Wake Forest has already won more games than it did in coach Dave Clawson’s first two seasons and matched its ACC win total in each of those seasons.
The difference for the Demon Deacons (4-0, 1-0 ACC) in Clawson’s third year is improved play on the offensive line.
The Deacs will start a pair of seniors up front and a pair of redshirt sophomores from Raleigh against N.C. State (2-1) on Saturday.
Both Clawson and N.C. State coach Dave Doeren singled out Wake Forest’s improved line play as a main reason for the Deacs’ fast start.
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“Certainly I’m happy with how the offensive line is playing,” Clawson said. “That needed to happen for us, and it has happened, which is good.”
Right guard Phil Haynes, from Enloe, and right tackle Ryan Anderson, from Wakefield are both third-year sophomores, as is left tackle Justin Herron, and they had to learn on the job.
Wake Forest went 3-9 and 1-7 in the ACC in Clawson’s first two seasons. The Deacs took their lumps up front, particularly in the running game.
In 2014, Wake posted one of the worst rushing seasons in ACC history with an average of 39.9 yards per game and just 1.25 yards per rush.
The rushing numbers improved last year, honestly there was no way they couldn’t, but still ranked near the bottom of the country (123 out of 128 teams) with 105.1 yards per game and 3.03 per carry.
We’re not last year’s team. They’re not last year’s team.
N.C. State coach Dave Doeren on Wake Forest
Through four games, the Deacs are averaging 200 rushing yards per game, 45th in the FBS, and 4.17 yards per carry.
Doeren noted the improved blocking is helping in more than one way.
“I think their run game is better,” Doeren said. “And when you can run the football your quarterbacks are going to be better because they’re not standing in one place getting beat up on.”
Wake Forest went two years without rushing for 200 yards in an ACC game. In a 24-14 win at Duke on Sept. 10, their first ACC game of the season, the Deacs ran for 239 yards. They followed that up with 302 yards in a win over Delaware and 180 in last week’s 33-28 win at Indiana.
N.C. State has had the advantage in the running game the last two times it has played Wake Forest. The Wolfpack ran for 242 yards, compared to 149 for Wake, in last year’s 35-17 win in Winston-Salem.
There was a bigger disparity in Wake’s last visit to Carter-Finley Stadium in 2014. N.C. State out-rushed the Deacs 362 to 58 in a 42-13 blowout.
N.C. State jumped out to a 28-0 lead in the first quarter of last year’s game. Running back Matt Dayes broke touchdown runs of 85 and 57 yards and finished with a career-high 205 yards.
“We’re not last year’s team,” Doeren said. “They’re not last year’s team.”
After four wins in four games, that much is clear for Wake Forest.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio
Improving the run game
Wake Forest’s rushing improvement, year-by-year under Dave Clawson: