ACC Football: Wake Forest 16, Virginia 10
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - Wake Forest turned two weeks of turmoil into a turnaround it hopes will lead the Demon Deacons to a bowl game.
Chad Hedlund kicked three field goals and Wake Forest returned from an open week with a much-improved defense and beat mistake-prone Virginia 16-10 on Saturday, sending the reeling Cavaliers to their sixth consecutive loss.
The victory came two weeks after coach Jim Grobe suspended six players for the Demon Deacons' loss at Maryland for violating team rules, and with two new players sidelined for the same thing in the midst of losing three out of four games.
"We came out today fired up," said quarterback Tanner Price, who completed just seven passes and led an offense that gained just 213 yards. "We realized the importance of this game and we realized that we really needed to get back on track. It was great to see a team after especially all that adversity come together and mesh and win a football game."
They wasted no time, either, forcing Virginia to punt and getting a 60-yard return by Lovell Jackson to the Cavaliers' 16. On the next play, Josh Harris went around the right side and all the way to the end zone, and 6-second, 7-point possession.
"As soon as that happens, it kind of gives you a good vibe about the entire game," Harris said.
The Demon Deacons (4-3, 2-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) came in allowing more than 206 rushing yards and 31 points, but limited the Cavaliers to 48 yards on 32 carries. They also stymied a late Virginia drive with two huge plays - a 6-yard loss on second down and an 11-yard sack of Phillips Sims by true freshman Tylor Harris on third down.
The Cavaliers (2-6, 0-4) had driven to the Demon Deacons' 36 before those two plays.
On its previous drive, Virginia reached the Wake Forest 34 and faced second-and-1 when Sims tried to float a pass to 5-foot-11 wide receiver Darius Jennings near the end zone. Instead, Demon Deacons 6-1 cornerback Kevin Johnson got inside position on the throw and intercepted, ending the possession. Johnson had also recovered a fumble earlier.
The final straw came with 1:59 left when Virginia forced a punt, and the ball hit returner Khalek Shepherd near the shoulders and bounced away, Joe LaBarbera recovering for the Deacons.
The loss gave Virginia it's longest losing streak since the final six games of Al Groh's tenure in 2009.
"I want to play again right now," Virginia defensive tackle Chris Brathwaite said. "I'd rather play tomorrow. These last six games, you build up a lot of anger and aggression and you want to just go out and beat up."
The Demon Deacons went ahead 16-7 late in the third quarter with more help as Virginia got called for an illegal block in the back when Wake Forest punted on fourth-and-11 from the Cavaliers 38. Grobe said the field position made it an obvious choice to go for it on fourth-and-1, and Price made it. Six plays later, Hedlund kicked his third field goal, a 24-yarder.
Virginia answered quickly, driving 62 yards in eight plays. Sims started the drive with a 31-yard pass to Jake McGee, and hit an 18-yarder to E.J. Scott, but the drive stalled at the Demon Deacons' 13. Ian Frye kicked a 30-yard field goal.
Wake Forest led 10-7 at halftime and Hedlund's 44-yard field goal made it 13-7 in the third.
After Harris' scoring run, most the rest of the half was a punting contest, except for one Cavaliers drive that reached the Demon Deacons' 26. From there, Frye tried a 44-yard field goal, but the kick sailed wide right.
Virginia finally got something going late in the half, almost all of it through the air. Sims completed seven passes, three for third-down conversions, and hit former Oscar Smith High School teammate Tim Smith on a slant from 13 yards.
Only 20 seconds remained in the half, but the Demon Deacons made another special teams play as Chibulkem Okoro returned the short, bouncing kick 20 yards to the 40. A personal foul on Kyle McCartin for tackling Okoro out of bounds moved it to the Virginia 45. Price hit 6-5 Brandon Terry in one-on-one coverage against 6-foot Drequan Hoskey for 41 yards, and Hedlund's 22-yard first field goal made it 10-7 at halftime.
Wake's scoring drives in the half took six seconds, and 17 seconds.