Growing up in the Great Smokey Mountains, my Boy Scout troop took a trip or two down Highway 441 to Atlanta. It being a very large city, even way back then, we were always cautioned to stay with our traveling party or we might get lost.
Sometime between embarking from Winston-Salem Friday and losing Georgia Tech 38-24 at Bobby Dodd Stadium Saturday night, Wake Forest lost a member of its traveling party. I could have sworn I caught sight of Cam Serigne a time or two on television, but there’s no sign in the final stats that the best tight end to ever play for the Deacons was ever even there.
Not only did Serigne not catch a pass – for the second game this season – I don’t remember quarterback John Wolford ever looking his way.
All of which would have been perfectly understandable if the Deacons’ offense had continued to punish the Yellow Jacket defense in the second half the way it did in the first. But from the disaster of the first series of the third quarter – which began with a false start by fourth-year tackle Justin Herron and disintegrated on a snap by center Ryan Anderson past the ear of an unsuspecting Wolford – Wake Forest was summarily stymied over the final 30 minutes.
Whatever adjustments defensive coordinator Ted Roof of the Yellow Jackets made at halftime were the ones head coach Paul Johnson hired him to make. The Deacons, over seven second-half possessions, managed eight first downs and scored all of three points.
It bears noting that Wake, not Tech, had the extra week to prepare for this game.
The offense was sputtering even before starting guard Phil Haynes was sidelined by an injury midway through the third quarter – which required coach Dave Clawson to insert a green redshirt freshman, Je’Vionte’ Nash (he of the two hyphens in his first name) at tackle and bump Herron down to guard. But between the patchwork offensive line and the way Georgia Tech began loading up the box, the Deacons’ rushing attack conked out.
Wake Forest blocked the Yellow Jackets in the first half and had 71 rushing yards on 15 carries by halftime to show for its efforts. But the offensive line resembled of what we’ve grown all too used to seeing after halftime while carving out only 39 yards on the ground in 16 attempts.
Given the way quarterback TaQuon Marshall and the Tech offense whipped through the Deacons’ defense in the second half – on the way to four touchdowns over seven possessions – Wake Forest’s only chance of a victory was to keep moving the chains.
But come the fourth quarter, by which time the Deacons trailed 31-24, Wake faced a third and-five at its 42 and a third-and-two at the Tech 25. And twice the call was to send Cade Carney plowing into a defensive front stacked for the occasion – only to be stopped short of the sticks.
Before both plays I wondered if this might be the time for Clawson and offensive coordinator Warren Ruggiero to slip Serigne into the flats for a short throw or have him curl across the middle on a play-action. Even with last night’s shutout, Serigne has caught 142 passes for 1,703 yards and 17 touchdowns. He holds the school record for touchdowns and yards gained by a tight end and is tied with John Henry Mills (1989-92) for most catches.
I suspected that might have been part of the discussion after mass confusion at the line forced Clawson, facing a fourth-and-one at the Tech 24, to call time with 3:49 remaining. I was wrong. Carney took the handoff and ran into a stone wall well short of the marker.
Three plays later Marshall sallied around right end for 70 yards and a touchdown, and that, folks, was the game.
The Deacons’ third-straight loss was a bitter pill, especially given the way they dominated the first 29 minutes en route to a 21-10 lead. You could see it on the face of Clawson in the post-game video provided by road-warrior Les Johns of the Demon Deacon Digest.
Football coaches, being the intense, meticulous beings they are, will review every moment, every call in a game. And Clawson did mention the personal foul against linebacker Jaboree Williams that moved Tech into range for a 42-yard field goal on the final play of the half.
But he’ll probably also take note that on the possession before, after Carney’s 16-yard rumble to the Tech one, there was still plenty of time remaining on the play clock when Wolford pulled the ball out of Carney’s gut and skirted right end for the touchdown.
Tech resumed possession with a minute remaining and scored on the final play with the half. You have to wonder.
A bigger question, however, is how the Deacons will respond next week for the game everyone in Black and Gold has been anticipating for the past year. Louisville, the co-conspirator in last season’s Tommy Elrod scandal, comes to town with Lamar Jackson, last season’s Heisman Trophy winner, at quarterback.
Will Wake Forest get its revenge? And will the Deacons remember that the best tight end in school history still has eligibility remaining?