It’s finally over.
The Wake Forest football program, for decades disrespected and cast aside as losers, has climbed a towering mountain to become a national power. Gaggles of non-believers, including many of us at various times in our lives, have once and for all been converted.
Until now skeptics across America have been doing all they can to push this little Wake Forest football program back into its irrelevant corner. Shoo. Go away, pretenders. They thought the past several years of consistent winning have been some sort of fluke or string of dumb luck.
A fluke this is not. Nor luck. It’s something else. It has a real tangible texture to it. After what went down yesterday, everybody understands that and won’t forget anytime soon. Yesterday in Tallahassee, Wake Forest cemented its place on the national college football leadership board.
Coming in seven-point underdogs, they fried Florida State, 31-21. Wake Forest, one of the most maligned college football programs over the past five decades, has beaten one of the blue-blood brands of college football — three straight times. Re-read this sentence and then pinch yourself to remind yourself you’re awake.
Did you ever dream this would happen? I didn’t. Neither did you.
Upset Florida State once, Ok lucky. Twice? Impressive but maybe the Seminoles are just in a down phase. Three times? That’s something different. It says Wake Forest has a better football program than Florida State. You read that right.
Homer-ism? Yes. Objective analysis? That too.
Out of Winston-Salem, North Carolina – never before a college football hot spot – Wake’s football program now stands and belongs on the national stage as one of the top programs in the United States.
Even the biggest skeptics have given up thinking we’re losers after being wrong about us over and over. Before the Clemson game against Wake Forest, the host of College Game Day, Rece Davis, made a confident prediction.
“This is easy,” he said. “And this is my stone-cold lock of the week pick. This will be Clemson big. There are certain teams that don’t match up well against others.”
Rece, posturing as a college football expert, got it stone-cold wrong. Clemson didn’t win big. They eked out a win by six points in double overtime.
Yesterday on College Game Day Rece capitulated admitting he was done picking against Wake Forest. His respect they have earned. America’s respect they have earned.
The big picture storyline from yesterday’s game was that Florida State has had a much more regal football brand than Wake Forest dating back to the beginning of time, basically. But that’s all ancient after the Demon Deacons snuffed out the Tallahassee campfire yesterday.
Wake Forest football is a nationally recognized brand. Who among us thought this would ever happen? Count Jordan Travis among the few remaining non-believers. In a post-game interview, the Florida State quarterback said Wake is a good football team but “talent-wise” not as good as Florida State. Um, you lost. Wake has whipped your school three times. Maybe they’re more talented than you think. Or your team isn’t as talented as you think.
The Wake Forest offensive scheme, which dazzled once again yesterday, is now being analyzed regularly on YouTube videos by people trying to figure out to stop this devastating scheme. It’s a wickedly complex game of football chess, brilliant strategy at its core, multiplicative deception. Imagine one day visiting the College Football Hall of Fame and seeing a prominently displayed museum showcase and a documentary about the Wake Forest Delayed RPO mesh.
Wake’s implementation of this scheme has morphed into a football thing of wonder, the subject of endless analytical conversations, a football innovation as ground-breaking as the iPhone. Elegant while sophisticated, baffling while efficient, indecipherable while on the surface transparent, no college football coaches can figure out how to stop the delayed run-pass option mesh.
Even Clemson didn’t – Wake dropped 45 points on them.
If Wake Forest were to play Alabama next Saturday, I’m convinced this scheme would have considerable success. Alabama would probably win but our offense would move the ball and likely score at least three or four touchdowns.
What Wake Forest football is doing is shocking and dazzling.
As you know the man at the center of this, one of the most astonishing football success stories of all time, is the incomparable and delightful Dave Clawson. Many of us, myself included, doubted he could motivate his players to be ready for Florida State after the loss to Clemson. But it’s now time for everybody should stop doubting this guy and his ability to prepare, motivate, and out-scheme opponents.
And out-perform, out-eloquent, and out-charisma all other coaches at post-game press conferences with his authenticity, insights, light-hearted sense of humor, and fierce determination to prove his team is full of winners.
During yesterday’s post-game press conference, he talked about Clemson in the context of preparing for Florida State: “That was a soul-crusher, and I was concerned with our coaches being able to get the players back,” he said “Yesterday’s game against Florida State was a great, great, great incredible team win especially after last week’s game. I’m in a really good mood right now.”
So is every member of the Demon Deacon Sports Nation. Fresh coffee and donuts this morning for all of us.
“In a fight, you can get punched in the face,” said Wake Forest running back Justice Ellison, who rushed for 114 yards. “We’re going to punch back though. It doesn’t matter if you miss one play. It’s about the next play. That’s the same way in life.”
Life lessons – that’s what Clawson teaches, what his players learn, what we learn watching them play and hearing this special man talk.
Asked about the team’s potential Clemson hangover, Ellison said the more veteran players got the team’s mindset right. “Some guys were saying something about the Clemson game and I saw a group of teammates saying ‘nah, we’re on to the next game. They’re not Florida State.”
Mindset – that’s the theme for this entire Wake Forest football season. Clawson came up with it and now not just his team but bloggers and reporters are weaving it into their stories.
His teachings are helping us in our everyday lives. We’re thinking about adjusting our mindsets on Monday mornings at the start of our workdays and when we talk with our children. Clawson’s philosophy is our life philosophy. Fall down, come back stronger. Focus on what you can control. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Everything is a mindset.
Are we all dreaming this is happening, that our football team has become a bona fide nationally ranked team that has put to rest all theories that Wake Forest isn’t good enough to be considered a Top 20 team?
To me, this feels like a delightful dream. As I thought about dreaming in the context of this team, a song came to mind about dreams: dreams of an undefeated season, dreams of a national championship, dreams of an ACC title, dreams of a big party somewhere near Truist Field with every member of the Demon Deacon Sports Nation, dreams of rolling the Quad, dreams of dancing with Wake Forest fans on the 50-yard line.
Dreams becoming reality. Dreams are not being dreams.
Worried before yesterday’s game and still feeling sad about the Clemson loss, I thought about this song called “Only in My Dreams”:
These lyrics touched me:
As real as it may seem
It was only in my dreams.
Then after beating Florida State yesterday, I thought about the lyrics to this song called “Dreams”:
Oh, my life
Is changing every day
In every possible way
I know I’ve felt like this before
But now I’m feeling it even more
And now I tell you openly
You have my heart so don’t hurt me.
After what they did in Tallahassee yesterday – overcoming a serious challenge after a crushing defeat the week before – we open our hearts to this Wake Forest football team.
As they have to us.
From soul-crushing to soul-resurrecting – all in a week.
In real life.
Sammy Sportface, a sports blogger, galvanizes, inspires, and amuses The Baby Boomer Brotherhood. And you can learn about his vision and join this group's Facebook page here:
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