‘That was a tragicomedy’ — Looking back at Wake Forest’s 6-3 win over Virginia Tech, five years later

Five years ago this month, on a cold, windy and wet Saturday, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest faced off in a regular-season ACC game.

That November 2014 matchup included 18 punts, five missed field goals, four turnovers, one ubiquitous social media meme and exactly zero points at the end of regulation.

The game, which Wake Forest eventually won 6-3 in double overtime, marked a historic moment. It was the first game between power conference teams to finish scoreless after 60 minutes since 1983 (Oregon-Oregon State’s 0-0 tie) and the only FBS game in the past 14 years without points in regulation.

This weekend, they’ll play again for the first time since that game when No. 19 Wake visits Virginia Tech (3:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network). The Demon Deacons have a chance to improve to 8-1, and the Hokies, fresh off a near-upset of Notre Dame, can control their own destiny in the chaotic ACC Coastal division.

There is far more on the line this time around, but there’s virtually no way this season’s game will come close to matching the drama, heartache and utter ridiculousness of their previous meeting.

It was, arguably, the worst football game ever played, and for those who suffered through it, it still resonates five years later. This is their story.

‘Probably the worst offense I’ve seen in my life’The game featured 18 punts, five missed field goals, four turnovers and zero points at the end of regulation. Brian Westerholt/Four Seam Images via AP Images

DAVE GOREN, Wake Forest sideline reporter: The thing that stands out is that nothing stands out.

BILL ROTH, Virginia Tech play-by-play voice, 1988-2015: That was not a football game. That was a tragicomedy.

FRANK BEAMER, Virginia Tech head coach, 1987-2015: I remember their coach said we probably set offensive football back 20 years that night. [Actual quote from Wake Forest’s Dave Clawson: “We put offensive football back 100 years.”]

DAVE CLAWSON, Wake Forest head coach: During offseason workouts and spring football, we’d scrimmage and struggle to make a first down against our defense. We knew we were in trouble before the season started. We went into it saying we had to slow it down, snap the ball with one second. It’s third-and-8, we’re going to run the ball and punt it.

BRANDON CHUBB, Wake Forest LB, 2012-15: Fans want a shootout and touchdowns and exciting plays, and I understand that, but being in the state that Wake Forest was at the time — rebuilding with new coaches and a lot of young players — it was kind of a testament to the defensive staff.

GOREN: That was probably the worst offense I’ve seen in my life.

2 Related

CLAWSON: We didn’t have a quarterback. The two quarterbacks we inherited transferred to lower levels and neither played quarterback at that level. One guy, Kevin Souza, went to Winston-Salem State and they made him a receiver. The other guy [Tyler Cameron] became The Bachelor. [Cameron was a contestant on “The Bachelor” in 2019.]

John Wolford came in and as a true freshman won the QB job with no competition.

BEAMER: I just remember we didn’t have exceptional talent. Michael [Brewer] was a very solid quarterback, very accurate thrower. We just had an average team on offense at the time.

DAVE ARCHER, Raycom color analyst: Virginia Tech was loaded at receiver with Cam Phillips and Isaiah Ford and Bucky Hodges. They started the year beating Ohio State at Ohio State, lit them up.

ROTH: I talk about that Ohio State game a lot — that might have been Frank’s greatest win with the team he had.

That 2014 Ohio State team was dogged throughout the season for the loss to a mediocre Virginia Tech team in Week 2, but it squeezed into the first College Football Playoff as the No. 4 seed, upset Alabama and then beat Oregon for a national championship.

CLAWSON: By the transitive property, we were the de facto national champions.

MATT JAMES, Wake Forest WR, 2010-14: We should get a plaque or something for that. Amongst ourselves, that’s something we talked about. But it goes to show any given Saturday you can win a football game.

CAM SERIGNE, Wake Forest TE, 2013-17: You best believe we were talking about that in the locker room. That’s all we had at that point.

Wake Forest’s motorcycle mishap an ominous start

Before Wake Forest home games, the Demon Deacons mascot rides a motorcycle across the field to get the fans excited for kickoff. Before the 2014 game against Virginia Tech, the motorcycle refused to start.

HOUSTON CLARK, Wake Forest mascot, Class of 2015: Sometimes that would happen. There’s two we use. This was the main one. I was like, “I’m not a motorcycle guy,” so I couldn’t help. It’s awkward because that’s a big part of what we do. But it played into the game itself because it was just not a very exciting game.

ANTONIO FORD, Wake Forest OL, 2010-14: I remember looking at ESPN and you guys said it was probably one of the worst games in college history.

BUD FOSTER, Virginia Tech defensive coordinator: I’ve tried to forget about as many of those tough losses as I can, but some of those games tend to stick with you.

“We put offensive football back 100 years.”

Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson

LAUREN BROWNLOW, ACC commentator for WRAL-TV: I’ve watched a lot of bad games over the years, but I don’t think I can think of another one that compares to this in just how perfectly bad it was. It was amazingly terrible in every way, so to me, it’s still a work of art.

A.J. HUGHES, Virginia Tech punter, 2012-15: That just wasn’t a fun game. Nothing went our way, but then they’d miss a field goal, and then we couldn’t convert a third down and here we are punting again. I played every game for four years, and that one is probably one of the worst.

The first nine drives of the game included eight punts and a Wake Forest interception, but the Deacons finally sustained a drive — seven plays, 31 yards — that got them into field goal range. Wake Forest’s Mike Weaver was a redshirt freshman kicker. He came on to attempt a 42-yarder. It was the first of four kicks he would miss in regulation.

RYAN JANVION, Wake Forest safety, 2012-16: Weaver was hurt when he first came into college, and we didn’t really believe he was hurt. He was terrible. He was missing extra points. He’d gotten a scholarship off a video. So naturally we were skeptical. Did you just finesse your way into a scholarship at Wake Forest off a YouTube video? But he ended up being an amazing kicker.

MIKE WEAVER, Wake Forest kicker, 2013-17: It was kind of raining beforehand, so I just had to do my job and stay calm. I’d never kicked in rain before. I knew the ball would be wet so the hold had to be good, but I just had to do the same thing. I was kicking well in warm-ups and I was confident.

SERIGNE: Brutal. I just remember we got in the red zone 100 different times and came away with nothing. Did we kick 10 field goals that day?

JAMES: When Mike missed the first kick, it was uncharacteristic. He misses the second kick, and I’ve dropped multiple balls in a game before, so I know how it is. You’ve just got to show him love and know they’ll come around. Then he missed the third kick.

Mike Weaver missed four kicks in regulation, but made up for it with two makes in OT and double overtime. Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY Sports

WEAVER: Clawson said, “I know some coaches would bench you, but we’re sticking with you through this. We’re confident in you and we know you can make these kicks.”

ROTH: You go back to the studio for halftime highlights and there weren’t any. It was a sponsored segment, and I remember our producer saying, “We need a highlight.” And I was like, “Here’s a fabulous high, spiral punt sailing through the sky, and look at the remarkable poise on that fair catch!”

CHUBB: [Wake Forest defensive coordinator Mike Elko] at halftime was saying, “If they don’t score, they can’t win,” and we took it literally.

FOSTER: We just felt like there’s no way they can win if they can’t score. The problem was we weren’t scoring either.

MICHAEL BREWER, Virginia Tech QB, 2014-15: Wake Forest had a really good game plan defensively. They had several blitzes dialed up, and we were changing protections, and every time, they’d know exactly what the protection was. They did a great job of scouting us. And it was just a really weird football game.

“The thing that stands out is that nothing stands out.”

Dave Goren, Wake Forest sideline reporter

KEN EKANEM, Virginia Tech DE, 2013-16: I was on punt team too. It got to a point where you wouldn’t even take off your helmet. I was pretty much on call the whole time.

ROTH: By the middle of the third quarter, it became almost comical because no one could score. It was maddening. The teams would get in range and then turn it over. It’s like if you went to a concert and the band just warmed up for two hours.

JOEY SLYE, Virginia Tech kicker, 2014-17: I remember just watching the game from the sideline thinking, “I feel like we scored.” But we never did.

EKANEM: It seemed like every time we watched the offense go on the field, there was some mishap. It was mind-boggling.

A second half to forget

The second half was a flurry of ineptitude. Weaver missed a 42-yard field goal, but Virginia Tech was offside. He followed it up by missing a 37-yarder on his second try. Virginia Tech drove close to the Wake Forest red zone and fumbled, and then Brewer threw an interception on the Hokies’ next possession. Finally, Weaver had a shot to win it in the final seconds, lining up for a 37-yard kick.

WEAVER: Our stadium, you never really had to play the wind, no matter how windy it was. I’d always tell my punter, the wind is so bad today, but every time I tried to play the wind, I’d either push it or pull it, so I just went down the center. Even in warm-ups, I was just down the center and the ball was going right where I wanted them to. So the first two, I went right down the middle and pulled them both left.

play

0:39

Mike Weaver 37 yd FG MISSED

For the game winner, I was on the left hash, and I was playing the wind. I was like, “I have to obviously aim for the right upright because the wind is still pulling left.” So I did that, but the wind had no effect and I pushed it wide right.

ROTH: People were crying tears of joy because Wake had gotten into field goal range at the end of regulation to put us all out of our misery. And then Weaver misses.

Frank Beamer’s lasting image

If there is a lasting legacy of the game, it’s the image broadcast on Raycom’s feed going into a commercial break after Weaver’s miss. The score flashed on the screen beneath Beamer, arms aloft in a state of sheer joy.

BEAMER: Well, we didn’t lose. We still had a chance to win.

EKANEM: That picture should just be embroidered onto that game.

Raycom Sports

SERIGNE: That meme of Beamer celebrating cracks me up every time I see it. That was 0-0 and funny, but man it felt pretty great to us. I see it all the time. I laugh. The context for people — everyone else remembers that being an awful game and laugh, but I’m like, dude, I remember that being a great day.

CHUBB: Frank Beamer is a legendary coach. To see the joy and excitement of a legendary coach who you think so highly of, celebrating 0-0 going into overtime — it speaks volumes of how that game was played.

Overtime wasn’t much better

In two overtime periods, Wake and Virginia Tech combined to run 18 plays that totaled nine yards. Slye and Weaver traded field goals in the first OT, and Virginia Tech got the ball to start the second period.

SLYE: Brewer got sacked. Instead of throwing the ball, we took a big sack, which pushed the kick back to 53.

BREWER: Yeah. I don’t have a whole lot to say about that play. That’s still a tough one.

SLYE: Back then, I could hit from 60. I was hitting from 55 or 60 during warmups. I remember, though, a lot of my field goals that year I was pulling left.

HUGHES: Joey has a huge leg. The distance was never a question. It was definitely windy, but I always thought he could kick through any bit of wind. We had the confidence in him.

WEAVER: It was a deep one and he had the leg on it, but he pulled it left. I’m sure he tried to judge the wind too.

Right now, yes, I feel bad for any kicker. But during the game, absolutely not. I was ecstatic. Looking back I feel bad because he had the leg on it, but during the game, no.

Wake’s final drive went for 4 yards, leaving Weaver with one more try from 39 yards out to win it.

WEAVER: I didn’t really believe it. I stood there and watched it go through. It hadn’t registered with me yet that it was good. But my punter jumped up as soon as I hit it.

play

1:55

Mike Weaver 39 Yd Field Goal

CLARK: I watched the video of it the other day. At the end of it, another one of my mascot friends was in the background, jumping up and down as the field goal went through. It’s fun to think back that, there he is going nuts.

GOREN: I had Mike Weaver on postgame. Typically, if you ask me five years later what player you had on after the game, I wouldn’t remember. But I definitely remembered Mike. We talked about redemption. I remember he had a smile on his face. As much as probably any player I’ve covered in my career, certainly in my 31 Wake teams I’ve covered, he was as hard on himself as anyone I can remember. And after he got done with me, he was probably still ticked at himself for the three he missed.

ROTH: We talked with Bud after the game, and he was like, “What the f— are we supposed to do?” Bud was really upset because he thought they had a really good game plan. Harvey Haddix once threw a no-hitter, but the Pirates lost and he never got credit for it.

FOSTER: If you’d have told us at that hotel that morning that we’d only give up six points, I would have taken it. You hang around this game long enough and you’ll see just about everything. I just wish I could unsee that final score.

JANVION: It was incredible. People were taking pictures. We dumped the cooler on the coach. Clawson basically said, “Yeah, we all know it was messy, but we did it, so friggin’ enjoy it.” That’s one thing I think he did a great job of is celebrating the small victories.

CHUBB: I remember posting on my Instagram us celebrating in the locker room, and I actually deleted it later that night. I was like, damn, I’m celebrating a 6-3 win on a 3-7 team. All my friends at Georgia Tech and South Carolina are laughing. But we celebrated like a bowl win. Emotions were high.

Remembering the ‘Wakeyleaks’ scandal

Of the myriad twists and turns and ugliness of the game, one of the darkest details didn’t emerge until two years later, when Wake Forest found one of its play sheets left on the field after Louisville’s practice. An investigation uncovered that a Wake broadcaster and former assistant coach had been providing opposing coaches with the Deacons’ game plan. An assistant at Virginia Tech was among those provided with details.

CLAWSON: You look at the film, and you present some things you haven’t presented before, and they’re calling them out. We just thought they’d stolen signals. After the game, you’re having all these internal debates about trying to signal different, people are getting this. Then you find out later it was something else. Those things were tough to stomach a year later.

JAMES: I just felt bad for our staff because you know how hard they work and the time they spend away from their family. That’s a low blow. I feel bad for Clawson, and you wonder what it would look like if everything had been even.

GOREN: I’ve not seen or heard what, if anything, they used in that game. But you’ll always ask that question. But the amazing thing is that Wake was able to win the game despite that.

BROWNLOW: I think it enhances the game that they knew what was going to happen and still couldn’t win. And the thing is, that line was so bad, you didn’t need to know.

A lasting legacy

Beamer retired after the 2015 season, and Ford, Phillips and Hodges were part of an explosive offense that returned the Hokies to the ACC championship game a year later. Wake’s early struggles under Clawson paid long-term dividends too. The Deacons have clinched a fourth consecutive bowl berth this season. The 6-3 double-OT game certainly wasn’t the turning point for either program, but it’s a game that has stuck with the players, coaches and fans who were involved.

FORD: I don’t really think about it until my wife brings it up. She was in the band, so she saw that game. She’ll be like, “Remember when you guys didn’t score on Virginia Tech?”

BEAMER: People say it wasn’t good, but the defense was really good, and the kicking game did make some plays. We’ve been in those types of games before and we won a lot of them.

“I just wish I could unsee that final score.”

Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster

BREWER: Games like that, it leaves a bitter taste all these years later because you feel like nine out of 10 times — 10 out of 10 times — you feel like you’d win. And we found a way to lose that day.

CLAWSON: Wolford got better but the story is how much better we got around him. It gave us a unique opportunity on offense to grow the thing from the ground up. We weren’t losing pieces every year. There was a large portion of those guys that got to play together for three or four years. It was a negative when we got here but it ended up a positive.

SERIGNE: As you’re building that culture and you’re in that time where you’ve worked so hard and grinding so hard and not seeing the results — that little glimpse, even if it was a 6-3 sloppy win, you get that feeling of a win and it’s addicting and you want to find a way to get back and get more of those. We kept trying to build off that.

CLARK: I feel like it plays into the bigger story of being a Wake fan. It’s that thing where we’re just going for a big upset, and we don’t really care how we get it. At multiple times we blew it, and somehow we’re still in it. It’s bad for the playbook or the stats, but hey, we’ll take it.

Read this article from its source at http://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/28020617/that-was-tragicomedy-looking-back-wake-forest-6-3-win-virginia-tech-five-years-later