Three TD Passes by Sam Hartman sends Wake Forest Demon Deacons to 38-10 victory in Gator Bowl



JACKSONVILLE, Fla.Sam Hartman tossed three touchdown passes, two of them to tight end Brandon Chapman, and No. 20 Wake Forest beat Rutgers 38-10 in the Gator Bowl on Friday to reach 11 wins for the second time in program history.

Hartman completed 23 of 39 passes for 304 yards. He added 21 more yards rushing and pushed his touchdown total to 50 this season — 39 passing and 11 rushing.

The Demon Deacons (11-3) controlled the game from the start, scoring on their first three drives and opening a double-digit lead just before halftime. It played out about as expected given Rutgers (5-8) was a late replacement for 23rd-ranked Texas A&M.

The Aggies pulled out because of a lack of available players due to injuries, opt-outs, transfers and COVID-19 issues. The NCAA gave Rutgers the first shot at filling the void because it had the highest Academic Progress Rate score of all the eligible 5-7 teams.

Rutgers coach Greg Schiano hastily gathered his players from Christmas break and held two practices in a heated bubble before heading south. They got in two more in nearby Ponte Vedra Beach this week before taking the field.

Nonetheless, they looked far from ready to face one of the nation’s best offenses.

Wake Forest averaged a program-best 41.9 points coming into the game, which ranked second in the Atlantic Coast Conference and fifth in the nation.

The Demon Deacons finished with 450 yards. They converted 8 of 14 third downs and their lone fourth-down try.

The turning point came in the second quarter, when cornerback Gavin Holmes stepped in front of Noah Vedral’s pass to Joshua Youngblood at the goal line and intercepted it. Wake led 17-10 at the time and ended up driving for a field goal and a 10-point lead at the break.

Vedral was one of five players who threw passes for Rutgers. He completed 8 of 13 passes for 87 yards and the interception.

A.T. Perry caught 10 passes for 127 yards and a score for Wake Forest.


Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons capped their best season in 15 years with a victory and are poised to be among the preseason favorites in the Atlantic Coast Conference next season. They could lose as few as six of 22 starters and expect All-ACC kicker Nick Sciba to return.

Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights turned the ball over twice, which was twice too many for an offensively challenged team with a small margin for error. Rutgers had been 5-0 this season when not turning the ball over. Schiano’s team fell to 0-8 when committing a turnover in 2021.


Wake Forest linebacker Ryan Smenda, a junior who grew up in nearby Orange Park, was ejected for the third time this season for targeting. Smenda barely made contact, if at all, this time. He was penalized for intent because he led with his helmet while chasing Rutgers quarterback Gavin Wimsatt. Wimsatt slid late, and Smenda flew over the top of him.

Smenda also was ejected in regular-season games against Army (Oct. 23) and North Carolina State (Nov. 13). All three ejections came in the second half, meaning he had to sit out the first half of the ensuing game. He will have to sit out the first half of Wake’s 2022 season opener against Virginia Military Institute on Sept. 1.


Wake Forest punter Ivan Mora was carted off the field in the fourth quarter with an air cast on his right ankle/foot. Mora got caught at the bottom of a pileup after kicking off.


Wake Forest expects to get Hartman back for a fifth year. He’s started 33 games over four seasons and accounted for 87 touchdowns, including 71 passing.

Rutgers says goodbye to nine sixth-year seniors, including seven defenders. The most notable departures are cornerback Tre Avery and defensive tackle Julius Turner.