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Jamie Newman Breathes Life Into Wake Forest

By Jim Johnson
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After losing Sam Hartman for the season, Jamie Newman came in and revitalized Wake Forest's postseason aspirations.

That’s not what was supposed to happen. Prior to Wake Forest’s come-from-behind 27-23 upset at NC State, S&P+ gave the Demon Deacons about a 22% chance to win while ESPN’s FPI had it around 16%.

Factor in the loss of starting quarterback Sam Hartman for the season with a short week, leaving little time for replacement Jamie Newman to prepare, and there was no way, on paper, that Dave Clawson and company would leave the 14th ranked team in the nation’s house victorious.

That’s why they play the games.

Newman came out slow, flat footed and seemingly lacking in the pocket presence department, leading the offense to all of zero points on the first three drives, which included a turnover on downs and a three and out.

They finally tied together a few consecutive chain movers in the second quarter, but a holding call in Wolfpack territory put them behind the sticks. They eventually got back to around the original line of scrimmage, and a Nick Sciba field goal from 47 yards saw them finally get on the board.

Another short-lived drive and a couple of clock kills to end a sluggish first half watched the home team take a two score lead into the locker room.

Then, it was like a flip switched. Newman, making their opponents play 11 on 11, adding an element to the offense that his predecessor simply can not, led a ten play scoring drive with both his arm and his legs to pull within a score of the heavily favored Pack.

Two drives later, he dimed up Sage Surratt for a 43-yard gain on third and long, and then found Alex Bachman on the very next play for a 38 yard score.

NC State came right back with a touchdown of their own, extending the lead back to ten, but another two drives later Newman once more utilized his dual threat ability to keep the ‘Deacs ahead of schedule, before ultimately hitting Greg Dortch on a perfectly executed playcall for six.

Again on third down, Dortch lined up in the slot against man coverage from NC State. Dortch ran wheel route down the sideline and was freed up by a little pick from Surratt that forced his defender to come underneath. Newman dropped the ball with just the right amount of touch to the playmaking receiver, and Wake was back within a field goal, late in the fourth quarter.

A big fourth down stop on Ryan Finley and company’s ensuing possession gave Newman the ball back on his own 20-yard line with under two minutes to play. Bear in mind, this is an NC State group that ranked 28th in the country in points per long drive allowed entering the contest.

No matter, Newman went 5/8 for the necessary 80 yards to score and all but win the ball game.

Finley’s Hail Mary a few snaps later was intercepted and the upset was complete.

It was an incredible debut start for Newman, not only because of the outcome, or even the basic box score stat line, rather the way in which those results were achieved.

With all due respect to Sam Hartman, Newman was making throws that just flat-out had not been seen in Winston-Salem all year. All three touchdowns, as well as a couple of strikes to Surratt were the sort of thing one would normally find on an NFL highlight reel.

Coupled with his ability as a runner, Dave Clawson now has some questions to answer that no one would have ever expected to be asking just a few hours ago. Hartman is far from a finished product and with time could certainly develop the consistency that escaped him for much of the season.

Although, the same could be said for Newman. With still plenty to be desired in the way of general awareness and how he maneuvers the pocket, Newman nonetheless managed to put together one of the most impressive second half showings of any ACC signal caller this season, and completely revitalized Wake Forest’s postseason aspirations.

It would be premature to immediately slate Newman as the day one starter in 2019, but there is now, at least, a debate where there once was none.

Those, however, are problems for another day. For now, Jamie Newman is the uncontested starter, and with him at the helm, there is new life in this program.

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP