Interceptions, turnovers cost Wake Forest at NC State

The 30-21 defeat effectively ends Wake Forest’s NY6 hopes


Evan Harris

An NC State defender takes down Jahmal Banks (in white) just short of the end zone. Wake Forest did not score on this possession.

Ian Steffensen, Sports Editor

Formerly No. 21 Wake Forest lost its second straight road game – a 30-21 defeat against NC State — on Saturday night. The Demon Deacons fell apart when it mattered.
With the loss and Clemson’s loss at Notre Dame earlier Saturday, Wake Forest’s hopes of competing in a New Year’s Six bowl game died hard. The Demon Deacons can still end the season 10-3, but tough challenges against UNC, Syracuse and Duke lie ahead.

PHOTOS: Wake Forest falls 30-21 to NC State

After the game, Head Coach Dave Clawson addressed the media and spoke about the increased expectations for Wake Forest now that it has moved to the “great” side of its motto.
“This is what we signed up for, ” Clawson said. “No one feels sorry for us. This is a tough part of the schedule and the past two weeks we haven’t been up to the challenge.”
No. 22 NC State had the odds against them. After the loss of quarterback Devin Leary, freshman quarterback M.J. Morris made his first career start against the Demon Deacons. Morris delivered, throwing three touchdown passes and guiding the Wolfpack to their most impressive win of the year.
So what really went wrong in this game for Wake Forest? Hartman’s three interceptions definitely come into question: he overthrew receivers, and there was a miscommunication with them on several plays. Yet, the heavy reliance on the passing game was due to Wake Forest’s abysmal rushing attack with a total of 17 yards on the day. Hartman continually forced throws in this contest, and his inconsistency as of late should be a great concern to Demon Deacon fans. Penalties were also a problem for Wake Forest, they committed 74 yards of penalties, largely coming from offensive false starts. Lastly, the defense without lineman Rondell Bothroyd looked lost. They had seemingly no answer for NC State’s ground game or passing attack.
After last week’s blowout loss at Louisville, Wake Forest was keen to find its momentum and get going early, but NC State had every answer for the Demon Deacon offense. QB Sam Hartman was unable to shake his demons from last week, and threw a pick on the opening drive. The Demon Deacons’ defense showed some strength early, holding the Wolfpack to just a field goal after the turnover. False start penalties continually ruined drives for Wake Forest, and a 35-yard field goal attempt by Matthew Dennis missed wide right. After a miserable first quarter, the Wolfpack led 3-0.

Taylor Morin (No. 2 in white) dives to receive a 24-yard Sam Hartman TD pass. (Evan Harris)

Wake Forest got going on their next series in the second quarter with a balanced attack, capping off the drive with running back Christian Turner punching it in for the two-yard score. NC State would not go away though, as Morris connected with wide receiver Keyon Lesane for 44 yards across the middle on the next drive. He found Lesane again on the drive, this time in the end zone, to secure a 10-7 lead. This series was really when the momentum began to shift. NC State continually used its balanced attack to its advantage. Whether it was designed run plays or Morris extending plays with his legs, the Demon Deacon had no answer. Morris continued to find wide-open holes in Wake Forest’s coverage and this is what led to his success throughout the contest. Wake Forest found its rhythm offensively to close out the first half when Hartman connected with wide receiver Taylor Morin who made a spectacular one-handed grab to haul in the 24-yard touchdown pass. But just as Wake Forest has shown in earlier games this season, they did not know how to finish the half. Morris and the Wolfpack quickly marched down the field and scored a gut punch of a touchdown to take the lead and the momentum just before halftime.
Wake Forest went three-and-out to start the second half. Then, the Wolfpack marched 80 yards down the field on their next drive, converting on three third downs and capping it off with Morris’ third touchdown of the night. Hartman threw yet another interception on his next series, and NC State was able to get a field goal out of it to increase its lead to 27-14. On their next offensive series, Hartman threw yet another interception, his third on the day, and at that point the momentum had all but shifted NC State’s way. The Demon Deacons held the Wolfpack to a punt on their next series, but a wacky downed punt meant the offense would start at their own goal line. Hartman was able to regroup after his third interception and connected with his favorite target wide receiver A.T. Perry four times on this drive. On 4th and 6, with the game slowly slipping out of his hands, Hartman scrambled out of the pocket and threw a 29-yard laser to Perry who made a spectacular catch in the right endzone to keep Wake Forest in the fold. The defense needed a stop on the next series, but Morris continued to attack the wide-open holes with NC State’s balanced rushing and passing attack. The Demon Deacons were able to hold the Wolfpack to a field goal, but barring a miracle, this contest was all but over. On their final drive, Hartman relied on Perry to bail him out, but a dropped pass ended both the drive and the game for Wake Forest.
Wake Forest fell apart when it truly mattered, and they will hope to regroup when they face No. 15 North Carolina at home. After dropping out of the rankings, we can only hope the Demon Deacons will play with a chip on their shoulder and come out with a victory. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.