Demon Deacons still searching for bowl berth

With a bid for a bowl game on the line, Wake Forest (5-5, 3-5) floundered under the pressure, losing a 37-6 road blowout to North Carolina State (6-4, 3-3).

The loss marks the first time since 2004 that the Demon Deacons have lost to multiple in-state opponents in the same season.

Photo courtesy of Ethan Hyman

In their defense though, the Wolfpack looked much more like the team that handed No. 10 Florida State its first loss of the season, rather than the one was dismantled by ACC bottom-dweller Virginia at home.

Wake Forest struggled early on both sides of the ball, and N.C. State scored the first 17 points of the game.

Thanks to a creative touchdown pass from redshirt junior wide receiver Michael Campanaro, the lead was cut to 11 points in the second quarter.  Unfortunately, the Demon Deacons would not reach their opponent’s endzone for the remainder of the game.

“We felt really good at halftime,” head coach Jim Grobe said, “especially going in as poorly as we thought we played in the first half, but only down 17-6.”

Any chance Wake Forest had to regain the game’s momentum evaporated quickly when Tobias Palmer of the Wolfpack returned a kickoff for a 100-yard score to open the third quarter. Yet that wasn’t the only thing that didn’t go the Deacs’ way. Even two penalties by the Deacons were not enough to stop Palmer from blowing by the coverage.

“I thought we had a fired up team coming out for the second half, but that kick return took the wind out of our sails,” Grobe said.

The offense racked up a combined 21 yards on their four drives of the third quarter, resulting in three punts and a fumble.

“I felt like offensively we just didn’t play well at all, too many mistakes across the board, receivers, me, offensive line,” junior quarterback Tanner Price said. “We just really didn’t click tonight, and we weren’t making plays.”

Price’s 33 pass attempts resulted in just 113 yards, but the running game did not fare much better. When accounting for Price’s negative yardage from sacks, the team compiled a total of 16 yards on the ground.

On the other side of the ball the defense failed to consistently stop an offense that scored six points against Virginia the previous week.

Perhaps the play that best characterized the Wake Forest’s defensive performance was a run during which Shadrach Thorton of the Wolfpack carried redshirt sophomore cornerback Kevin Johnson, arguably the Deacons’ most skilled defensive player, for about 15 yards after the initial contact.

After another touchdown, N.C. State played its back-ups for the rest of the game, and coach Grobe soon chose to do the same.

“The last thing I said to them was we are at a fork in the road,” N.C. State head coach Tom O’Brien said. “We can either go to a bowl game, or go the other direction. They all stood up and said they are going to a bowl game.”

Grobe will need to deliver a speech of similar caliber if his squad hopes to have any chance of upsetting No. 3 Notre Dame (10-0).

Wake Forest will travel to South Bend for the first time in the university’s history as part of a recent agreement with the Fighting Irish.

The Demon Deacons, with just two games remaining to become bowl eligible, are also at a fork in the road.

How will the team respond?

Kick-off is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Nov. 17.