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.

WVU RB Donaldson in concussion protocol, out for Baylor game

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) West Virginia running back CJ Donaldson is in concussion protocol and will miss next week’s home game with Baylor after he was injured in a loss to Texas, coach Neal Brown said Tuesday.

Donaldson remained on the ground after he was tackled on a short gain in the third quarter of Saturday’s 38-20 loss to the Longhorns. His helmet and shoulder pads were removed and he was carted off the field on a stretcher. After the game he was cleared to travel home with the team.

“He’s recovering,” Brown said. “There is a strict return-to-play (policy) that we have to follow here and I’m zero involved in it. All I do is ask the question. They don’t even start the return-to-play until they’re symptom free.”

Donaldson, a 240-pound freshman, leads the Mountaineers with 389 rushing yards and six touchdowns, with an average of 6.9 yards per carry.

West Virginia (2-3, 0-2 Big 12 Conference) is idle this week and hosts Baylor (3-2, 1-1) next Thursday, Oct. 13.

Taulia Tagovailoa says he visited brother, Tua, over weekend

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa was able to visit his brother, Tua, last weekend after the Terrapins’ game against Michigan State, he said Tuesday in his first comments to reporters since Tua left the Miami Dolphins’ game against Cincinnati last Thursday with a frightening head injury.

Taulia played in Maryland’s win over Michigan State on Saturday but was not made available to the media afterward. He said Tuesday he was able to go to Florida and spend some time with his brother, who suffered a concussion four days after taking a hit in another game but was cleared to return.

“He’s doing good, everything’s fine,” he said. “My biggest thing was just seeing him and spending as much time as I can with him. I came back Sunday night.”

Tagovailoa said he appreciates the support for his brother.

“My brother’s my heart. He’s someone I look up to, someone I talk to every day,” he said. “It was just a hard scene for me to see that.”

Tagovailoa said he was in constant contact with his mother about his brother’s situation, and he was finally able to talk to Tua on Friday night.

“I really just wanted to go there and just spend time with my family, hug them and stuff like that,” Taulia Tagovailoa said. “But he told me he’s a big fan of us, and he’d rather watch me play on Saturday. … After that phone call, I was happy and getting back to my normal routine.”

Tagovailoa indicated that his brother’s injury didn’t make him too nervous about his own health when he took the field again.

“I guess when that happens to someone like my brother, or when anything happens to one of my family members, I don’t really think of how it will be able to affect me,” he said. “I just think of: `Is he OK? How’s he doing?”‘

Although it was a short visit to Florida, he said he and Tua made the most of their chance to be together.

“I just wanted to make sure he’s healthy and stuff, which he is,” Taulia Tagovailoa said.