There was no shortage of excitement in Winston Salem on Thursday night as Wake Forest opened the season against Elon.

It was Wake Forest’s 6th sellout crowd since the 2021 season, and the Deacs’ home opener was sold out for the first time since 2011. The Wake faithful were treated to a solid performance and a 37-17 victory.

The Demon Deacons, who were 8-5 last season, including 3-5 in the ACC, returned 5 offensive starters and 4 on defense, but the biggest loss was Sam Hartman to Notre Dame, and all eyes Thursday were on Mitch Griffis. Despite all the changes, there’s plenty of confidence in Dave Clawson, who has coached Wake Forest to be a consistent winner, including 19 wins the past 2 seasons.

Strong start

Wake got off to a great start all around, especially on defense, as it held Elon to -16 rushing yards after its first 3 drives. Elon didn’t have a single first down in the 1st quarter. Elon didn’t get into positive yards until midway through the 2nd quarter when it made a QB switch to Justin Allen.

On offense, Griffis led the offense to its first touchdown in 7 plays and 53 yards. Griffis connected for a TD pass with receiver Wesley Grimes on an 18-yard score. The second drive bogged down, and finished with a 3-and-out. But the Deacs’ bounced back and went 8 plays and 68 yards before they settled for a field goal to extend the lead late in the first quarter. Jahmal Banks then put an early highlight play together when he hauled in a 33-yard touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone.

OH MY WORD, @jahmalb21 😤

After Elon showed some life later in the second quarter, Demarcus Rankin snuffed out the momentum with an interception in the end zone.

Sam Hartman who?

Griffis certainly made Wake Forest faithful forget about Hartman. Soon after the interception, he found Cameron Hite for a 69-yard touchdown pass. By halftime, he was 11-for-14 passing for 230 yards, and the only blemishes were a pair of drives that ended with negative yards.

Many of Griffis’ completions went for big plays, as by halftime, he averaged nearly 21 yards per completion. Sure, there was the Pick 6 in the 2nd half, but Griffis finished 19-for-30 for 329 yards passing and 3 TDs.

Malik Mustapha leads punishing defense

There was a lot to like from the defense, starting with the very active Malik Mustapha, who was all over the field, and made 2 tackles for a loss and broke up a pass in the 1st half. It’s easy to see why Mustapha is well-respected on the team, and a team captain, as he suggested in recent days: “Love being a leader on this team and love the guys. They keep me going everyday.”

He’s gradually become a key player for Wake, as this was the 22nd straight game that he’s had at least 1 tackle. Last season, he was 4th on the team in tackles, totaling 58 including 32 solo tackles while also having 8.0 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles.

He led Wake with 9 tackles in the win.