Wake Forest tight end Cam Serigne holds on to a touchdown pass as Duke's Phillip Carter, left, and Jeremy Cash, right, defend during during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Winston-Salem, N.C. Saturday, Nov. 28, 2015. (Lauren Carroll /T
AP Photo
November 30, 2015

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) The record was the same at Wake Forest. The coach said the season was otherwise an improvement.

Coach Dave Clawson said his second straight 3-9 finish with the Demon Deacons wasn't much like its first - with the exception of that record - because his young team made progress toward its return to respectability.

''When the season started ... I said there's no doubt in my mind we're going to be a better football team this year (but) I don't know if the record would reflect that,'' Clawson said. ''There's no doubt in my mind that we're a better team, but at the end of the day, it is measured by wins and losses, and in the most important regard, we didn't improve. In every other regard, we did.''

A tough schedule - which included a visit to Notre Dame and a crossover game against Coastal Division champ North Carolina - and the reliance on way too many young players conspired to send Wake Forest to its second straight three-win finish and yet another 1-7 record in Atlantic Coast Conference play.

The Demon Deacons' final depth chart listed 27 players in either their first or second year in the program. At least one of them showed up at every offensive position and at nine of the 11 positions on defense.

Conversely, Wake Forest had just five fifth-year seniors. Of the 209 points the Demon Deacons scored this season, 206 came from freshmen and sophomores.

Clawson often said he wanted all those young players to play older than their ages. After a season-ending 27-21 loss to Duke, the team's sixth straight defeat, he acknowledged that didn't happen often enough.

''At times did they make spectacular plays? Yes. At times did they do really immature things that hurt us in football games? Yes,'' Clawson said. ''There was a lack of consistency from some of those players. I don't want to say I predicted it, but you know when you're that young that those things are going to happen. And you coach your butt off to try to prevent it, but until it actually happens, a lot of times it falls on deaf ears.''

Keeping the quarterbacks healthy was a challenge, with starter John Wolford dealing with a nagging ankle sprain and change-of-pace freshman Kendall Hinton injuring his lower body and then missing the finale after coming down with mononucleosis.

''Obviously if I could take away one play it would be that injury (in Week 2) at Syracuse, but I can't make excuses,'' Wolford said. ''This is football. You're going to get dinged up ... and you've got to find ways to come back.''

Most importantly for the Demon Deacons, all those freshmen and sophomores will turn into sophomores and juniors. Clawson hopes another year of offseason conditioning will pay off in the future.

''I'm excited. I think we've got a lot of good young players in the program and learned some valuable lessons this year, at times the hard way,'' he said. ''I think we're starting to develop our foundation and our core, and I believe in the young players in that locker room.''

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Follow Joedy McCreary at http://twitter.com/joedyap. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/joedy-mccreary

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AP college football site: http://collegefootball.ap.org

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