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In a game where Wake Forest was always expected to win, redshirt freshman quarterback Mitch Griffis proved himself capable, propelling the Demon Deacons to a 44-10 victory over VMI.

In his first collegiate start, Griffis stepped up admirably for the injured Sam Hartman, tallying 288 yards and three touchdowns on 21 of 29 passing. Head Coach Dave Clawson had high praise for his new starter, giving him a vote of confidence in his postgame presser.

“Mitch played really well,” Clawson said. “He’s a good football player and we’re going to need him. We can win a lot of games with Mitch.”

“I just tried to do my job,” Griffis said. “When Sam comes back, this is his team and I’m going to be ready to support him.”

On his first touchdown pass of the night, Griffis found wide receiver Taylor Morin in the back right corner of the end zone from 24 yards out. It was a beautiful throw and catch — but to Griffis, it was a week of preparation coming to fruition.

“Taylor ran a great route, a stick at the top,” Griffis said. “He broke for the corner and made a great catch. There was a bunch of work throughout the week on that kind of stuff.”

Though Morin led the team with five catches for 74 yards, the talent of the entire receiver room was on full display. WR Jahmal Banks and TE Blake Whiteheart both caught touchdowns — and starters Donavon Greene and A.T. Perry combined for 110 receiving yards on eight grabs.

“We’re going to play five receivers right now,” Clawson said. “There are five guys who deserve to play. There's a lot of football left. Part of our plan is we want to be good not just in September, but in November, and to do that we've got to play more people.”

The Deacs also got it done on the ground; RBs Justice Ellison and Christian Turner combined for 180 yards on 26 carries. Turner set a career high with 100 yards rushing and found the end zone twice.

“Those guys broke tackles,” Clawson said. “I thought they had good vision. They were productive, they made plays. I thought those guys were patient and stuck it in there pretty good.”

As many questions as the offense answered, the defense failed to dominate against the FCS competition. The front four struggled to get penetration for most of the game. It wasn't until the fourth quarter when Rondell Bothroyd registered the first sack of the game for Wake Forest. He forced a fumble in the process and recovered it himself.

Additionally, the secondary lacked in their coverage on intermediate routes. According to Clawson, both instances were a result of the Keydets getting the ball out of the quarterback’s hands quickly.

“They got rid of the ball so quickly,” he said. “They threw a lot of what we call quick game and they were jump-setting us. It's really hard to rush the passer when they're [doing that].”

He added that part of the defensive scheme involved the secondary picking their battles, which resulted in the Deacs giving up some completions.

“A lot of those routes were quick pick routes,” Clawson said. “You hedge the box and you know those are plays that give up first downs, but they don’t beat you. When you get up there and press, those are the ones that beat you. We were going to keep our [secondary] out of those coverage situations.”

Despite attributing his defense’s struggles to schematics, Clawson did not shy away from harping on his team’s mental mistakes, on both sides of the ball.

“The penalties were awful,” Clawson said. “We had five holds, two that cost us a touchdown. We had two roughing the quarterback, one cost us a pick six. There were a lot of lack of discipline type penalties. For us to win [in the ACC], we have to win close games and any one of those penalties is going to cost us the game.”

At the end of the day, though, Clawson understands how important it is to start the year off with a victory.

“It's hard to win football games,” Clawson said. “Anytime you find a way to win, you have to be happy with the effort. Our guys played hard, they played physical football. It was a good team win. We have to clean up [our mistakes] and have a lot more efficient practice next week.”

Next week, those same mistakes may not fly. A new battle awaits: the Vanderbilt Commodores in Nashville.