In the same breath that Sage Surratt said Wake Forest’s football team would “try to enjoy” its win against Florida State, the redshirt sophomore receiver had the Deacons’ next task on his mind.
“But we don’t want to do the same thing we did last week (against Louisville), come off a bye and lose,” Surratt said about a week and a half ago, after Wake Forest’s 22-20 rain-soaked win over the Seminoles. “I think we’re going to do everything we can, you know, to come out and be prepared against N.C. State.”
That’s the opponent this week for Wake Forest, an N.C. State team that has lost two of its past three games — most recently a 45-24 loss at Boston College before it also had last weekend off.
The Deacons are playing the Wolfpack. They aren’t lining up against ghosts — those only face the New York Jets — in the form of Wake Forest’s 0-7 record following off weeks in Coach Dave Clawson’s six seasons at the helm.
“We’re preparing to play N.C. State, we’ve played well here in openers, we’ve played well in bowl games,” Clawson said. “Our preparation is what it is, now they have to go out there and play well and execute well.”
Indeed, Wake Forest’s only loss in a season opener was in Clawson’s first season, and the Deacons are a well-documented 3-0 in bowl games in the last three years.
Off weeks aren’t the massive advantage they’re thought to be — teams are 65-73 in games following off weeks this season, per TeamRankings, a sports betting and data website.
But the winless mark under Clawson is a storyline the Deacons would like to bury.
“I just think everybody’s focus level is a lot more attentive,” Surratt said Tuesday. “You know, we try to learn from our mistakes and try to prevent it from happening again, so I think everybody has taken a lot more focus this week and you know, just preparation wise, studying the keys and everything like that.
“I don’t think we think about it too much, I think it’s just something, you know, that’s just been said and we have to address it, and I think everybody just has to be ready to play.”
The ready to play part was what was missing at the start of the Deacons’ first chance of the season to win after an off week.
Wake Forest trailed Louisville by three touchdowns after the second play of the second quarter and couldn’t complete the comeback Oct. 12 in the 62-59 loss.
It was particularly frustrating for Clawson that the Deacons started slow because of the emphasis that went into approaching the off week differently. And it was a slow start that was accentuated by mistakes — not necessarily ones that happened because the Deacons hadn’t played in two weeks.
“Us approaching this is like, ‘You can’t freak out. You can’t change how you process this,’” senior tight end Jack Freudenthal said. “I wouldn’t say the bye week had as much to do with (the loss to Louisville), I think guys — we came out slow, and I think mistakes from certain players hurt us on certain units.”
Three long special teams plays resulted in touchdowns — one directly, the other two setting up the Cardinals with a short field.
There’s a balance to be struck in doing too much and not doing enough during an off week, and the Deacons are trying to find it.
If they do, they’ll again be trying to find ways to enjoy a win, as Surratt said, rather than discussing what’s become a tired talking point.