Deacons Take Down Liberty 20-17 in Opener
Michael Campanaro caught nine passes for 99 yards and a touchdown

Sept. 1, 2012

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By Rob Daniels,

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)
On Liberty's second drive of the night, the Flames took over with great field position at Wake Forest's 44-yard line. Sirchauncey Holloway took a handoff to the right for seven yards, setting up an incomplete pass from Brian Hudson on the next play. On his next attempt, though, Hudson found his target, Elliott Dutra, and hit him for the 37-yard score. Dutra maneuvered his way past the secondary and was wide open for the touchdown. John Lunsford's extra point attempt was good following the 3-play, 44-yard drive.

Wake Forest 7, Liberty 7 (7:15, 2nd quarter)
The Demon Deacons took more than a quarter to respond, but finally struck back on Tanner Price's 31-yard strike to Michael Campanaro to even the contest. Campanaro keyed the 6-play, 65 yard drive with three key plays. The first came on a 19-yard pass from Price that pushed the Deacs to Liberty's 46, which set up his second important play, a nine-yard rush to push down to the 37. The third play was, obviously, the touchdown pass which followed a six-yard scramble by Price. Jimmy Newman's extra point leveled the game at 7-7.

Liberty 14, Wake Forest 7 (10:51, 3rd quarter)
The Flames retaliated on their first drive of the second half to re-take the lead. Hudson and Holloway chipped away at the Deacon defense with short gains on the ground before taking the top off the defense with a 47-yard toss from Hudson to Justin Gunn down to Wake's 14. Holloway could not gain any ground with his next rush, but Hudson hit him for the touchdown on the very next play. Lunsford's extra point capped the 8-play, 75-yard drive.

Wake Forest 14, Liberty 14 (4:16, 3rd quarter)
AJ Marshall and the Deacon defense stormed back with a 39-yard interception return for a touchdown later in the quarter. With Liberty on its own 30-yard line, Hudson tossed a pass into the secondary, only to have Marshall pick it off and run it back for a score. Newman tied the game with his point after attempt.

Wake Forest 20, Liberty 14 (13:24, 4th quarter)
The Deacs started on their own 40-yard line late in the third quarter, and Price led a 9-play, 60-yard drive that culminated in a two-yard touchdown run by Deandre Martin. Two big pass plays from Price; a 14-yarder to Campanaro and a 28-yarder to Tommy Bohanon; helped to pace the drive. Martin powered in from two yards out, but the extra point resulted in a botched snap and was not converted.

Wake Forest 20, Liberty 17 (9:39, 4th quarter)
On the very next drive, the Flames' attempt to cut into the lead was only partially successful. They were only able to cover 34 yards over nine plays, but 17 yards on the ground helped to push them into field goal position. Lunsford fired a booming kick that initially looked wide left, but converted the 49-yard attempt to cut the lead to just three.



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