Two years after finding itself on the wrong end of the most delightfully nicknamed scandal in college football, Wake Forest may have gotten the last laugh on Bobby Petrino’s Louisville program.
It was in November of 2016 when the Demon Deacons lost big at Louisville, 44–12, then later discovered radio broadcaster Tommy Elrod had been passing along plays to a Louisville assistant along with other opponents (a school investigation found that Virginia Tech and Army had received information). That day against the Cardinals, Wake Forest ran a few new plays, designed to catch their opponents off guard, and Louisville anticipated them all. The bizarre circumstances of the incident coined “WakeyLeaks” shed light on the fact that privacy-obsessed coaches might not be too off-base—and two years later, Wake Forest returned to the scene of the crime to exact its revenge, steamrolling Louisville on the Cardinals’ Homecoming, 56–35, to secure its second straight win in the series since the scandal broke and stoke the flames under Petrino’s seat.
Wake Forest and Louisville entered Saturday winless in conference play. The Demon Deacons were coming off a rough month, with double-digit losses to Notre Dame, Florida State and Clemson. Somehow, though, Louisville seemed to be in even worse shape, with just two wins overall and plenty of ACC tests left.
Saturday underscored just how bad things have gotten for Petrino’s team in the first year since Lamar Jackson left for the NFL. After scoring a touchdown on the first drive of the game, the Cardinals let Wake Forest run all over them; with nine minutes to go in the second quarter, they were down, 35–14. By that point, the Deacs had 305 yards of total offense—and their most recent touchdown had come on a defensive fumble recovery.
The game never veered into full blowout territory, as the teams traded scores for much of the remainder of the game. Still, Louisville could never quite recover from allowing touchdowns on Wake Forest’s first three drives, and what looked it might be a memorable display of offense (or defensive ineptitude) petered out in a scoreless fourth quarter.
The Cardinals were unable to capitalize on opportunities to exploit Wake Forest’s porous defense on a day when they logged three more first downs than the Demon Deacons and only 59 fewer yards of offense.
As if beating Petrino at his own game wasn’t sweet enough, Wake Forest built its blowout around senior running back Matt Colburn, who put up 243 yards and averaged 12.2 yards per carry against a program that pulled his scholarship offer just before signing day back in 2015. The Cardinals asked Colburn to grayshirt. Instead, he switched his commitment to Wake Forest, and more than three years later, he was able to exact revenge with touchdown runs of 74, 56 and 12 yards.
Colburn’s performance may well contribute to Petrino’s ouster at some point this fall, and the coach will be in for another week of intense scrutiny with Louisville foundering at 2–6. For multiple reasons, Petrino will not find much sympathy in Winston-Salem.