WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — No Wake Forest quarterback had a better starting debut than Sam Hartman. The freshman wants to keep it going in Week 2.
The Demon Deacons (1-0) play host to Towson (1-0) of the FCS on Saturday, and they hope Hartman will be just as effective against the Tigers as he was in his first college start.
Hartman’s 378 yards passing in an overtime win against Tulane were the most by a Wake Forest quarterback in his college debut. His 31 completions, 51 attempts and 60.8 completion percentage were school records for freshmen in their first start.
“Did he exceed my expectations? I had high expectations,” coach Dave Clawson said. “That’s why we named him our starter.”
Now he’s going up against a Towson team with a quarterback who has more name recognition: Tom Flacco, the younger brother of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco and a graduate transfer from Rutgers who threw for 245 yards and two touchdowns in his first start at the school — an opening victory over Morgan State.
“This is always the week where I will be accused of making them sound like some NFL team,” said Clawson, a head coach at the FCS level for nine seasons before making the jump to the Bowl Subdivision. “Towson has players. They are really well-coached.”
The biggest challenge for the Demon Deacons this week might be the schedule. They can ill afford to look past Towson with a short week ahead. Wake Forest plays host to Boston College next Thursday night in a game that could have significant implications for both teams’ attempts to challenge No. 2 Clemson in the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Atlantic Division race. “Whether we are playing Towson or Clemson or any other team, we have to look at it the same and prepare as well as we do every week,” lineman Nathan Gilliam said.
Wake Forest will have to learn how to play without two key players who were lost for the season with knee injuries in the Tulane game: Offensive tackle Justin Herron and backup safety Coby Davis. As a result, Clawson has shuffled his offensive line. Right tackle Jake Benzinger shifts over to the left side to replace Herron, with Gilliam sliding over from right guard to right tackle, and Patrick Osterhage taking over as the starter at right guard. “Luckily, we have all taken reps at all offensive line positions so we are able to acclimate,” Benzinger said.
Also, redshirt freshman Tyriq Hardimon now is listed as the backup to Chuck Wade Jr. at strong safety.
A couple of Wake Forest wide receivers helped make Hartman’s debut look even better. Greg Dortch had 149 yards receiving in his first game since he suffered a season-ending abdominal injury against Louisville last October. And redshirt freshman Sage Surratt had 11 catches for 150 yards in his his first college game.
The game might have added significance for Towson’s leading rusher. Sophomore Kobe Young, who is from Winston-Salem, rushed for 66 yards and a touchdown in the victory over Morgan State.
Towson’s roster is packed with transfers from the Bowl Subdivison. In addition to Flacco, six other Tigers started their careers at other major colleges, including receiver Jabari Greenwood (Kentucky), linebacker Ricky DeBerry (Oklahoma) and defensive back Troy Vincent (North Carolina State). “You can go down their roster and there are guys who were three-star, Power Five-level recruits,” Clawson said, “and for whatever reason, things didn’t work out.”