DURHAM, N.C. — It turned out the “other” quarterback emerged from the Wake Forest-Duke ACC opener at Wallace Wade Stadium. The Durham Kid.
Wake Forest’s Kendall Hinton, the hometown kid who left Southern Durham High to play 80 miles down I-40 in Winston-Salem, returned home to rally the Demon Deacons (2-0, 1-0 ACC Atlantic) to a surprising 24-14 victory Saturday over the favored Blue Devils (1-1, 0-1 ACC Coastal).
Wake Forest Coach Dave Clawson’s plan to play alternating quarterbacks — with John Wolford the starter and Hinton the backup — gave the “other” quarterback double-meaning on this day.
First, the pregame attention had focused on Duke redshirt freshman Daniel Jones’ strong rookie debut last week. The thought was growing that the season-ending loss of senior QB Thomas Sirk might not be so devastating, after all.
However, the game-day focus shifted when Hinton took over the slow-starting Demon Deacons and drove them six plays and 85 yards to tie the score at halftime, 7-7.
“Some of the things we planned to do with John I didn’t think we were getting open,” Clawson said. “We weren’t throwing the ball with the efficiency I wanted. If that’s not going to happen, Kendall is a guy that can make plays with his feet. I felt we needed a spark and I thought he could make explosive plays.”
After the tying TD with on Cade Carney’s 7-yard run with 6:58 left in the second quarter, Clawson said he made the decision to let him finish the period. At halftime, he told him the game was his to win.
“That takes pressure off you knowing any little mistake and you’re not coming out,” Hinton said “You can loosen up and play ball.”
Hinton finished with 196 total yards. He was 6-of-11 passing for 133 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. He ran 11 times for 63 yards.
His big plays made the difference. On the first scoring drive, he had a run of 32 yards to the 50-yard line. Midway through the fourth quarter with the Demon Deacons clinging to a 21-14 lead, Hinton connected with sophomore Alex Bachman for a 62-yard gain.
“He laced that one in there,” Clawson said.
The 3rd-and-10 completion set up Mike Weaver’s 34-yard field goal to essentially clinch the game with 10-point lead and only 3:50 to play.
“It feels good to come into a place where a lot of fans have known you and watched you played football and have a good game,” Hinton said.
Wake Forest’s improved offensive line was one reason for Hinton’s strong play. He had time to set his feet before throwing. Wolford and Hinton were often scrambling while splitting the job in a 3-9 season last year.
“The offensive line had a great passing game and running,” Hinton said. “This was the best game the offensive line has had. I had a lot of time back there to work the pock and the receivers got open. They made plays.”
Clawson stopped short of naming Hinton the starter.
“You’ve got to ask, but for for me to get up here after a game and make a pronouncement isn’t fair to the parties involves,” Clawson said. “You can ask me again on Tuesday.”
But it’s not hard to guess Hinton is closer to earning that starting job. He has a higher ceiling with his running and passing ability. The 6-foot, 200-pounder has been labeled a runner for his athleticism, but he has a strong and accurate arm.
“He’s dual-threat guy, but Kendall can throw,” Clawson said. “He’s very athletic and he’s a smart, heady football player. He really gave us a spark.”
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