It was a welcomed, if not strange, feeling for Sage Surratt on Saturday.
The Deacons didn’t have to fret through nerve-wracking final plays.
“I think that was weird. We had a comfortable lead. It’s different, but it felt good, though,” Surratt said. “It’s good not always having to be on the edge all the time. But it was a great win for the team.”
At least one person on Wake Forest’s sideline didn’t share those sentiments.
“You’ve kinda gotten to know me over the last few years, at what point do you think I really feel that way?” Coach Dave Clawson said when asked if he knew what to do with himself with a comfortable lead in the fourth quarter.
With two minutes left, maybe three?
“Yeah, maybe like one (minute), 30 (seconds). Looking at it, it’s 34 points and if we turn it over and they hit a double-move, then — you just, you never relax,” Clawson said.
Here’s hoping Clawson found time to relax after the game, and here are five final takeaways from Wake Forest’s 44-10 win against N.C. State:
1. Amari Henderson’s big day
Wake Forest’s senior cornerback had quite the performance against the Wolfpack — six tackles, two interceptions, four pass break-ups and one tackle for loss.
It was the second glowing performance in as many years against the Wolfpack for Henderson, who had a career-best 14 tackles and two pass break-ups in Wake Forest’s win in Raleigh last season. The Charlotte native didn’t have much of a reason two of his best games have come against the Wolfpack, but he did have a simple reason for Saturday’s performance.
“I feel like I got in one of my zones, and when I get in one of my zones,” Henderson said, “I feel like my confidence just goes out the roof, and I can really just play and just be focused and set my feet and trust my instincts.”
2. Special teams play
Wake Forest isn’t a month removed from special teams being a large reason for its only loss of the season, but the Deacons have tightened up in a hurry in that phase.
There’s no better example of the second kickoff of the game, when DeAndre’ Delaney popped the ball loose from N.C. State’s Keyon Lesane and Wake Forest’s Kenneth Dicks III recovered at the 3-yard line.
“We’ve really challenged the kickoff unit, and for those guys to get that big hit, cause the fumble and give us the ball on the 3-yard line … that was really big,” Clawson said.
3. Ready to play
Instead of falling behind 28-7 after the off week, Wake Forest was ahead 24-0.
The Deacons didn’t change much from what they did in their first and second off weeks this season, and the way they started games were polar opposites.
“I thought we were ready to play from the get-go,” Clawson said. “Usually you get the lessons and you take the test. In football you take the test, and then you learn the lessons.
“We learned some really valuable lessons in that Louisville game that we hopefully won’t repeat, and part of it is you’ve gotta be ready to go from the first snap.”
4. Defensive footing
Another lesson learned from the loss to Louisville can be seen on the defensive end. The Deacons held N.C. State to 265 yards of offense, the lowest total of the season against an FBS opponent.
“We’re trying to keep the ball rolling,” Henderson said. “It was an emphasis this week, especially being that we had a bye week, and you know we didn’t really do so well coming out of the bye week against Louisville. We were kind of flat. So it was an emphasis to try to start early, punch them in the mouth and just finish.”
5. Elite TE company
Now there are two tight ends in Wake Forest history who have had three-touchdown games.
Two seasons after Cam Serigne did it against Syracuse, Freudenthal did so against N.C. State.
“Ah, that’s cool. That’s a fun fact,” Freudenthal said. “And then some guys were bugging me on the sideline like, ‘Go talk to Coach Ruggiero, you’ve gotta go for four. You’ve gotta get that record.’”
That didn’t happen — so another of Freudenthal’s former teammates, Greg Dortch, retains his title as the only player in school history with four touchdown catches in a game, which he did twice (against Louisville in 2017 and Rice in ’18).