HOUSTON — Wake Forest’s football team is suddenly a juggernaut away from the friendly confines of BB&T Field.
Well, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration.
But the Deacons, with their win at Rice on Friday night, have now won five straight games away from home and eight of their past nine — starting with the comeback win at Syracuse in the 2017 season. That includes victories in the Belk Bowl and Birmingham Bowl, four ACC wins and wins at Tulane last season and now at Rice.
Of course, the next time that’ll be relevant will be at the end of the month when Wake Forest travels to Boston College. Until then, Wake Forest is home against North Carolina (in a nonconference game) and Elon.
Here are the five main takeaways on Wake Forest’s win against Rice:
1. Fourth-down stop punctuates goal-line stand
Wake Forest was already up 20 in the fourth quarter when Rice drove to the Deacons’ goal line, and the Owls were on the doorstep of prolonging the competitive nature of this game.
Instead, Wake Forest’s defense came up with a crucial stand. Boogie Basham made a tackle on quarterback Tom Stewart at the 2-yard line on second down, and Ja’Cquez Williams knifed into the backfield to tackle Nahshon Ellerbe before he leap over the line of scrimmage.
Those plays were the prelude to redshirt senior linebacker Justin Strnad blowing up Stewart on fourth down for a 3-yard loss, as Stewart faked a handoff and turned to run a bootleg to the opposite side of the field — and was instead crushed by Strnad.
“They called a timeout and we huddled up and I told my coach, because they ran that formation a couple of times, I was like, ‘They’re gonna do the boot out of it,’” Strnad said. “I took the chance and played the boot, and got lucky.
“I told them that I just expected that play.”
2. Getting pressure
Wake Forest’s young defensive line has endured some growing pains in the first two games, but the Deacons have a combined five sacks to show for their development.
Four of those came against Rice — Basham got it started with a strip-sack on Rice’s first possession, setting up the Deacons’ second touchdown, redshirt freshman defensive end Ja’Corey Johns picked up his first career sack, Traveon Redd had a shoestrings sack when Stewart broke the pocket, and Williams, coming along in his transition from rover to linebacker, notched one.
Basham’s two sacks in two games puts him at nearly half of what he had in 12 games last season (4½).
3. Kicking record
Nick Sciba has been challenged more in his new role handling kickoffs than with three field goals between 20-29 yards, but Wake Forest’s sophomore kicker made history Friday night.
Sciba made field goals of 26 and 23 yards, giving him the 13th and 14th consecutive makes and tying the school record. Sciba is now tied with Jimmy Newman for the school record — Newman made 14 straight during the 2011 season, and made 13 straight between the 2010-11 seasons.
4. Half a season of starts for Jamie Newman
Wake Forest’s redshirt junior quarterback has now started six games in his career, or half of a regular season.
The numbers are gaudy, and even more impressive when considering he started against four bowl teams last season and a Utah State team likely to wind up in a bowl this year.
Newman has completed 132 of 201 passes for 1,721 yards, 15 touchdowns and three interceptions, along with 242 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
“I think we took this as a business trip, like we take all road trips, and I think it was a good testament on the road to take care of our own business,” Newman said of the Deacons’ road proficiency.
5. Now at quarterback …
Wake Forest’s final offensive series was notable more for who wasn’t on the field than for who was.
Tayvon Bowers came in at quarterback in relief of Newman, instead of Sam Hartman — who started nine games as a freshman last season.
When asked about the discussion on which quarterback would come in, Coach Dave Clawson said: “We talked about it a little bit. But we’re not going to burn games that we don’t need to.”
If Hartman plays in four or fewer games this season, it would be a redshirt season.