Defense Helps Wake Forest Beat Virginia 16-10
Oct. 20, 2012
By: Rob Daniels, WakeForestSports.com
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - A running back threw passes, a quarterback caught them and a new kicker connected on three field goals Saturday afternoon. Wake Forest had one scoring drive of six seconds, another of 17 ticks on the clock, a third that required 10 plays to cover 30 yards and an Australian punter to flip field position when the offense fell short.
Unconventional? Sure. But unconventional and its cousin, inventive, are better than weird, which is what they call you when you do all that stuff and lose. And backed by the changes, the Demon Deacons held off Virginia 16-10 to snap a three-game ACC losing streak and get their season back on course.
"I guess this is resilience," said Chibulkem Okoro, who moved from cornerback to safety in the name of experience. "And that's what we have to be: resilient. Now we want to ride this momentum and keep it going."
The Deacons (4-4, 2-3 ACC) won without using a reserve offensive lineman, which is nice when you have only four extra bodies in that area on the trip to begin with. They prevailed by committing no turnovers and forcing three, the last of which came when the Cavaliers' Khalek Shepherd fumbled one of Alexander Kinal's cloud-brushing punts with 1:59 left. Wake Forest won with 213 yards of total offense, its lowest total in an ACC victory since the Deacons mustered 191 yards in a 3-0 win at North Carolina at Oct. 22, 1966.
"It wasn't pretty at times," Wake coach Jim Grobe said, "but we took care of the ball today. And that was huge." Grobe and offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke were compelled to go rogue by injuries that have considerably thinned the line and the receiving group. The top three pass-catchers were unavailable Saturday. One lineman is giving it a go while down an anterior cruciate ligament.
"We're trying to think outside the box all we can," Lobotzke said. "We just don't think we can line up in a traditional offense and generate much success."
The Demon Deacons won while going 1-for-15 on third down. And so on.
True freshman Tylor Harris helped secure the victory with a third-down sack of Virginia quarterback Phillip Sims with three minutes left. Harris was subbing for Nikita Whitlock, ineligible on the play because he had lost his helmet while making a tackle for loss on the previous snap.
"Couldn't be happier for him," linebacker Riley Haynes said. "When you're playing with one of your best players out of the game, you wish he was in there. But Tylor made a great play. Big play for the defense. Saved the day, really." The defense did more than compensate for the unavilable guys on the other side. It excelled.
For the second straight game, Wake scored on one of its first three plays from scrimmage, finding the end zone this time when Josh Harris, taking a snap out of the Wildcat formation, followed Lovell Jackson's 60-yard punt return with a 16-yard scamper around the right side.
That was the six-second drive. The relatively long-winded march also required only one play from the offense, a 41-yard strike from Tanner Price to Brandon Terry that put the ball on the Cavalier 4 with six seconds left in the first half. At that point, they happily took Chad Hedlund's field goal for a 10-7 lead at the break.
On a day when it couldn't get much going, the offense scored on a possession that began with 13 seconds left. And Hedlund, a redshirt freshman from Texas, undeniably did his job in his first game in place of three-year starter Jimmy Newman by connecting twice in the second half.
"That's fun," Grobe said. "It makes you feel like you can coach."
Wake therefore and walked out with its second victory here since 1983.
It doesn't have much time to celebrate; the Deacons return to action this Thursday when Clemson comes to town for an ESPN Thursday game.
"What I like," Grobe said, "is the way the kids pulled together. Our guys, I think, really do get it: that we needed more focus."