Everything went according to plan — well, other than a couple of special teams plays — right down to Kendall Hinton taking his first meaningful snap as a quarterback in nearly two years.
In yet another one-score game in the fourth quarter on Saturday night, Wake Forest quarterback Jamie Newman had his ankle twisted and had to come off the field for at least one play — which was a third-and-7 from Duke’s 40-yard line.
Sam Hartman was hurriedly going through warm-up procedures and appeared to be the choice to finish the game — until Newman told Coach Dave Clawson he only needed to come off the field for one play.
“‘Jamie, are you going to be able to go back in?’” Clawson asked his quarterback. “‘Yes Coach.’ When he told me that, I decided to put Kendall in at quarterback and put Jaquarii (Roberson) in at slot and we ran that play, and then we got Jamie right back in there.”
On a night that Wake Forest’s game plan was followed to a tee — Clawson wanted the Deacons to run the ball, and they had a season-high 334 yards — the Deacons even had a plan for when things appeared most dire.
“We practiced it … a few weeks back when Jamie was questionable with his shoulder,” Hinton said. “So we had it in the playbook and the toolbox, just waiting for that situation when we needed it.”
The only negative of Hinton’s cameo was that it didn’t result in a first down — he took the snap and ran for 6 yards, setting up a crucial fourth-and-1.
From there, it was Cade Carney to the left for 11 yards. The next play was Carney’s 18-yard touchdown, putting Wake Forest ahead by what turned out to be the 39-27 score.
“The last two weeks, we didn’t run the ball real well. And I think that bothered our O-line,” Clawson said. “We’re better than that, we’re better than we showed at Virginia Tech, we’re better than we showed at Clemson last week. I think our offensive line wasn’t happy with the run numbers, and we told them any time we’ve ever beaten Duke, it’s because we’ve run the football.”
Clawson said the Deacons “made a concerted effort to run the football,” with the idea that it would open things up for the outside receivers who have replaced Sage Surratt and Scotty Washington.
It opened things up for Hinton, who had six catches for 189 yards; but also made things easier for Donavon Greene, who arrived in a big way with a one-handed catch for 36 yards to convert a third-and-11, and for Steve Claude, who had two third-down conversion catches, and for Waydale Jones, who had a 13-yard catch and run to convert a third down.
“Without (Surratt and Washington), we just can’t rely on taking deep shots on the outside and having them make contested catches,” Clawson said. “The game today was very much run, get the extra hat with Jamie, and throw it to Kendall.
“And then we would give those guys a chance to make some plays if the coverage dictated it.”
Newman, a redshirt junior, had career highs with 29 carries for 144 yards, including a slicing 42-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter. Freshman running back Kenneth Walker III was worked back into the mix with 113 yards on 14 carries, including the go-ahead 14-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“It was pretty much the O-line. If it wasn’t for the O-line, you pretty much can’t do anything,” Walker said of his touchdown.
It was also an offensive line coming off 63- and 64-rushing-yard performances against Virginia Tech and Clemson in the past two weeks.
Walker deflected — as if the question was a stumbling defender against one of his cuts — whether the offensive line had extra motivation because of how the last two games went.
“It’s always a pride game, though. In the trenches it’s tough, so it’s always a pride game,” Walker said. “Not a heightened focus, we were pretty focused on the game, we always focus on one game.
“But we had to play for the seniors tonight.”
That was the plan all along.