Deacons Rally to Beat Tar Heels 28-27
By Rob Daniels, WakeForestSports.com
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Not that they intended to do it, but the 2012 Demon Deacons may have created a team motto Saturday night: Wake up.
A few of them did so literally. Many more did it figuratively. And they all walked off BB&T Field with a 28-27 victory over North Carolina when Tanner Price capped a 93-yard drive with a dive from the 1 with 2:09 left, moving Wake Forest to 8-0 all-time in one-point games against the Tar Heels.
The Deacs' defense, thinned by a string of injuries and challenged by the Tar Heels' punk-rock-paced offense, kept Wake Forest in the game long enough to permit Price, author of a career-best 327-yard passing game, and his mates to steal one.
"This," coach Jim Grobe opined, is as good as it gets."
They all waited 67 minutes from the scheduled start time because of a severe thunderstorm, and some Deacons actually nodded off in front of their lockers. Their coaches did not object, figuring everybody might have been a bit hyper in anticipation anyway.
"Yeah, guys dozed off, but we came out with energy," said wide receiver Michael Campanaro, whose total of 13 catches was two off the school record. "It was good to see guys wake up."
In the season-opener, the Deacs needed a second-half comeback to defeat FCS opponent Liberty in a game that raised external concerns about the team's viability. Such angst is now on hold.
"It is so great to get a win like that against a rival - especially after a week like we had last week when people were questioning our team," Price said.
And truth be told, you can't afford to be inattentive when playing the Heels, whose new coach, Larry Fedora, eschews huddles and insists on running 80 or more plays a game. UNC had 82 of them on Saturday.
By itself, that created an air of urgency in Wake's practices.
"Games are won from Monday through Friday," said defensive end Hasan Hazime, a fifth-year senior who transferred to Wake after graduating from Akron over the summer. "We came in prepared and just got it done."
The keys were holding the Heels to field goals in two drives and keeping them off the board after the second of the kicks made it 27-21 with 12:50 left. Hazime and his comrades, four of whom were true or redshirt freshmen called into extended service by injuries, disrupted the rhythm of Tar Heels quarterback Bryn Renner just enough to deny the big play on several occasions.
As a result, it was still a six-point game when Wake took over on its own 7 with 6:36 left. Receiver Sherman Ragland III, who played seven days after sustaining a compound fracture to a finger, caught two big passes and Campanaro contributed the last of his baker's dozen in a gradual and eventually decisive march.
The best thing about it was that it took a while. When Ragland caught one and took it to the 1, Wake didn't punch it in immediately even though it tried. Price's sneak came two plays later.
"Our whole offense believed we were capable of doing it, and we did it," Price said.
The Heels still had enough time to drive and kick the winning field goal, but Hazime pressured Renner into a third-down incompletion and Riley Haynes intercepted a fourth-down pass at the UNC 30.
Alex Kinal ultimately punted on that series and pinned the Heels on their own 1, but the victory wasn't secured until Merrill Noel batted down a desperate heave at his own 2 to thwart Renner's unlikely bid for a 60-yard, game-winning pass.
"I wasn't particularly worried about intercepting the ball, which would have looked good on a stat sheet," Noel said.
They all looked good on the scoreboard Saturday and are 2-0 entering a game at Florida State.
"Just cool," Grobe said. "Just really cool."
Scoring Drive Recaps
North Carolina 7, Wake Forest 0 (2:21, 1st Quarter)
The Tar Heels began on their own 20-yard line after Wake Forest punted. Bryn Renner completed a pass to Jheranie Boyd for a seven-yard gain to start the drive. Three plays later, A.J. Blue rushed up the middle for a 28-yard gain, putting North Carolina on the Demon Deacons' 36-yard line. After getting to the Wake Forest six-yard line, Renner completed a touchdown pass on third down to tight end Eric Ebron. Casey Barth added an extra point, putting the Tar Heels up 7-0.
Wake Forest 7, North Carolina 7 (5:41, 1st Quarter)
Wake Forest marched down the field to answer North Carolina with a 10-play, 5:41 touchdown drive to close out the first quarter. Tanner Price completed a screen pass to Michael Campanaro for seven yards. After losing yards on a run play, Campanaro gained eight yards on a crossing route, but was dragged down on a horse-collar tackle, adding 15 yards to the play. Price then hit Brandon Terry for 18 yards to the Tar Heels 30-yard line. After being pushed back to the 42-yard line, Price completed a pass to Campanaro for 21 yards on third down. Josh Harris ran for a combined 13 yards on the next two plays, setting Wake Forest up at the two yard line. On first and goal, Price took a botched snap into the end zone for the touchdown. Jimmy Newman's extra point tied the game up at 7-7.
North Carolina 14, Wake Forest 7 (4:55, 2nd Quarter)
North Carolina began the second quarter on its own 21-yard line. Renner completed a 28-yard pass to Erik Highsmith before nailing Mark McNeill for a seven-yard gain. After getting to the Wake Forest 31-yard line, the Tar Heels went for it on fourth down with one yard to go with a quarterback run from Renner who converted it for the first down. A pass from Renner to Sean Tapley went for 20 yards to put the Tar Heels on goal line. The defense for Wake Forest held North Carolina to fourth down after stopping Renner who kept it himself. Blue rushed it in which was followed by a Barth extra point giving UNC a 14-7 lead.
Wake Forest 14, North Carolina 14 (3:52, 2nd Quarter)
The Deacs began on their own 17-yard line with 9:59 left in the quarter. Deandre Martin rushed three yards, setting up a 23-yard bomb to Campanaro putting Wake Forest on the Deacs 43-yard line. Martin rushed for a seven-yard gain and stole the show on the next play. Taking a pitch from Price, Martin completed a 35-yard toss to Terry down the sideline. Price led the Demon Deacons to the four-yard line setting up Martin who rushed for the touchdown. Newman tacked on the extra point tying the game up at 14-14.
Wake Forest 21, North Carolina 14 (1:05, 2nd Quarter)
Capitalizing on a fumble by Renner on the Tar Heels 20-yard line, Price hit Campanaro 15-yards. Two plays later, Josh Harris scrambled for a six-yard touchdown run. Newman converted the kick giving the Deacs their first lead of the game.
Wake Forest 21, North Carolina 21 (3:25, 3rd Quarter)
North Carolina evened the game in the third quarter off a four-yard rush from Romar Morris and an extra point from Barth. Setting up the drive, Blue had three rushes while UNC drove into Wake Forest territory. Renner threw a pass to Quinshad Davis for 14 yards to put the Tar Heels in position for Morris to run it in for the touchdown.
North Carolina 24, Wake Forest 21 (1:41, 3rd Quarter)
Following an interception on Price, UNC began on Wake Forest's 18-yard line. The Deacs defense did not allow a first down, leading to a 25-yard field goal from Barth.
North Carolina 27, Wake Forest 21 (12:50, 4th Quarter)
The Tar Heels went up by six points after Barth's second field goal in as many possessions. North Carolina went 71 yards on nine plays before Barth's 30-yard field goal, taking 2:11 off the clock. Romar Morris ran the ball for 27 yards on the drive and also drew a 15-yard facemask penalty on the first rush of the drive.
Wake Forest 28, North Carolina 27 (2:09, 4th Quarter)
A 56-yard punt by Tommy Hibbard coupled with a negative three-yard return pinned Wake Forest at its own seven yard line with 6:36 remaining in the game. The Demon Deacons were able to go 93 yards on 11 plays, capped off by a one-yard touchdown run by Tanner Price. Sherman Ragland III caught his only two passes of the game on the drive, including a 31-yard reception that took the ball to the North Carolina 27-yard line. After an incompletion, Campanaro caught a 15-yard pass to put the ball on the 12. Ragland's second reception of the drive gave the Deacs first-and-goal at the one-yard line before Price needed two attempts up the middle to get in the endzone. Jimmy Newman's extra point put the Demon Deacons up a point.