Wake Forest Demon Deacons quarterback Sam Hartman (10) is pressured in the pocket during the second quarter Friday, Dec. 31, 2021 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. The Wake Forest Demon Deacons and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights faced each other in the 2021 TaxSlayer Gator Bowl. [Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union]

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No. 17 Wake Forest pulls away from Rutgers in 38-10 Gator Bowl win

Sam Hartman passed for 304 yards and three touchdowns as No. 17 Wake Forest dominated the final two and a half quarters on the way to an easy 38-10 win over Rutgers on Friday afternoon in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla.

The victory allowed the Demon Deacons (11-3) to match their most wins in a single season, last achieved in 2006.

Ten of Hartman’s passes were caught by A.T. Perry for 127 yards. The Demon Deacons outgained Rutgers 452 to 271 yards and outrushed the Scarlet Knights 148 to 106.

Noah Vedral led Rutgers (5-8) with 87 yards passing before being replaced at quarterback by Gavin Wimsatt. Five players threw passes for the Scarlet Knights in the loss.

Wake Forest was set to play No. 25 Texas A&M in the bowl game, but the Aggies pulled out of the contest on Dec. 22 because a combination of season-ending injuries and COVID-19 within the program. Rutgers was chosen to fill the vacancy because it had the highest academic progress rate score among the nation’s teams with 5-7 records.

The Scarlet Knights are the bowl team that entered the postseason with a losing record.

The Demon Deacons took the opening kickoff and drove 84 yards in nine plays, culminating with Hartman’s 4-yard TD pass to Brandon Chapman. Rutgers responded on its initial possession and tied the score on Aaron Young’s 12-yard scoring run at the 5:11 mark of the first quarter.

Hartman immediately marched Wake Forest back into the lead, hitting Perry for a 29-yard catch-and-run touchdown. The Scarlet Knights cut their deficit to 14-10 via Valentino Ambrosio’s 28-yard field goal three minutes into the second quarter.

Nick Sciba added to the Demon Deacons’ lead with field goals from 37 and 29 yards — the latter on the final snap of the first half — and then a 23-yarder with 6:37 to play in the third quarter.

Hartman found Chapman again with a 1-yard TD pass early in the fourth quarter. Justice Ellison then capped the scoring with a 27-yard touchdown run with 4:15 remaining.

–Field Level Media

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