Deacons Take Down Liberty 20-17 in Opener
Sept. 1, 2012
By Rob Daniels, WakeForestSports.com
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Give them Liberty and give them a headache. But not death or defeat. At least not on this night for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
Responding to a second-half deficit to the Liberty Flames, the Deacons tied the season-opening game with A.J. Marshall's interception return, went ahead with a 60-yard touchdown drive and held on for a 20-17 victory. Wake's relatively narrow triumph over a member of the Football Championship Subdivision may spark some curiosity around the ACC, and it will offer plenty of opportunities for reflection. But the Deacons did prevail, which will keep everybody from losing too much sleep around here.
"The players probably feel differently than I do,"coach Jim Grobe said, assuming the Deacons' disappointment at the evening's level of tension. "The players wanted to win more convincingly, but for me, 3-0 or 49-0 is fine. We have a lot of mistakes to get corrected."
They included dropped passes, inaccurate passes and a few other issues, some of which stemmed from a series of injuries that the training staff hopes will be resolved before North Carolina comes to town in another week.
The 14-7 deficit with five minutes left in the third quarter represented the latest Wake had trailed an FBS member since a 20-16 loss to Appalachian State 12 years and one day earlier. And after taking the lead, the Flames forced a punt and had a chance to add to its bounty until Marshall stepped in front of a Brian Hudson pass intended for D.J. Abnar.
"Coaches did a great job all week of preparing us for that route combination, and I feel we executed it perfectly,""Marshall said. "I felt (Abnar) beside me, so I jumped the route and made the play. (Hudson) really stared down the receiver in that situation. I just took a chance."
He then judiciously chose his route to the end zone, having decided that a mere interception would not suffice. Marshall took the ball to the house - or at least Deacon Hill - with 4:16 left in the third.
"First, I had to secure the ball because I saw one of my teammates going for it, too," Marshall said. "I snagged it in front of him and after I caught the ball, I scanned the field and saw Mike Olson and somebody else just deck the quarterback. And then, I had an open lane."
Having secured some momentum, the Deacs claimed their first lead of the night when Tanner Price led the Deacs' best drive. Wide receiver Michael Campanaro, initially ruled out for the second half after an ankle sprain, came back to make two key grabs in the march. He finished with nine catches for 96 yards.
"A great lift to our offense to have Camp back in there," Grobe said. "When he's around, everybody feels something good is about to happen."
The surge's biggest play was an unlikely one, a 28-yard strike to the fullback, Tommy Bohanon, that took the ball to the Flame 3. Deandre Martin, a redshirt freshman making his Wake debut, took it in from the 2 and Wake led 20-14. Things got a bit hairy when Wake Forest failed on the extra-point attempt and knocked the subsequent kickoff out of bounds. The Flames converted the opportunity into a field goal and compelled a punt late in the fourth quarter.
Alexander Kinal, the Australian punter, was in a situation of theoretically limited returns
Nobody notices Kinal's line of work unless it results in a block or a return for a touchdown. But you can feel free to appreciate him this time; his hanging kick knocked the Flames, who were hoping for more, back to their own 19.
"Before I went on the field, I was instructed to just get it off and do my thing," Kinal said. "I've got about a second, so I can't do too much thinking. It's all situational, but you never try to bomb it. When you do that, you come out of your form."
As a result, Liberty's 25-yard drive stalled out at its own 44 rather than in position for a tying field goal.
The Demon Deacons go back to work on Monday with UNC, a 62-0 winner over Elon, on the docket.
Scoring Drive Recaps
Liberty 7, Wake Forest 0 (8:01, 1st quarter)
Wake Forest 7, Liberty 7 (7:15, 2nd quarter)
Liberty 14, Wake Forest 7 (10:51, 3rd quarter)
Wake Forest 14, Liberty 14 (4:16, 3rd quarter)
Wake Forest 20, Liberty 14 (13:24, 4th quarter)
Wake Forest 20, Liberty 17 (9:39, 4th quarter)