The trick for Dave Clawson a year after ending Wake Forest's bowl drought wasn't in maintaining, it was in upping the ante.
Consider the ante upped.
Essang Bassey pulled down Ryan Finley's pass deep in the end zone, securing a 30-24 win over No. 19 NC State on Saturday night. It was the Demon Deacons' first regular-season victory over a ranked opponent since 2011 and their first time they'd hit seven wins since '07.
With Duke -- which is 1-6 since its 4-0 start -- heading to Winston-Salem next Saturday, Wake Forest has a legitimate shot at a going to a second straight bowl game at 8-4 and equalling that team from 10 years ago in getting to nine wins.
This latest victory -- the first over the in-state rival in four games -- was a certifiable statement for the Deacons, who put up fights in falling to No. 2 Clemson 28-14 and then-No. 3 Notre Dame 48-37. But it was more of the same as Wake Forest entered Saturday 0-10 against Top-25 teams under Clawson in the regular-season.
Granted, they got over the Top-25 hump vs. No. 24 Temple with a 34-26 win in the Military Bowl, but they had lost those pre-December games by an average of 19.7 points.
Bassey's threat-ending pick iced it, but Wake Fortes was again fueled by a red-hot John Wolford, who threw for 247 yards and three touchdowns (the last, an 18-yarder with 8:03 to play proved the decisive points).
This was the lowest yardage output from Wolford since he threw for 176 against Appalachian State on Sept. 24, and after a 38-24 loss to Georgia Tech on Oct. 21, he's averaging 328 yards of offense with 22 total TDs.
As noted by ESPN's David Hale, Wolford is the only player in the last decade with 3,100 yards, 33 TDs and four or fewer turnovers on the season -- and in that aforementioned game against the defending champs, Wolford sat with a left shoulder injury.
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If this stood as a breakthrough for Wake Forest, it had to feel like the other shoe dropping for NC State.
Finley hit Emeka Emezie inside the 5-yard line, but he was hit by Demetrius Kemp and fumbled the potential game-winning TD at the goal line with 1:51 to play.
The Wolfpack got the ball back with 41 seconds to play, that possession ultimately ending on Finley's pick, but that fumble may have been indicative of a season.
NC State ran 94 offensive plays to Wake Forest's 56 and held the ball for 22 minutes more, but a team that opened 6-1 rose up to 14th in the week before the first College Football Playoff rankings has seen the rails come off since an Oct. 28 trip to South Bend.
Seemingly a lock to reach 10 wins for the first time post Philip Rivers' junior season of 2002, the Wolfpack are losers of three of their last four. What appeared to be defining wins over then-Nos. 12 and 17 Florida State and Louisville, respectively, have taken on very different vibes.
The Seminoles just reached four wins Saturday in beating Delaware State 77-6 and had to reschedule Louisiana Monroe for Dec. 2 in hopes of reaching bowl eligibility. Meanwhile, the Cardinals finally got to .500 in ACC play for the first time since Sept. 30 in beating Syracuse 56-10.
Season-defining victories they were not, and while Dave Doeren's crew has a shot at nine wins should they beat North Carolina next week and win their bowl, it's hard not to categorize the Wolfpack as a disappointment over the last four weeks.
Ten years after the Demon Deacons last led the state of North Carolina's ACC teams in wins, they're in the running, cushioning their record after already secured a second straight bowl berth. Wake, as the regular season reaches its climax, is most certainly woke.