College football: Wake Forest hoping to end season on high note tonight in Gasparilla Bowl
Published 12:00 am Friday, December 23, 2022
By Mark Didtler
TAMPA, Fla. — Wake Forest and Missouri, coming off regular seasons full of close losses, look to end the year on a winning note in the Gasparilla Bowl tonight.
Wake Forest (7-5) lost three games by six points or fewer points. Missouri (6-6) came up short by seven points or less four times, including a 26-22 loss to No. 1 Georgia.
“They’re kicking themselves the same way we are, saying with a little better execution in the fourth quarter, these can be two 10-win teams meeting in a New Year’s Six Bowl,” Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said. “They played Georgia better than anyone this year.”
Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman is expected to close out his Demon Deacons career before entering the NFL draft or the transfer portal.
“Sam’s a guy that’s going to finish what he started,” Clawson said. “Sam’s been nothing but a standup person for us, and has performed at a high level and done everything right. Whatever opportunities he has, he’s earned.”
Hartman is tied with Clemson’s Tajh Boyd (2010-13) for the Atlantic Coast Conference career passing touchdowns record with 107. He also needs 313 yards passing to join North Carolina State’s Philip Rivers (13,484, 2000-03) as the only quarterbacks in ACC history to reach 13,000 yards.
“It’ll be a great challenge,” Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz said.
Hartman passed for 3,421 yards and 35 touchdowns this season with 11 interceptions.
The Missouri defense will be without defensive ends Isaiah McGuire and DJ Coleman, and safety Martez Manuel. They all opted out of the bowl to prepare for the NFL draft.
Tigers quarterback Brady Cook completed 218 of 334 passes for 2,504 yards and 13 touchdowns with seven interceptions.
Cook will be missing one of his key targets, with wide receiver Dominic Lovett sitting out after entering the transfer portal. He led the Tigers with 56 receptions and 846 yards.
Missouri won its final two games following a 66-24 loss to Tennessee. Wake Forest ended the regular season dropping four of five.
MAKING THE CALLS
Drinkwitz has taken over offensive play-calling again with quarterbacks coach Bush Hamdan leaving to become Boise State’s offensive coordinator.
Hamdan handled the duty over the final few weeks of the regular season.
“Yeah, I love it and I’m excited to be back,” Drinkwitz said. “The game plan really didn’t change a whole lot, just go back to running it and calling it, and see what Friday looks like.”
Wake Forest will be without running back Christian Turner and defensive end Jacorey Johns, who both entered the transfer portal.
NO JOY RIDE
One of the team activities during bowl week was a trip to Tampa’s Busch Gardens, known for its roller coasters.
Clawson went on a couple with his son, Eric. The rides included the “Iron Gwzai” that plunges from a height of 206 feet into a 91-degree drop and reaches a top speed of 76 mph.
“My wife just laughed at me when I got off of it because I was dizzy, and my stomach did not feel good,” Clawson said.
FACTS & FIGURES
Wake Forest is averaging 36.8 points. It’s the only program in the ACC to average at least 30 in each of the last six seasons. … Missouri’s defense is allowing an average of 25 points. … WR Dominic Lovett, who led Missouri with 56 receptions and 846 yards, won’t play after entering the transfer portal. DEs Isaiah McGuire and DJ Coleman and S Martez Manuel all opted out of the bowl to prepare for the NFL draft. … Wake Forest WR A.T. Perry has a school-best 28 career TD receptions. He is one away from tying for fourth-most in ACC history.
Gasparilla Bowl: Wake Forest (7-5) vs. Missouri (6-6), today 6:30 p.m. (ESPN)
FANDUEL SPORTSBOOK COLLEGE LINE: Wake Forest by 1 1/2.
Series record: First meeting.
Wake Forest: LB Ryan Smenda Jr. had 106 tackles in 11 games this year. His 344 career tackles are the 14th most in the ACC since 2005.
Missouri: QB Brady Cook completed 218 of 334 passes for 2,509 yards. He has 13 touchdown passes and seven interceptions.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/ap_top25. Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter: https://tinyurl.com/mrxhe6f2