WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — The college football season is kicking off once again — and what better way to say hello to the new year than a matchup between two schools separated by just 51 miles?

Wake Forest hosts Elon in the 2023 season opener. It’s the first time the two schools have faced off since 2019 and the 12th time in program history playing each other. 



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Wake Forest boasts a whole lot of “new” in their football program, from new turf to new LED lighting to a new stadium name. You’ll also see a lot of new faces on the highlight reels. 

The new QB1 for the Demon Deacons is Mitch Griffis — stepping in where Sam Hartman left a hole after transferring to Notre Dame.

The Deacs averaged 36.8 points per game last year and hope to continue that with 11 new starters. While they may have new roles as first-stringers, they’re not new to the program. Many of the starters are juniors or seniors, bringing in age to balance out their gameday inexperience.

With Dave Clawson entering his tenth year leading Wake Forest, the expectations are high, and that starts from the very first snap. Wake Forest knows that Elon sports some serious talent, and they’re treating the Phoenix the same as they would any other opponent, knowing that they’ll be getting everything Elon has to offer.

“This is their Super Bowl,” Coach Clawson said. “This is their chance to play at a level they probably felt they belonged at. If you went back and watched their Vanderbilt game a year ago they certainly played those guys very tough. This is certainly a step up in terms of the talent level that we faced a year ago in our opener.”

As far as Elon, don’t count them out just because they’re an FCS team. The Phoenix have a new quarterback, Matthew Downing, who also played at Georgia, TCU and Louisiana Tech.

Tie that in with a power offense who scored at least 20 points in 10 of their 11 games last year, and this Elon offense is one that isn’t going to mess around. They know that it will be a challenge, but they’re ready to give it their all.

“For us to win this football game we’ve got to go in there swinging the bat. We’re not looking for a walk. We’ve got to play harder for longer than them,” Elon head coach Tony Trisciana said. “They’ve got really good football players, so do we. They’re going to be bigger and stronger at certain spots. We’re going to go out and beat them they’re not going to beat themselves. We’ve got to play harder for longer and try to hang around in this game. The longer we hang around, it gets into the third and fourth quarter, all the pressure’s on them.”

Kickoff between Elon and Wake Forest is set for 7 p.m. on Thursday night. You can catch the game on ACC Network.