Wake Forest turn to new starting QB, open season vs. Elon


It might look like a new era at Wake Forest, but the Demon Deacons want to keep up their regular production of churning out solid seasons.

Their latest campaign begins with Thursday night’s game against visiting Elon in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Gone is quarterback Sam Hartman, taking his extra season of eligibility at Notre Dame, so the Demon Deacons are stocked differently but plenty confident they have the right pieces.

“So we have guys that maybe haven’t played a lot, but they’ve been in our program for three, four, five years, and now they’re having their opportunity to play,” said coach Dave Clawson, who’s beginning his 10th season at Wake Forest. “There’s still a maturity of our team. We’re not as experienced, but we’ll get that experience.”

Mitch Griffis will be the starting quarterback for Wake Forest. Griffis also started the 2022 opener when Hartman dealt with a medical condition.

“I (like) how comfortable he is leading, directing,” Clawson said. “That experience he had last year starting that first game I think that gives him a lot of confidence.”

The Demon Deacons, who were 8-5 last season despite losing four of their last five regular-season games, will begin the season without receiver Donavon Greene, who’s out with a knee injury sustained on the first day of practice. Receivers such as Taylor Morin and Jahmal Banks should keep things moving.

“That’s a deep position for us,” Clawson said.

Wake Forest, which is 7-2 in openers under Clawson, has qualified for a bowl game for seven consecutive seasons.

Elon (8-4) is coming off a season that ended in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. The Phoenix are breaking in a different quarterback after Matthew McKay’s one season.

Elon will go with graduate transfer Matthew Downing, who has played in games for Georgia, TCU and Louisiana Tech.

“We knew he would bring maturity and experience,” Elon coach Tony Trisciani said. “He has got arm talent. He can throw some different balls.”

Trisciani enters his fifth season as head coach of the Phoenix with a 20-20 record.

Wake Forest is 11-0-1 all-time vs. Elon, winning the most recent matchup 49-7 in 2019. Elon has never posted a double-digit point total against the Demon Deacons.

“We want to hang around,” Trisciani said. “We want to be there at halftime, want to be there in the third quarter, and be there in the fourth quarter.”

–Field Level Media

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