Former Dutch Fork star Matt Colburn and Wake Forest are already bowl eligible, sitting at 6-4 entering Saturday’s game against No. 3 Clemson.
The Demon Deacons have surpassed the preseason expectations of many and have a chance to pull off an even bigger surprise with a win over the Tigers this weekend.
“It’s a really exciting game for me playing against a team from my home state,” Colburn told The State this week. “We’re really excited being the ESPN national game at 7 p.m. when everybody’s watching. We’re excited to show what we’ve got to the world.”
Wake Forest is 4-1 at home, including 2-0 in home ACC games and playing with confidence entering its toughest test of the season.
Colburn said the mood around Winston-Salem is one of excitement as the Demon Deacons have their most wins in a season since going 6-7 in 2011.
“It’s awesome. Everybody’s behind us. Everybody’s supporting us. We feel like we’re slowly but surely building the culture around here. We’re starting to build confidence,” Colburn said. “Guys are becoming more encouraged to do their best and put in a little more, whether it be in the weight room, watching film or getting with the coach after practice. It’s a really good feeling. Things are changing.”
Colburn, a sophomore, has taken a big step forward with his play in 2016. He rushed for 239 yards and a touchdown as a freshman but already has 490 rushing yards this season. He has also caught 11 passes for 118 yards.
Colburn had back-to-back 100-yard games in September, rushing for 118 against Delaware and 103 at Indiana. His season-high in a game in 2015 was 51 yards against Florida State.
“Last year I realized how hard it is to have a 100-yard rushing game. It really was just a testament to how far I’ve come,” he said. “It showed me what hard work and sacrifice and determination really means. It definitely was a confidence booster.”
Colburn also feels that he has improved in other areas of his game. He leads Wake Forest in rushing attempts and rushing yards and believes he is becoming a complete running back as far as pass blocking and reading defenses in addition to carrying the ball.
He also says he is a more patient player and not as antsy as he was as a freshman.
“Last year was a learning experience playing as a freshman. I kind of learned on the run. As I was playing I was learning the play book and all of that good stuff, transitioning from high school to college,” Colburn said. “I think as spring went along and summer ball went along I picked everything up and smoothed out the edges. I’m feeling really confident in the player I’m becoming.”
Colburn would love nothing more than to lead Wake Forest to a win over Clemson, but he is well aware that doing so will not be easy.
The Demon Deacons hung tough with Louisville for three quarters last weekend before the Cardinals pulled away for a 44-12 victory. Wake will have Clemson’s full attention on Saturday as the Tigers can clinch the ACC Atlantic Division with a win.
Clemson is also eying a spot in the College Football Playoff.
“We’re just going to have to execute the offense. Everybody’s going to have to be very sound,” Colburn said of what it will take to win. “They’ve got some really good guys on their defense… We’re just going to have to execute. That’s what our problem was last week. We just didn’t execute like we should’ve. I think it’s just a matter of executing and believing and we’ll be able to put ourselves in the best situation to win.”
Who: Clemson at Wake Forest
When: 7 p.m., Saturday
Where: BB&T Field, Winston-Salem, N.C.
Radio: 93.1 FM
Line: Clemson by 22 1/2