 47-27.
- First Win at Wake Forest
- September 6, 2013
- In his first game at Allegacy Stadium, Wake Forest claimed a 23-7 win over in-state Gardner-Webb.
- Bowl Bound for the First Time in Clawson Era
- November 5, 2016
- With a home win over Virginia, 27-20, the Demon Deacons started their now 7-year bowl streak, earning a spot in the Military Bowl.
- Deacs Claim 2021 ACC Atlantic Title
- November 27, 2021
- For the first time since 2006, the Demon Deacons captured the ACC Atlantic Division, winning big at Boston College, 41-10.
- Win No. 150
- August 31, 2023
- Behind a sold out Allegacy Stadium crowd, Wake Forest defeated Elon 37-17 to capture the 150th win, ranking 15th among active FBS head coaches.
- Win No. 1
FROM COACH CLAWSON
“We’re glad to be 1-0. We did some really good things. Our defense played really well except for one play. They hit us on a run and cover zero, other than that we played really well on defense. Our third-down defense was as good as it’s been here in a long time. We rushed the passer, we covered well, our corners played really well. It was a big play by Demarcus (Rankin) in the red zone, and Dashawn (Jones) did a great job with that last pick.
“Offensively, we played well in the first half. We came out on the opening drive of the second half and we just got bogged down. We had a chance to put the game away in the third quarter and then we had the pick-six and let them right back in it. But then we responded. It was good to see us jump in; that jumbo personnel just ran the ball and scored that last touchdown to finish the game.
“Our specialists were really good tonight. Matt Dennis was perfect on field goals. Good to see Caleb Carlson kick the ball in the endzone for us. The snappers were good. Ivan Mora punted the ball well.
“Give Elon credit, I think Tony’s a heck of a football coach. His teams don’t quit. Last year in the Vanderbilt game, a very similar game. They came back, made it a game and they did the same against us. He’s a good football coach. His team plays hard.
“I want to thank the students. We had a great student crowd here tonight, nearly 4,000. It’s our first win ever in Allegacy Stadium, so that’s a landmark win. But again, like all game ones, a few mistakes. Probably the ones that stick out to me the most are the ones in the kicking game. I think we had a face mask and a blocking back. We almost cost ourselves a turnover by running into our punt returner. We got a lot of guys that played for the first time tonight, so we’re going to be a work in progress. Sometimes you learn more in losses than wins, but it’s easier to teach things and make corrections after a win. Everyone’s a little better. So given the two choices, I’ll take that choice.”
Wake Forest hosts the Southeastern Conference’s Vanderbilt Commodores on Saturday, Sept. 9 at 11 a.m. inside Allegacy Stadium and the game will be broadcast on ACC Network.
Less than 1,000 tickets remain for this seismic ACC-SEC clash. Wake Forest Athletics continues to roll out unique ticket options, like the Bojangles 4-Pack, which includes a $20 gift card per account! This ticket option comes with four tickets on the east side of Allegacy Stadium and one LJVM Coliseum Lot parking pass. Single-game tickets are also available to be purchased.
With victories in 2022 at Vandy and in the Gasparilla bowl over Mizzou, Wake Forest defeated two programs from the Southeastern Conference last fall. It marked the first time since 2008, and just the second time in program history, that the Deacs downed a pair of SEC teams in the season. Additionally, head coach Dave Clawson is a perfect 3-0 in his tenure at Wake Forest against SEC programs.