Wake beat Virginia today, 27-20 and became bowl eligible for the first time under head coach Dave Clawson and the first time overall since 2011. The results of Clawson's recruiting, easy scheduling, and good defensive play have finally borne fruit. The Deacs gave the home crowd a good show today.
Wake kicked off to Virginia to get the game underway. Virginia came out running with a 13 yard rush up the gut past the vacant spot where Jaboree Williams usually plays. The Cavaliers moved the ball down past midfield on their opening drive with a nice mix of run, pass, and defensive pass interference. Wake could not stop Taquan Mizzell from marching down the field, and Jordan Ellis capped off the 75 yard drive with a score. Virginia's momentum from their strong showing against Louisville continued. UVA tried the two point conversion and failed, going ahead 6-0.
Gritty John Wolford handed off to Cade Carney on the opening offensive play for the Deacs and pushed the pile for a half dozen yards. The coaches seem to have learned from their mistakes last week and showed their intent by sticking with Carney on the next two carries bringing the Deacs up near midfield. The drive stalled six plays in after a sack on Wolford and a run for loss by Carney.
After Virginia failed to move the ball, Wake took over and continued their ground effort. After a few short runs from Carney, John Wolford broke a surprise 64 yard run on a broken play to put Wake Forest on the board and give the Deacs the early lead, 7-6. Wolford really showed off his speed on the long run just when the offense looked its most sluggish and anemic.
Wake closed out the first quarter with 130 yards on the ground capping off a quarter without a single throw. Wolford's first throw of the game came on the third play of the second quarter with a completed out route to midfield picking up a first down. His second came on the next play with a bad throw that Cade Carney pulled in for another first. Wake drove down to the Virginia 28, and Mike Weaver (after first forgetting he was playing and forcing Coach Clawson to take a timeout) nailed the 45 yard field goal to put the Deacs up 10-6.
After my ESPN3 feed became self-aware and tried to help me avoid the commentators for a drive or two, the next play I saw was Wake false starting inside their own two yard line. I was able to watch the play-by-play online (and the same Dos Equis commercial a half dozen times), and it looked like all this summary missed was a good Virginia punt. Back to the action, Wake got some breathing room out of Cade Carney runs but was forced to punt back to Virginia, and the teams traded punts twice from there.
Virginia looked like moving the ball as the half was winding down, but they fumbled on a fourth down attempt and Wake took back over possession with under two minutes in the half near midfield. Two completions from Wolford later, and Wake played inside the red zone again. Two runs later, Wake had 1st and goal. Wolford's first incompletion of the game came on his sixth throw as the clock ticked under fifty seconds in the half. Wolford rushed down to the three yard line from there, and on third and goal, with Cade Carney picking up a crucial strong side block, Wolford threw a touchdown to a wide open Cam Serigne putting the Deacs on top 17-6.
After a slow start to the game, Wake scored seventeen unanswered and went into halftime with all the momentum. Wake took over just past their own 20 yard line. Wolford's happy feet returned, and Wake punted after a quick three and out. Maggio's punt was poor again (Coach Scheier's group had a rough day all around), and Virginia took over near midfield.
Virginia started the half in a no huddle offense for the first time in the game, and the offense moved quickly down the field picking up four passing first downs on their way to a score. The Cavaliers converted the point after attempt and brought the lead back down to four, 17-13. Virginia then caught Wake napping and converted an onside kick and took back over with 9:42 left in the third quarter right after scoring.
Wake's defense woke up quickly thereafter with a couple big sacks and a big third down stop, limiting the damage of the onside kick to a brief field position switch. Wake kept the ball on the ground with three straight runs on their second drive of the second half. Gym rat John Wolford then made a couple men miss on a first down run and kept the drive going with his feet. A facemask against Virginia's best defensive player, Micah Kiser, kept the drive going further. Virginia finally figured out the same delayed handoff Wake ran for the dozenth time forcing Wake into a 48 yard field goal attempt which Weaver missed wide right.
A few short plays later Virginia was in the end zone after a 45 yard touchdown throw. Virginia took the lead back at that point 20-17. The drive lasted just 4 plays, 70 yards, and 1:35 of clock.
Wake responded to Virginia taking the lead by quickly getting sacked twice and narrowly avoiding a delay of game penalty with a timeout. The Deacs came out of the timeout with a good throw and catch negated by holding, bringing up 3rd and 23. Wake did not convert. Virginia took over with 13:15 to go in the game on their own 16. With the way things were going in the game, the drive was a must stop for the Deacon defense. Mizzell ran tough and picked up big chunks of yards per carry throughout the second half and added some catches to his day as well. Cameron Glen came up with the biggest play of the game for the Deacon defense with an interception near midfield, running the ball back into Cavalier territory. Jesse Bates III was the guy to really make the play, forcing the ball out of the receivers hands into a tip drill for Glenn.
Two plays later, on a wildcat play, Cade Carney had a touchdown called back after officials, claiming his knee was down, overruled the call on the field. On the next down, John Wolford had his pass batted right back into his hands and then poorly decided to throw the ball again, incurring a penalty and forcing Weaver into another field goal attempt. Weaver knotted the game up 20-20.
Virginia took over with under eight minutes to play in the game. Wake forced an incompletion and a sack on the first two plays following the field goal. From there Jessie Bates picked off a wild throw and returned it for a touchdown bringing the Deacs back on top, 27-20. Bates was the best player for Wake's defense all day along with Josh Banks and Marquel Lee. The Deacs would not relinquish the lead from there. Wake's defense finished the game with five sacks, two interceptions, a fumble recovery, a touchdown, and held Virginia to just 105 yards rushing and 190 yards in the air.
Wake did not play well offensively for long stretches of the game. Still, when the run game wasn't working, the pass game picked up, and vice versa. Wake did just enough to win the ball game fighting through injuries and momentum swings and big Virginia plays. To go bowl eligible this season is an achievement worth praising. The Deacs will try to win at least one more game this season to position themselves better for bowl season. Boston College looks like the best chance left on the calendar.