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Injury-plagued Wake Forest presses on with trip to N.C. State on short week

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Wake Forest’s next-man-up mantra to approach injuries is hardly unique and has been repeated constantly throughout the season.

At this rate and with three games left, the Deacons might run out of those next men.

“Just thinking about it, for as many years as I’ve played football, I’ve never had a season like this, with this many injuries,” redshirt junior offensive lineman Nathan Gilliam said. “It’s just crazy. You can’t prepare for something like that, and that’s why you’ve just gotta be ready for anything.

“And that’s what we’re going to do.”

Freshman quarterback Sam Hartman became the latest casualty when he sustained a leg injury in the final two minutes of Saturday’s loss to Syracuse. He’s the 12th scholarship player lost for the season, and will be the 38th scholarship player to miss at least one game with an injury.

It’s adversity the Deacons haven’t had to deal with on this level since Coach Dave Clawson took over — actually, it’s a level of injuries that Clawson, in his fifth season at Wake Forest and 19th as a head coach, has never experienced.

“It’s kind of similar to other games. We play well early, and once the snap count gets up there and we’ve gotta put subs in, we get crushed,” Clawson said after Saturday’s 41-24 loss to Syracuse. “We have no depth, and when the snap counts get into the 60s in the third quarter and we start putting other guys in, it’s just, it’s patchwork.

“Now we’ve gotta go play in five more days. It is what it is.”

Wake Forest is the first ACC team since 2006 to have two instances of playing on five days of rest in the same season. The Deacons played Boston College on Sep. 13 after playing Towson on Sep. 8, and they lost to the Eagles 41-34.

The Deacons enter Thursday night’s game with Jamie Newman taking over at quarterback, and it’s unclear who will be his backup. Kendall Hinton, who’s started five games in his career at quarterback, was suspended for the first three games, sustained an ankle injury in late September and is now ailing from a hip flexor injury.

Before saying Newman — who has also dealt with injuries this season — deserved to start because he has been the backup, Clawson said this week the decision to make him Hartman’s replacement was based on his availability.

“It’s like what goes into most decisions here right now, is who’s most healthy. Jamie has got the most amount of reps, he’s the most healthy,” Clawson said. “Kendall is starting to get healthy, we hope he’s available. But Jamie was the No. 2 quarterback. Jamie deserves to start.”

The Deacons will be hard-pressed to have more players available for this game than were able to play last weekend — the nature of having two fewer days to recover. It’s something Clawson voiced his displeasure about Saturday with passion, but he was finished talking about it this week.

The Deacons’ staff, meanwhile, has tried to keep the players away from a defeated mentality because of the ever-growing list of unavailable players.

“I mean, the coaches have done a great job kind of steering us away from that idea and making sure we don’t do that,” said sophomore safety/linebacker Luke Masterson. “Because it could be easy to do that, in some circumstances. But that’s not our mentality, and we’re looking forward to next week.”

This article originally ran on journalnow.com.

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