Wolford, Wake Forest hold off No. 19 N.C. State
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Wake Forest has done more than hope it would have a special season.
The Demon Deacons are acting on it, with more proof coming Saturday night.
John Wolford threw three touchdown passes to Tabari Hines as Wake Forest defeated No. 19 North Carolina State 30-24, aided by causing a late-game turnover near the goal line at BB&T Field.
“This team has done the things that you have to do to win these kinds of games,” Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said. “They’ve believed they can win. We haven’t won them all, but we made one more play tonight.”
The Demon Deacons (7-4, 4-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) defeated a nationally ranked opponent in the regular season for the first time since 2011.
For N.C. State (7-4, 5-2), it’s another dagger, with a third loss in the last four games.
The most glaring statistic in the Wolfpack’s latest setback might have been that they took 94 snaps to Wake Forest’s 56.
“We had 502 yards on 94 plays, you’d expected to score more than 24 points,” N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said. “Got to make plays when they’re there. That was the game. We had those (three) turnovers.”
The go-ahead points came on Wolford’s 18-yard pass to Hines with 8:03 to play, though the Wolfpack’s B.J. Hill blocked the extra-point attempt.
N.C. State used a 14-play drive, including a fourth-and-1 conversion, to move into scoring position. But receiver Emeka Emezie fumbled as he reached out for the end zone to complete a pass play, with Wake Forest recovering in the end zone for a touchback with 1:51 remaining.
The Wolfpack regained possession with 41 seconds left at its own 45-yard line. They reached the Wake Forest 31, but Essang Bassey intercepted Ryan Finley in the end zone with one second left.
Now it’s the Demon Deacons who will finish above .500 in the regular season for the first time since 2008.
“You build confidence,” said Wolford, a senior. “I think we’ve built that as the season goes on.”
N.C. State’s loss means the Wolfpack can’t tie for the ACC’s Atlantic Division title, though Clemson had already clinched the division’s spot in the conference championship game.
Still, the outcome spoiled the Wolfpack’s bid for a major bowl assignment.
“It’s disappointing,” Doeren said. “But for us, guys kept playing.”
Hines finished with 139 yards on eight receptions. He racked up 111 first-half receiving yards on five catches, with the junior’s first career multi-touchdown game.
Wolford was 19 of 28 for 247 yards and Finley was 34 of 52 for 327 yards.
N.C. State scored on its first possession of the second half, with Finley throwing for a 20-yard score to Emezie, a freshman who made a leaping grab for his first career touchdown.
Wake Forest (7-4, 4-3) went back ahead at 24-21 on Mike Weaver’s 36-yard field goal. That was set up by receiver Chuck Wade’s diving catch on a 41-yard play.
The score was even again, this time at 24, when Kyle Bambard’s 25-yard field goal came at the end of a 19-play drive that went 76 yards.
The Wolfpack avoided a potential disaster when Nyheim Hines muffed a third-quarter punt, but the ball was recovered by N.C. State in the end zone for a touchback.
The teams set a brisk first-half pace.
Wolford hit Hines with touchdown throws of 21 and 7 yards, the latter putting the Demon Deacons up 21-14.
“Defensively, we struggled in the first half and made some adjustments in the second half,” Doeren said.
N.C. State had tying touchdowns with Jaylen Samuels’ 11-yard run and Reggie Gallaspy’s 11-yard run.
The first points came on Matt Colburn’s 11-yard run for the Demon Deacons 5:01 into the game.
NOTES: N.C. State has played Wake Forest more often than any other opponent, leading the series 66-39-6. ... Wake Forest had won six home matchups in a row against the Wolfpack until the 2015 result. ... N.C. State played without WR Stephen Louis, who was injured a week earlier at Boston College. ... Demon Deacons S Jessie Bates III returned to action after missing the past two games with a lower-body injury. ... The Wolfpack completes the regular season next week at home against North Carolina. ... Wake Forest celebrated Senior Night for this game even though it plays home again next week against Duke.