Who would have thought the Deacs would win this one, huh? Going on the road against No. 14 North Carolina State, without your starting QB on a short week, doesn’t sound exactly like the recipe for success. Wake Forest didn’t care about the narrative though, as it beat N.C. State in Raleigh for the second time in 35 years in a shocking 27-23 victory.
All signs pointed out to a rough start for the Deacs. A defense ravaged by injuries going against an inspired Ryan Finley at home, short week of preparation without your starting QB, and even Greg Dortch making an unusual mental mistake by deciding last minute to field a punt and giving it up to the Wolfpack inside Wake’s 5-yard line. However, the defense continued their good performance from last week and forced three straight three-and-outs to start the game and contain the damage from the punt return fiasco to only three points. Both starting CBs Amari Henderson and Essang Bassey with crucial pass breakups on 3rd down.
The offense came back hammering on the ensuing drive with RB Cade Carney, who got the Deacs going with four straight runs for 27 yards. However, Deacs came out empty-handed on a failed 4th down attempt after WR Scotty Washington dropped a perfectly placed pass.
NC State finally found some groove on offense and drove all the way to Wake’s six-yard line, only to get stuffed once again by a disruptive Wake Forest defense that already had three TFLs at the end of the first quarter against a strong NC State O-line. NC State gets ahead 6-0.
The only problem was that the offense wasn’t being able to put any points on the board. Every time Wake faced a 3rd and 5+, Jamie Newman had trouble connecting with a receiver while being heavily pressured. When Newman did get a third down conversion, TE Brandon Chapman killed the drive on the following play with a holding penalty and the Deacs had to settled for the FG. The silver lining was that freshman Kicker Nick Sciba nailed the 47-yard FG attempt to set a new career high. Nice confidence booster for Sciba.
After knocking on the door twice to start the game, NC State finally gets into the the end zone on an outside run by Finley. Wolfpack extended their lead to 13-3 with 4:30 left in the first half.
NC State with the lead at halftime 13-3. Deacs played probably their best half on defense so far on the season. On offense, the chemistry struggles were more than expected with Newman taking over the QB spot this late in the season and with only a short week of practice with the starters.
Wake Forest came back from halftime clicking on all cylinders on offense. Newman was making the right reads off the RPO, including a nice 27-yard run by Newman himself on a 2nd and 10. However, the Deacs settled down for another field goal to trim down the lead to 13-6. RB Matt Colburn also was carted off the field with an ankle sprain on the drive and would not return for the remainder of the game.
A couple of drives later, NC State took advantage of a poor punt by Dom Maggio and marched downfield for their fourth red zone trip in the game. Still, the Deacs stuffed the Wolfpack once again to force NC State to settle for another FG. NC State received great field position for most of the game and could not capitalize on it.
The Deacs received the ball needing to score some points on the board to keep the game alive and Newman did just that. On a 3rd and 9 at Wake’s 19-yard line, Newman threw a bomb downfield to WR Sage Surratt who somehow caught it as he was falling toward the defender for a 43-yard completion. On the following play, New throws another bomb, this time to the right towards WR Alex Bachman who raised Surratt’s spectacular catch with one of his own on a 38-yard TD reception. Deacs back in the game down only by 3, 16-13.
However, NC State wasted no time to answer it with a TD on their own. Wolfpack receiver Emeka Emezie broke a tackle after the reception and was off to the races on a 35-yard TD reception. Finley was nearly perfect on the drive completing 3 out of 4 passes for 71 yards and a touchdown.
The Wake defense started showing some signs of fatigue toward the middle of the 4th quarter. Yet, when it came down to a 4th and 3 attempt near midfield for NC State Amari Henderson rose up to the occasion and broke a downfield pass forcing the turnover on downs by the Wolfpack.
The Demon Deacons take over possession and now it was Newman’s turn to have a perfect drive. The redshirt Sophomore looked calm and collect making all the right throws, while also hurting the defense through the ground off the RPO. The Deacs finished the drive with a perfectly placed pass to Dortch for a 19-yard TD. Newman completed 3 out of 4 for 43 yards on the drive. Deacs trim the lead to 3 once again, 23-20 NC State with 6:07 remaining on the 4th quarter. Not necessarily the nail bitter most people were expecting to happen but hey we’ll take it.
NC State gets the ball and drives it down to Wake’s 20-yard line. The Wolfpack were faced with a tough decision between kicking the FG there and going up six points or going for it on a 4th and 3 and essentially win the game. NC State then decides to go for it. The Deacs defense, one that struggled all year to stop pretty much any ACC opponent thus far, raises to the occasion once again. CB Ja`Sir Taylor broke up the pass to Thayer Thomas giving Wake Forest he ball back with 1:34 left and no timeouts.
Newman completes his first pass to Sage Surratt on an out route for 5 yard, while also stopping the clock. The Deacs then manage to successfully drive the ball down to NC State’s 32-yard line, but with only 37 seconds left on the Clock.
Newman snaps the ball and immediately gets pressured on a blitz through the middle. He almost gets sacked, but releases the ball in time to TE Jack Freudenthal who runs it in for a 32-yard TD with only 30 seconds left on the clock. NC State still tries the improbable comeback but on the last-second hail mary attempt the ball gets intercepted by Scotty Washington who is making a solid case to be Wake’s offical game closer on defense and special teams. The Clock runs out.
Deacs win as a 19 point underdog against No. 14 NC State in one of their best road games in recent years! This is the biggest road upset since a win in 1979 over North Carolina.
Now, in a sudden turn of events, bowl eligibility doesn’t look all that improbable. At 5-5 the Demon Deacons need to win one of their last two games, vs Pitt and at Duke, to make it three straight bowl seasons under Dave Clawson. Enjoy this one folks, I’m still speechless.