WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — Mitch Griffis threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns in his first career start and Christian Turner and Taylor Morin added spectacular individual efforts on scores, helping No. 22 Wake Forest beat VMI 44-10 on Thursday night in the opener for both teams.
Griffis started with veteran Sam Hartman sidelined indefinitely by a non-football medical issue. Hartman — who guided the Demon Deacons to last year’s Atlantic Coast Conference championship game — was on the sideline in his black jersey, black shorts and a black cap to watch his understudy lead an easy win against a Championship Subdivision opponent.
Griffis’ first TD throw was a perfect ball while moving to his right, with Morin diving just inside the right end-zone sideline for the 23-yard score and a 17-0 first-quarter lead.
Turner had preceded that with his own highlight-reel TD. He appeared headed for a modest gain when he was wobbled by a hit from Aljareek Malry in a crowd near the middle of the field. But Turner extended his left hand into the grass to stay on his feet, then popped free on the left side for a 35-yard TD.
Both scores stood after replay reviews.
Turner ran for 100 yards and two scores in the game to lead the Demon Deacons, who had 506 total yards but also committed seven penalties for 70 yards.
VMI, from the Southern Conference, sought its first win against a nationally ranked opponent from the Bowl Subdivision ranks. Its lone offensive highlight was Grant Swinehart taking a pass from backup QB Collin Ironside and sprinting down the right side for a 34-yard touchdown — though that came with Wake Forest leading 30-3 late in the third.
VMI: Led by eighth-year coach Scott Wachenheim, the Keydets are coming off their first back-to-back winning seasons since 1961-62. They were trying to earn their first season-opening road win since 2002. They finished with 222 total yards, never reached the red zone and couldn’t stop the run.
Wake Forest: The offense moved fine without Hartman, though this was hardly a clean performance. Notably, there were three holding penalties during two second-quarter drives, two to force a punt and one to wipe out an easy touchdown and force Wake Forest to settle for a field goal. There was another to negate Griffis’ 2-point keeper late in the third, irking ninth-year coach Dave Clawson enough that he kicked at the turf in frustration, even with a big lead.
Wake Forest is unlikely to move much in the next AP Top 25 after facing little drama in beating an FCS foe.
VMI: The Keydets host Bucknell in their home opener next Saturday.
Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons have a road game against a power-conference opponent, visiting Vanderbilt of the Southeastern Conference next Saturday.
Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at https://twitter.com/aaronbeardap
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25