WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WDRB) – This wasn’t just a football loss. It was retribution. I don’t care what Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson says. After his team’s 42-32 win over Louisville on Saturday, WDRB’s Mike Lacett got him on the field for an interview, which he opened with the words, “After what happened last year . . . “

He didn’t get any further. Clawson cut him off, said, “No, that’s wrong.” And he walked off.

You don’t have to say it. Nobody had to say it. Louisville got some Wake Forest plays from a former assistant coach-turned radio analyst last year. Afterward, Clawson protested, schools investigated, three schools were found guilty of transgressions. Louisville suspended offensive coordinator Lonnie Galloway for a bowl game and paid a $25,000 fine to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

But on Saturday, Wake Forest exacted its pound of flesh.

With less than a minute to play and a 10-point lead and a chance to run the game out on second down, Clawson called a play-action pass and stuck a 44-yard TD pass into the end zone.

It was, forgive me, a page right out of Bobby Petrino’s playbook. A year ago, the Cardinals put together a 4-play, 52 yard scoring drive in the final 1:36 for some style points in a 44-12 win over Wake Forest.

Louisville managed one more score, making the score a respectable 42-32, but it was Wake Forest that walked off the field with respect, with 625 yards of total offense, five yards from the school record.

“If we knew that,” Clawson said, “we’d have run a reverse” on the game’s final play, instead of taking a knee.

You say what you want. This was a game won by righteous rage. Wake Forest looked focused, motivated and determined. It cruised 91 yards in 10 plays on its opening drive. Pinned back at its own 9, Wake’s first play of the game was to throw deep against freshman cornerback Russ Yeast, playing for the injured Jaire Alexander, for a 47-yard completion. Wake senior John Wolford went after Yeast on four of his first five passes in the drive. He was 5-for-5 for 87 yards and ran it in for a touchdown.

Less than two minutes into the second quarter, Wake led 21-3. It was 28-10 at half, and 35-10 before the second half was five minutes old.  It would’ve been worse had Wake Forest not fumbled a touchdown out of the end zone for a touchback on its first drive of the second half. As it was, Wake scored on its second drive of the half.

The Cardinal defense couldn’t stop anything. The Louisville running backs couldn’t shake free against a tough Wake Forest defensive line. A trio of running backs carried 13 times for 24 yards.

Another indignity: Matt Colburn, a Wake Forest senior, committed to Louisville five years ago, and for eight months looked forward to becoming a Cardinal. A couple of days before signing day, Petrino told him he wanted him to grayshirt, meaning he wouldn’t get a scholarship for the first semester, and would join the team in the spring. Colburn felt betrayed. At the last minute, he was looking for a college.

Wake Forest took him. For three years, Colburn has been on the wrong end of scores against the school he originally committed to.

On Saturday, with Louisville unable to find a go-to running back, Colburn carried 24 times for 134 yards.

“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” Colburn told the Winston-Salem Journal after the game. "God is good and his timing is impeccable.”

Colburn kept working and had faith.

Right now, the Louisville defense has lost it. The 625 yards given up on Saturday were the sixth-most for an opponent in Louisville football history, and most given up by the Cardinals since 1968.

Louisville is giving up 410 yards per game, the most since 2007 (416.5 yards per game).

The Cardinals looked lost against Wake Forest’s no-huddle offense, and afterward G.G. Robinson admitted the Cards probably weren’t prepared to handle it well. Petrino hinted as much himself.

“It was a bad start for us defensively,” Petrino said. “We gave up too many big plays. We didn’t put any pressure on the quarterback. . . . We have to keep working. We need to keep working on tackling and fundamentals. We need to understand what’s going on out there. We do have some freshmen in the secondary that were out there today. Credit to Wake Forest and its ability to attack them. We have to come back and play with more energy and more fire. I wish we had better understood the tempo they played and been lined up better.”

When you’re talking about being lined up better and not understanding things in Week No. 9, it’s an indictment of the coaching staff as much as the players. But when asked if he plans any moves with the staff before the end of the season, Petrino said, “No. We’re all in this together.”

Where they are all headed, it’s difficult to say. Three games remain. None is a given, if you field a defense that can be carved apart by any quarterback with a reasonable degree of accuracy.

If Louisville were jumping on teams early in games and putting pressure on the opposing offense, it would be one thing. It isn’t. While the offense is putting up good numbers, it also has failed to deliver in key situations.

This should be said: Any team with Lamar Jackson always has a chance to come back, no matter what the score or time of game. Jackson passed for 330 yards and ran for 161 on Saturday. He became the fourth player in NCAA history to run for 3,000 yards and pass for 8,000 in a career.

He wasn’t perfect. He threw an interception in the end zone.

“Just trying to make a play,” he said. “I should have just run it and gotten a first down.”

The Cards got inside the Wake Forest 10-yard line twice and failed to come away with points. Cashing in on those trips makes it a different game.

But the offense shouldn’t have to be perfect.

The best college football player in the program’s history deserves better than this.

Receiver Seth Dawkins, asked for his take on the team’s troubles, said, “Not everybody is accountable. We wait for other people to make plays sometimes. You’ve got to make them yourself. That and we lack a little bit of leadership.”

Asked if that could be fixed in the final three games, Dawkins didn’t resort to happy talk. His answer: “I don’t know.”

Uncertainty, it seems, permeates this program that has lost six of the nine games it has played against Power 5 teams since beating Wake Forest in that fateful win a year ago.

And uncertainty is no match for righteous rage.

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