No. 22 Wake Forest tops VMI behind Griffis, Turner, Morin

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Mitch Griffis threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns in his first career start and Christian Turner and Taylor Morin added spectacular individual efforts on scores, helping No. 22 Wake Forest beat VMI 44-10 on Thursday night in the opener for both teams.

Griffis started with veteran Sam Hartman sidelined indefinitely by a non-football medical issue. Hartman – who guided the Demon Deacons to last year’s Atlantic Coast Conference championship game – was on the sideline in his black jersey, black shorts and a black cap to watch his understudy lead an easy win against a Championship Subdivision opponent.

“I really didn’t know what to expect,” Griffis said. “I just wanted to do my job and come out with a win. That happened, so I’m happy.”

Griffis’ first TD throw was a perfect ball while moving to his right, with Morin diving just inside the right end-zone sideline for the 23-yard score and a 17-0 first-quarter lead.

“I wasn’t sure where Mitch was going to put the ball,” Morin said, “but Mitch put it the only place he could.”

Turner had preceded that with his own highlight-reel TD. He appeared headed for a modest gain when he was wobbled by a hit from Aljareek Malry in a crowd near the middle of the field. But Turner extended his left hand into the grass to stay on his feet, then popped free on the left side for a 35-yard TD.

Turner ran for 100 yards and two scores in the game to lead the Demon Deacons, who had 506 total yards but also committed seven penalties for 70 yards.

VMI, from the Southern Conference, sought its first win against a nationally ranked opponent from the Bowl Subdivision ranks. Its lone offensive highlight was Grant Swinehart taking a pass from backup QB Collin Ironside and sprinting down the right side for a 34-yard touchdown – though that came with Wake Forest leading 30-3 late in the third.

“We were just inconsistent,” eighth-year VMI coach Scott Wachenheim said. “We had some drives where we were moving the ball, but when we stubbed our toe, this is a tough defense to come back and make up the yardage we lost.”

THE TAKEAWAY

VMI: The Keydets are coming off their first back-to-back winning seasons since 1961-62. They were trying to earn their first season-opening road win since 2002, but finished with 222 total yards, never reached the red zone and couldn’t stop the run.

Wake Forest: This was hardly a clean performance. Notably, there were three holding penalties during two second-quarter drives, two to force a punt and one to wipe out an easy touchdown and force Wake Forest to settle for a field goal. There was another to negate Griffis’ 2-point keeper late in the third, irking ninth-year coach Dave Clawson enough that he kicked at the turf in frustration, even with a big lead. And finally, there was a roughing-the-passer penalty that negated Isaiah Wingfield’s 46-yard pick-6.

“I’m proud of the win, but I thought we were really sloppy,” Clawson said. “There’s just not a good feeling in my stomach. … To me the penalties were awful.”

MORE ON GRIFFIS

Wake Forest’s third-year passer had played just seven career games entering Thursday. He completed 21 of 29 passes, including a 27-yard scoring throw over the middle to Blake Whitehart in the third and a 14-yard TD toss to Jahmal Banks in the fourth.

GREENE’S RETURN

The game also marked the return of Wake Forest receiver Donavon Greene.

Greene was set to be the Demon Deacons’ top target last year before being sidelined by a preseason knee injury while A.T. Perry and Jaquarii Roberson thrived in a high-scoring offense. Greene was Griffis’ favorite target Thursday, converting a team-high eight targets into five catches for 63 yards.

“It was great to get him out there but there was a lot of rust that was getting knocked off,” Clawson said. “He’s a good player, but he hasn’t played football in two years, and I think it showed.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Wake Forest is unlikely to move much in the next AP Top 25 after facing little drama in beating an FCS foe.

UP NEXT

VMI: The Keydets host Bucknell in their home opener next Saturday.

Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons have a road game against a power-conference opponent, visiting Vanderbilt of the Southeastern Conference next Saturday.

Minnesota football players’ discrimination lawsuit dismissed

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by nine former University of Minnesota football players who were accused of sexual assault in 2016 in a case that roiled the school’s football program.

The lawsuit against the school claimed that the players faced emotional distress and financial damage after being falsely accused of being sex offenders. The players, who were identified in the lawsuit as John Does, sought unspecified damages for willful and malicious discrimination.

A woman alleged up to a dozen football players raped her or watched and cheered at an off-campus party in 2016. None of the players were ever charged.

The university found that 10 football players committed sexual misconduct. Five of them were expelled or suspended for violating student conduct codes, and the others were cleared on appeal.

In their lawsuit, the players alleged that the woman initiated the sexual encounters with players and an underage recruit.

U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank dismissed the lawsuit last week, saying the former players did not prove any of their claims, including allegations of bias by university investigators or pressure from Athletic Director Mark Coyle and former President Eric Kaler, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

David Madgett, an attorney for the players, said Tuesday that they are considering an appeal but have to determine if it makes sense financially and in terms of letting the former players get on with their lives. He said it was disappointing that the outcome was determined by the judge’s version of events and not decided by a jury.

“It’s disappointing to see disputes decided in this way,” Madgett said. “That’s the way things are decided more and more these days. … It’s disappointing you don’t get your day in court.”

When the allegations became public in 2016, players threatened to boycott the team’s trip to the Holiday Bowl. But after a graphic report of the investigation was released, the players agreed to play in the game.

University of Minnesota spokesman Jake Ricker said the school appreciated the judge’s decision affirming the actions taken in the case. He said the university would continue its work focusing on sexual misconduct awareness, prevention and response.

Frank dismissed the lawsuit in 2019, but an appeals court reinstated part of it in 2021 and returned it to Frank.

The players, all of whom are Black, also initially claimed racial discrimination, but that claim was previously dismissed.

The only remaining claim alleged Title IX gender discrimination. The former players noted that they never faced criminal charges, but Frank’s ruling said that “is certainly not evidence of a judicial adjudication or that plaintiffs ‘were proven innocent.'”

The men also claimed that an investigator for the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action used “manipulative tactics” with them in interviews and that their accuser helped draft the report. The players also alleged that “prior failed investigations motivated” the the school to punish them.

Frank said all the claims were unsupported by the evidence and “no reasonable jury could find that the University disciplined plaintiffs on the basis of sex.”

Michigan State player who swung helmet gets probation

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A Michigan State football player who swung his helmet at a Michigan player in a stadium tunnel expressed regret Tuesday and said he’s “just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue” on the field.

Khary Crump, a defensive back, was sentenced to probation. He was one of seven Michigan State players charged in a skirmish that followed a loss at Michigan Stadium on Oct. 29.

Crump was the only Spartan facing a felony, but that charge was dismissed in an agreement to plead guilty to misdemeanors. His record will be scrubbed clean if he stays out of trouble while on probation.

“Unfortunately, an exchange of words (took place), I felt attacked and unfortunately I did what I did,” Crump said of the tunnel altercation involving Michigan’s Gemon Green. “I’m not proud of that. I’m looking forward to moving forward.”

Crump was suspended by coach Mel Tucker. In addition, the Big Ten has suspended him for eight games in 2023.

“I had difficulties trying to stomach my actions … on that fateful day, but it happened. I can’t take it back,” Crump told MLive.com after the court hearing. “Honestly, I’m just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue in the future — on the football field, of course.”

At least four other players charged with misdemeanors Will Likely have their cases dismissed in exchange for community service and other conditions. The cases against two others are pending.