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Banner day for Demon Deacons as offense finds a groove

Five frustrating games of uninspired performance gives way to an offensive explosion for the Wake Forest football team.

Michael Campanaro
Michael Campanaro
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

WINSTON-SALEM-- For the first time in a heretofore disappointing season, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons played four quarters of solidly executed football and dispatched the N.C. State Wolfpack 28-13 at BB&T Field on Saturday. The Deacs utilized multiple empty backfield sets and attacked the Pack defense with a sense of urgency that kept the Pack on their heels for much of the afternoon.

The Deacons (3-3, 1-2 ACC) struck first, executing a 13-play 80 yard drive culminating in a 1-yard Tanner Price plunge into the end zone with just over 2 minutes remaining in the first quarter. After N.C. State (3-2, 0-2 ACC) answered with a 27- yard Niklas Sade field goal, Wake Forest took the ensuing kickoff and mounted another time-consuming drive reminiscent of the most successful Deacon teams in the Grobe era. However, the drive stalled at the State 36, prompting a Wake Forest punt.

An ill-timed kick catch interference penalty then gave the Pack a first down at their own 34, and quarterback Pete Thomas took full advantage. Thomas engineered a 10-play, 66 yard drive in just over a minute, hitting Quinton Payton for an 11-yard touchdown with 39 ticks left on the first half clock.

While many fans scurried for the concession stands, Jim Grobe gave coaches Steed Lobotzke and Tommy Elrod the go-ahead to see what they could get out of the offense in a 2-minute drill, rather than kneel down and head to the locker room down 10-7. Two plays later, Wake was on the Wolfpack 10 yard line courtesy of a 54-yard catch and run from tight end Spencer Bishop. Price capped the drive by finding Michael Campanaro in the end zone, and the Deacs had a 14-10 halftime lead.

N.C. State took the second half kickoff and managed only 16 yards before kicking the ball away. Once again the Deacs put together a grinding, methodical 10 play, 87 yard scoring drive, highlighted by a 3-yard touchdown pass from Price to Jared Crump.

The Wolfpack answered that score by driving all the way down to the Wake Forest 3 before the Deacon defense stiffened, forcing the Pack to settle for another Sade field goal and a 21-13 deficit.

The score remained the same into the fourth quarter, when Price and the Deacs executed yet another 80-yard drive, capped by a gorgeous 27-yard catch by Campanaro with just over 10 minutes remaining. The Wolfpack, however, once again answered by driving into Demon Deacon territory down to the 26-yard line. Once more, the Wake defense rose to the occasion, this time in the form of a Kevin Johnson interception at the Deacon 7-yard line.

The Deacs rolled up 382 yards on offense, most of them through the air. Except for a few errant passes thrown behind receivers (one of which was intercepted), Price performed well, finishing 24-39 for 268 yards and 3 touchdowns. Campanaro continued his assault on the Wake Forest record books, snagging 12 passes for 153 yards and 2 touchdowns. He now has 206 career catches and needs only 11 more to surpass Desmond Clark as Wake Forest's all-time leader in receptions.

Price, for his efforts, became just the second Wake Forest quarterback in history to pass for 1,000 yards in each of his four seasons. In addition, his 24 completions on the day gave him 722 for his career- only the second quarterback in Wake history to do so. Price was also Wake's leading rusher, accounting for a career-high 82 yards on the afternoon.

"We did a lot of good things today, and guys were stepping up and making plays which is always great." Price said. "The offensive line did a good job up front. It was fun to see us finally click on offense and now we just have to build on that and carry it with us for the rest of the season.

With the Dixie Classic Fair as a backdrop, the Demon Deacon offense proved a festive attraction of it's own that resulted in four separate displays of fireworks from atop the video board on Deacon Hill. Finally, it appeared, Grobe's constant plea for more energy and sense of urgency had been heard by his charges.

"Offensively, I thought Tanner (Price) and those guys stepped up today," Grobe said. "There was electricity in the locker room before the game- I just had a sense that this was different. There was a different feel, and I felt even better at could tell the guys were on a mission."