BOONE — Every Thursday practice at Wake Forest has a segment for field-goal blocks, and longer attempts mean Scotty Washington and Jessie Bates III come in as “jumpers,” Deacons head football coach Dave Clawson said.
Washington has never blocked a field goal in practice. On Saturday at Appalachian State, he picked a game-saving time for his first one, getting his right hand on Michael Rubino’s 39-yard attempt in the final seconds of a 20-19 victory at Kidd Brewer Stadium.
“The D-line had been telling me all day, ‘The kicks have been low, the kicks have been low,’” Washington said. “That definitely triggered something in my mind, ‘Just jump a little higher.’ And then it paid off, it actually helped.”
That play was the game-ending climax of a thrilling second half that featured five lead changes, the last of which came on a 25-yard field goal by Wake Forest’s Mike Weaver with 7:22 left. It extended the Deacons’ unbeaten start to 4-0, even more critical considering the next games are against Florida State and Clemson.
App State (2-2) lined up for a 44-yard field goal with 10 seconds left and ran the play, Rubino missing wide left. But Wake Forest’s Wendell Dunn jumped offside, setting up the Mountaineers’ second chance.
Washington, at 6-foot-5, was ready for that one.
“That’s why you practice that stuff. We practice that every Thursday, that if it’s a long field goal we put him and Jessie in as jumpers and those guys will try to get penetration and get a new line of scrimmage and get those as close to the line as we can and jump up,” Clawson said. “And if it’s a long field goal, a lot of times the trajectory of the kick has to be low. That’s exactly what we did, that’s exactly what happened and sometimes your best luck is your preparation.
“And obviously it helps if you have a guy that’s 6-5 who can jump.”
On the Wake Forest sideline, redshirt freshman Greg Dortch couldn’t watch. Nor did he watch Weaver’s go-ahead kick.
“I turned my head. And then on our field goal to win, I turned my head, too. It’s no way I was watching that,” said Dortch, who hauled in a touchdown pass and had six catches for 63 yards.
Washington’s fingerprints — not just the ones that denied the potential-game-winning kick — were all over this game. The redshirt sophomore had four catches for 79 yards, none bigger than a 37-yard catch on the Deacons’ first snap of the second half when they were backed up against their 3-yard line.
“That opening play to Scotty that we hit him on the skinny post that got us to midfield, that was a huge play,” Clawson said.
“That was the first play after half, that really got us going. It was a good momentum boost,” he said.
It was a desperately needed boost after a sour first half. Wake Forest marched down the field on the game’s opening possession before stalling at the 10-yard line and getting a field goal from Weaver. The Deacons had another six possessions in the first half — five straight three-and-outs before the sixth netted one first down.
Senior quarterback John Wolford ended the first half having completed just one of his last 10 passes. He was 10-for-14 for 127 yards and two touchdowns in the second half, throwing the 10-yard score to Dortch and a 6-yard strike to tight end Cam Serigne.
Wolford “didn’t play as well as he can. That was the first game this year that I thought he was a little happy feet, wasn’t setting his feet and overthrew some balls that he usually doesn’t overthrow,” Clawson said. “Some of it had to do with them and some of it we just didn’t play well.
“If you can go on the road and not play well and find a way to beat a team that just won a championship, it’s a good day.”