The wins didn't come very often during Dave Clawson's first season at Wake Forest.

He hopes the foundation was set for success in 2015 and beyond.

The Demon Deacons finished 3-9, went 1-7 in the Atlantic Coast Conference and ended with a 41-21 loss to rival Duke.

Clawson said a priority during Year 1 was "to get the locker room right, and you want to establish the fact that we're going to play hard."

The results weren't what Wake Forest wanted, but Clawson says the effort was there in 11 of 12 games.

Clawson spent all season citing the need to establish a running game that could take pressure off freshman quarterback John Wolford.

Wake Forest's young line allowed 48 sacks this season — the most in the Bowl Subdivision.

The Demon Deacons — the consensus last-place preseason pick in the ACC's Atlantic Division — ended the year with the nation's least productive offense, averaging 216 total yards.

But in a sign of progress, they spent virtually the entire season as the nation's worst rushing offense — only to creep out of the cellar with 64 yards on the ground against Duke.

That pushed their per-game average to 39.9 yards — about one-tenth of a yard better than Washington State.

That made it tough for Wolford, and the lasting images from this season might be the freshman QB repeatedly running for his life. When he was protected, he made things happen: He closed his freshman year with his first three-touchdown game against the Blue Devils.

"Any time this year that we've given John Wolford time and we've gotten open, he plays well," Clawson said. "It's hard for any quarterback to play well when they're getting pressured and they're not getting open."

The strength of this team was its defense, which finished in the middle of the ACC's pack and was the league's third-toughest unit to pass against — a remarkable achievement considering how little help it received from the offense.

The Demon Deacons can largely thank that group for their biggest win — a 6-3, double-overtime upset of Virginia Tech in which the Hokies didn't take a snap inside the Wake Forest 20 during regulation. That win ended a six-game losing streak that included closer-than-expected losses to bowl-bound division opponents Louisville, Boston College and Clemson.

Nobody's saying close is good enough for the Demon Deacons, and Clawson says improvement is vital this offseason — both for the returning players and for the new ones he hopes to bring in.

"For 11 ... games our kids played hard, competed and gave the very best they had," Clawson said. "At the end of the day, that's all you can ask for. Now we've got to do a better job of recruiting and upgrade the talent level, and if we can get some talented kids in here who can play with the effort that this team did, we'll win a lot of football games here."


Follow Joedy McCreary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joedyap