No. 17 Wake Forest ready for anything from Rutgers in Gator Bowl

No. 17 Wake Forest will have a decided advantage in preparation time when it hosts Rutgers in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl on Friday in Jacksonville. But that doesn’t mean the Demon Deacons can take for granted the Scarlet Knights, who enter the postseason as the only team in the 42 bowls with a losing record.

Wake Forest was expecting to play No. 23 Texas A&M in the bowl game, but the Aggies pulled out of the contest on Dec. 22 because of a combination of season-ending injuries and COVID within the program. So, Gator Bowl officials chose Rutgers, which had the highest APR score among the nation’s teams with 5-7 records, to fill the spot on relatively short notice.

The Demon Deacons (10-3) head to the bowl game on the heels of a 45-21 loss to Pittsburgh in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game in Charlotte and have dropped three of their past five games after beginning the season 8-0.

Six of Wake Forest’s wins this season – and all three of its losses – came against teams that are playing in bowl games. Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson, who garnered ACC Coach of the Year honors for his work this season, knew he had the makings of a great team.

“I just really felt this year we had a chance to not just be good, but to be really good,” Clawson said. “I saw it after going through COVID last year with some of the leadership I saw emerge, some of the progress the younger players made, and the way we executed during spring practice.”

The Demon Deacons were second in the ACC with 41.2 points scored per game and in touchdowns (68). The high-powered Demon Deacon offense was spearheaded by its passing attack, led by redshirt sophomore dual-threat quarterback Sam Hartman.

Hartman threw for 36 touchdowns, a 58.8 completion percentage and an efficiency rating of 148.5. He also had 11 rushing touchdowns and was selected second team…


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