WINSTON-SALEM — Wake Forest couldn’t win its way into eligibility for a bowl berth Saturday.
Now the Deacons must wait and see if they can slide into postseason play after a 55-21 thrashing by Vanderbilt in the teams’ regular season finale.
Wake Forest (5-7, 3-5 ACC) got rushing touchdowns from DeAndre Martin and Tommy Bohanon, 182 yards passing from Tanner Price and a fumble recovery for a TD by Chibuikem Okoro.
However, the Deacons’ effort paled in comparison to the bowl-bound Commodores (8-4, 5-3 SEC), who head into a confirmed postseason berth with a six-game winning streak, their longest since 1955.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t play better,” Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe said. “I’m not taking anything away from Vanderbilt, but I’m disappointed that we didn’t compete better than we did tonight.”
Zac Stacy ran for 180 yards and two touchdowns, Jordan Rodgers threw for 229 yards and two scores, Wesley Tate had a pair of scores and Jordan Matthews caught a career-best 10 passes for 144 yards and a score for Vanderbilt.
Even the Commodores’ special teams got into the act, blocking a Deacons’ punt for one touchdown, Jonathan Krause returned another punt 83 yards for a score, and Carey Spear hit field goals of 52 and 50 yards in the second half.
“I was very pleased with his we finished,” Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin said. “I wasn’t really excited about how we started the game, but we got it going after that.”
Getting things going is something Wake Forest hasn’t done in the last three weeks, wrapping up its regular season schedule with three consecutive blowout losses – to N.C. State (37-6), then-No. 3 Notre Dame (38-0) and now Vanderbilt.
“Judging by these past three games, I don’t know how much our team really deserves to go to a bowl game right now,” said Price, who was 18 of 38 with an interception. “We just haven’t been competitive the last couple weeks, and it’s disappointing.
“We just came out pretty flat. It’s disappointing when that happens, especially with so much on the line in the chance to play in a bowl game. But it is what it is. We have to move on and focus on the future.”
Normally, a five-win season wouldn’t get a team mentioned for postseason play. But with the possibility of a lack of eligible teams for the 35 bowl games, several five-win teams – the Deacons among them – could get berths based on their Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores.
So if Wake Forest would get a bowl berth, could the players build up the enthusiasm to go through another month of practices before the game?
“That’d be one of the challenges, because being 5-7 I wonder if we’d truly deserve to be in a bowl game,” said Bohanon, whose 1-yard TD run in the first quarter tied the score at 7-7. “That’s the goal every season – to get to a bowl game. (But) being 5-7, it’s kinda hard to justify going to a bowl game.”