WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — After years of frustration with an anemic offense, Wake Forest finally had a pair of breakout performers in last week’s road win at Duke. But before the conclusion of the first quarter of Saturday’s game against Delaware, both of those players were sidelined due to injury.
At least this week, it didn’t matter.
Sophomore running back Matt Colburn rushed for a career-high 118 yards and a touchdown, and quarterback John Wolford scored a pair of touchdowns to go with 155 passing yards and another 70 on the ground as the injury-riddled Demon Deacons knocked off Delaware 38-21 on Saturday.
Colburn proved a capable replacement for injured freshman Cade Carney, who scored three touchdowns in Wake Forest’s 24-14 victory at Duke. Colburn powered through for a 1-yard touchdown just before halftime and averaged 4.9 yards per carry.
“That’s what we work on in practice. We work to be ready,” Colburn said. “When one guy goes down, the next guy has got to be ready to step up to the plate. It just so happened that’s what happened for me tonight, and I just took everything, made the most of my opportunities that I could.”
He wasn’t the only reserve forced into action due to injury.
Quarterback Kendall Hinton, starting his second career game after leading all four Deacon scoring drives at Duke, pulled up with an injury of his own during a run late in the first quarter. Hinton was not hit on the play, but went to the ground immediately after sustaining a left knee sprain. He did not return, and coach Dave Clawson said Hinton’s status moving forward was uncertain.
In his stead, former starter Wolford returned to action. While his passing performance was inconsistent, the Deacons’ dominance on the ground ensured it wouldn’t matter.
Wake Forest, which moved to 3-0 for the first time since 2008, ran for 302 yards. Five different players registered at least 30 yards rushing.
“We’ve been getting better every game. Our rushing attack is so much better than last year,” said Colburn. “It’s really exciting to see, and it’s really gratifying when we produce those results.”
The Deacons dominated in a manner that the final score did not demonstrate, piling up 481 yards of total offense while holding the Blue Hens to 94. But a pair of turnovers inside their own 20-yard line gave Delaware two quick scores, and Wake Forest’s lead was only 17-14 before Colburn’s touchdown run.
But the Deacons followed up on his score by beginning the third quarter with a 10-play, 75-yard TD drive that extended their lead to 31-14 and ended any thoughts of an upset.
“We never make it easy,” Clawson said. “But I thought for the most part, we dominated play.”
Wake Forest: The win was Clawson’s ninth overall at Wake Forest, and his third against Championship Subdivision opponents. While the Deacons have struggled in recent seasons, they have fared well against FCS schools, winning by an average margin of 23.6 points under Clawson.
Delaware: The Blue Hens fell for the fifth consecutive time against a Bowl Subdivision opponent. Their last victory against an FBS foe came in 2007, a 59-52 win over Navy.
GROUND TO A HALT
Saturday’s performance was the first time Wake Forest held an opponent to fewer than 100 yards since a 1952 game against Furman, when the Deacons did not allow a single yard. “Any time you hold the other team to under 100, you’ve got to be happy with the overall physicality of the game,” Clawson said.
Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons will look for their first 4-0 start since 2006 when they visit Indiana. That 2006 squad went on to win Wake Forest’s second, and most recent, ACC championship.
Delaware: The Blue Hens return to FCS play when they host James Madison on October 1