ANNAPOLIS, Md. – When Wake Forest fans look back at 2016, perhaps they will remember an exciting victory in the Military Bowl as the culmination of the team’s first winning season in eight years.
At least, that’s what Demon Deacons coach Dave Clawson would like to believe.
Wake Forest attached a positive ending to a season marred by scandal, using a strong performance by quarterback John Wolford to beat heavily favored Temple 34-26 on Tuesday in the Military Bowl.
After throwing an interception on the first series of the game – a turnover Temple used to take a 7-0 lead – Wolford helped the Demon Deacons rattle off 31 straight points before halftime.
Wolford left with a neck strain in the third quarter with the score 31-17. Wake Forest (7-6) then withstood a comeback bid by Temple (10-4) to secure its first bowl victory since 2008.
That gave the Demon Deacons something to talk about this offseason beside a troubling spy story. According to a Wake Forest investigation, broadcaster Tommy Elrod leaked or attempted to leak game plan information to at least three opponents. Though Elrod has not released a public statement on the scandal, the school has since fired him.
The scandal was dubbed “Wakey Leaks.”
“It was really important we win this game so this game and this bowl championship becomes the lasting memory for this football team and not some stupid hashtag that nobody in our program was responsible for,” Clawson said. “That becomes the lasting memory for the team and not a bitterness of something we’re ready to move past.”
In spite of the distraction, the Demon Deacons snapped a three-game losing streak and won for only the second time since Oct. 8.
“I’m trying to fight back tears right now,” linebacker Thomas Brown said. “It’s such a great feeling. I really don’t even know how to describe it.”
Wolford, a junior, completed 10 of 19 passes for 183 yards and two scores. Though he wasn’t there at the finish, he certainly did enough while in the game.
“I wanted to play, but it was probably the safest thing to come out,” Wolford said.
His backup, redshirt freshman Kyle Kearns, went 4 for 10 for 60 yards and an interception.
Seeking the first 11-win season in school history, Temple came in as an 11-point favorite. A 48-yard pass from Phillip Walker to Adonis Jennings on the Owls’ first offensive play gave them their only lead.
Down 31-7 late in the first half, Temple used a 19-point run to close to 31-26 with 3:56 left. Wake Forest then used an 80-yard kickoff return by John Armstrong and the resulting field goal to make it an eight-point game with 1:59 left.
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