After the loss to Baylor, the big question coming into Wake Forest's game against Stanford was whether the Deacs had enough heart and execution to match their talent level. For the first half of the game against the Cardinal this afternoon, that question went unanswered, but after halftime, the team seemed to find what had been eluding them for the first six quarters of the season...
Stanford got out to an early start, much like Baylor a week ago, scoring on their first drive behind the strong arm of Andrew Luck and the receiving skills of Ryan Whalen, who ended the game with nine catches for 123 yards and two TDs on the day.
The Deacs were able to move the ball up and down the field, but in the first half had a ton of trouble converting their opportunities, including a 12 play drive that ended in a disappointing field goal, and another drive down deep in Stanford's redzone that resulted in a missed 33 yard field goal.
Stanford jumped all over their chances, scoring again and tacking on a 54 yard field goal at the end of the half, using a quick drive to get into field goal territory and the Cardinal was up 17-3, seemingly burying the Demon Deacons.
Head Coach Jim Grobe said at halftime that he wasn't allowed to say what the team talked about at halftime, but that it must have gotten through to them. That just might be coach-speak for "I reamed the guys out and told them to prove to me that they were men."
Whatever it was he did say worked. The Deacs came out in the second half riled up and showed the kind of hair on fire mentality that has won them so many ballgames in the last four years. The defense which had struggled so mightily the first six quarters of the year showed swagger, making plays, getting after the ball and doing a better job of wrapping up the ball carrier. They also finally put some pressure on the quarterback, which got Luck out of his comfort zone and forced him to rush some throws.
That confidence carried over to the offense, as the running game finally came alive. By using a mixture of end arounds, plunges and off-tackle runs with pulling guards, the Deacs moved down the field with ease. This running attack opened up the field for fifth-year senior Riley Skinner, who looked like the ACC Championship winning quarterback of old.
The Deacs scored first off a Mike Rinfrette run up the middle and then on a strike from Skinner to Jordan Williams, tying the game at 17 all. The Deacs got the ball back late in the fourth but gave it right back on a punt in Stanford territory and the Cardinal started driving, but were crippled by a cut block penalty off of a long Gerhart run, leading to a long third down that Stanford was not able to convert.
The Deacs got the ball back and would not give it up, driving downfield, with Skinner looking extremely comfortable, flashing a deep ball to Lovell Jackson down to the three. It took two QB sneaks, but the Deacs put it in, going up 24-17 and sealing the win after a valiant "band is on the field" attempt by Stanford.
For all of the ups and downs, Wake Forest is 1-1, and finally had solid play on both sides of the ball, with 459 yards of offense on the day and no scoring from Stanford in the second half. Josh Adams and Kevin Harris combined for over 100 yards and Chris Givens and Devon Brown also racked up 98 yards on their own. Skinner was 18-26 for 187 yards, had a rushing touchdown of his own and a 20 yard reception.
The game has a lot of positives, but the Deacs did lose Kyle Wilber to a broken leg suffered in the second half. He will be out approximately six weeks.
Wake will take on Elon next week and hope to continue this momentum. For inexperienced teams, there is no replacement for just that...experience; and the Demon Deacons have garnered some very valuable time in the last two games that they should be able to use come ACC play.