WINSTON-SALEM, NC (NWN) — Off-target throws, drops, and mistakes kept coming for No. 13 Wake Forest. So did the injuries – all night when Demon Deacons were trying to take a big step toward winning their Atlantic Coast Conference division.
All that trouble ended up being the perfect setup for another memorable moment in a particular season.
Sam Hartman scored four touchdowns while Justice Allison ran for a short score with 1:47, allowing Wake Forest to beat No. 21 North Carolina State 45-42 on Saturday night to end the league’s Atlantic Division race. Proceeded within victory.
“It’s fun to play in a game like this,” Clausen said. “It’s even more fun to win them.”
The next move for the Demon Deacons (9–1, 6–0 ACC) is to eliminate the division race and replace Clemson, who had won the Atlantic on his way to winning the previous six league championships. To do so, Wake Forest would have to win one of their last two games to secure the division winner’s ticket to the ACC Championship Game.
Well, in a matchup of the division’s top two teams, Damon Deacon had to grind until the last minute to catch Wolfpack (7-3, 4-2) and quarterback Devin Leary.
The night ended with Wake Forest fans joining the team on the field after the home finale in a celebration that lasted so long that the public-address announcer had to twice let the Damon Deacon players into the locker room. Had to give instructions.
Alison’s 4-yard score pushed Wake Forest to a 45-35 lead, though NC State responded with a clutch drive that ended with Leary’s 8-yard touchdown pass to Devin Carter with 45 seconds to spare. The Wolfpack nearly recovered the onside kick, after Ricky Persson Jr. caught the bouncing ball about a yard shy of the 10-yard requirement to secure possession.
That illegal-touch penalty gave the ball to Wake Forest and put the review on hold, allowing Hartman to take a knee and melt the final seconds and prevent Wolfpack from wrestling with control of the division race.
“We can control our next two and try to win them both,” said Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren. “… there’s a lot to play for. But right now we’ve got some frustrated and upset coaches and players.”
Hartmann overcame a tough passing night against one of the best defensive units in the Bowl subdivision. He completed just 20 of 47 passes for 290 yards, including three touchdowns and three interceptions, to go with a fast TD in the second quarter. But he came in the clutch after being pulled within 38-35 by the Wolfpack, completing a 12-yard pass to Donald Stewart to transfer the chain and then doing it again with a 14-yarder to Taylor Morin.
Alison scored that drive from 4 yards, ending a 13-play, 75-yard drive that took about 6 1/2 minutes off the clock.
“It was not a pretty game by any means,” Hartmann said. “Too many mistakes on my end. Not too happy with it. But we pulled it off and that’s football in November.”
Alison scored three touchdowns, left 10:05 with a 4-yard catch in the second quarter as well as a 1-yard TD.
Leary led the Wolfpack for 408 yards and four touchdowns, with Emeka Emezzi (133 yards) and Carter (132) each in a pair of TD grabs. Zonovan Knight also made a comeback in the second-half kickoff for a 100-yard touchdown and a 27–24 lead, the first time since halftime this season that Damon Deacon went home in a home game.
NC State: Add to this the growing list of frustrations for the Wolfpack when it comes to heading west on Interstate 40 for this game in Winston-Salem. The state fell for the ninth time in 10 games here since 2001, a flimsy run that included losses by eventual NFL quarterbacks Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson, Mike Glennon and Ryan Finlay. It will hurt worse than others.
“We knew what was at stake in this game, we knew what we could achieve,” Leary said, “We can’t go back and change anything we want to.”
Wake Forest: Last week, Demon Deacon suffered his first loss since an 8-0 start in a non-conference matchup against state league foe North Carolina. But they regrouped to move closer to playing for the program’s first league title since 2006.
Players of both the teams were getting injured time and again.
Wake Forest entered the top corner of Gavin Holmes and Kellen Carson, then lost receiver Jacquery Roberson. For NC State, Knight had to walk off the field twice with a right foot injury.
Additionally, Ryan Smenda of Wake Forest and Shaym Battle of NC State were dropped for targeting after halftime.
NC State: Syracuse visits the Wolfpack next Saturday.
Wake Forest: Damon Deacon visits Clemson next Saturday, seeking his first win against the Tigers since 2008 and his first win at Death Valley since 1998.
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