WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina — It's been a major struggle this season on offense for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
And it may only get tougher after losing quarterback John Wolford to a head injury on Saturday in a 30-7 loss to Syracuse.
"I'm going to say the obvious: We get zero explosive offensive plays. None," Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said. "We are seven games into the season and our longest play is 36 yards. Usually by accident you will make a big play."
There were no accidents on Saturday, just more turnovers.
Wake Forest was limited to 170 yards on offense.
The Demon Deacons (2-5, 0-3 ACC) came in with the worst rushing offense in the nation, averaging just 31 yards per game on the ground. They managed 71 against Syracuse, but it hardly mattered as they were dominated at the line of a scrimmage by a stronger, more powerful team.
"Today is as disappointed as I have been," Clawson said. "Sometimes you have to look in the mirror and say, 'Did I prepare this team?' Obviously I as the head coach did not have our team, especially our offense, ready to go. It was disappointing all around."
Syracuse relied on its defense to snap a four-game winning streak.
The Orange scored two defensive touchdowns, and freshman quarterback AJ Long ran for another TD. Robert Welsh returned an interception 42 yards for a touchdown and Micah Robinson scored on a 51-yard fumble return to give Syracuse its first win since Sept. 13.
"We came out ready to play and ready to hit people," Robinson said. "We've been hurting the last few weeks losing like we did. We wanted to send a message to the rest of the ACC."
The Orange (3-4, 1-2 ACC) knocked out Wolford in the second quarter, rendering the Demon Deacons already struggling offense even more ineffective. His replacement Tyler Cameron was benched in the fourth quarter.
Syracuse limited Wake Forest to 68 total yards after Wolford left the game, while outgaining the Demon Deacons 370-170.
Long completed 22 of 32 passes for 171 yards and had a 4-yard touchdown run in his second start, while Devante McFarlane ran for 114 yards on 10 carries.
The game turned late in the second when blitzing Syracuse linebacker Dyshawn Davis crashed into Wolford from behind as he rolled out and set up to throw, jarring the freshman quarterback's upper body and altering the trajectory the ball. Welsh easily intercepted the floating pass and returned it 42 yards for a touchdown giving Syracuse a 17-7 lead.
Wolford left the game with a head injury and did not return. He spent the second half on the sideline in street clothes with what the team announced during the game as a "suspected concussion."
"On the sideline he did not have concussive symptoms, but our head trainer suggested we not take any chances," Clawson said after the game. "He was unhappy and felt he could play. I think it was one of those issues you have to play extremely safe. Then Tyler got in there and struggled."
Cameron was 6 of 8 for 27 yards in relief.
Syracuse stretched its lead to 27-7 early in the third quarter when cornerback Brandon Reddish sacked and stripped Cameron of the ball and the loose ball bounced up into the arms of Robinson, who raced untouched to the end zone.
"I'm really pleased with the ways the defense played," Syracuse coach Scott Shafer said.
Both teams were coming off losses to No. 2 Florida State — the Demon Deacons losing 43-3 to the Seminoles two weeks ago and the Orange falling 38-20 last weekend.
It looked early on like the Demon Deacons were ready to break out on their offensive funk as Wolford led the Demon Deacons on a 91-yard touchdown drive, capping it with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Cam Serigne for a 7-0 lead. However, Syracuse's defense stiffened after that and controlled the line of scrimmage, not allowing the Demon Deacons a chance at a sustained drive.
Syracuse scored the game's final 30 points.
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