ACC Football: Wake Forest 30, Ole Miss 28
By Nick Bowton
WINSTON-SALEM ó Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe figured he’d blown the Demon Deacons’ chance for a victory when Mississippi scored with 1:01 remaining Saturday.
Then he saw quarterback Riley Skinner on the sideline.
With Wake trailing by a single point, Grobe still felt a bit nervous when the Deacs drove into field-goal range with eight seconds left.
Then he took a good look at kicker Sam Swank.
After a week of hearing college football pundits bash the ACC, Skinner led the 20th-ranked Deacs on a game-winning drive and Swank provided the deciding points in a 30-28 victory against Ole Miss.
“He does some pretty cool stuff once in a while,” Grobe said of Skinner, who finished 32-of-43 for 267 yards and set career-highs for both attempts and completions. “When we were so close to ending the game on defense and didn’t get it done, I was really down. My heart kind of sunk.
“Then I turned around and looked at (Skinner) and thought, ‘Well, maybe we do have a chance.’ ”
Grobe thought the same when he saw Swank preparing to kick a 41-yard field goal.
“I felt like it was his time,” said Grobe, who watched Swank miss a potential game-winner in the closing seconds at Virginia last season. “After Virginia last year, I know he wanted the opportunity to win a ballgame.
“When I looked at him on the field, he had a little twinkle in his eyes.”
In between Grobe’s glance at Skinner and the “twinkle” he saw in Swank’s eyes, Wake put together a drive it needed to avoid becoming the latest favored ACC team to lose.
The conference saw top-25 teams Clemson and Virginia Tech lose their openers, while Virginia got throttled by USC. Wake survived Week 1 as the only ranked team in the ACC, and Ole Miss did everything it could to knock the Deacs off as well.
The Rebels held Wake to 137 yards in the first half, sacking Skinner twice and forcing the Deacs to settle for a field goal just before halftime. Mississippi led 14-10 at the break.
“Ole Miss just lit us up all day,” said Skinner, who completed passes to nine different receivers. “Good Lord. There’s no reason to name off what blitzes they were, but they brought everything. They brought every blitz you could imagine.
“We’d probably seen everything by the time halftime came around.”
Wake’s defense did its best to match that performance in the second half.
Safety Kevin Patterson intercepted quarterback Jevan Snead on the first drive of the second half, and Brandon Ghee intercepted a pass from receiver Dexter McCluster on the first play of the Rebels’ next drive. Wake (2-0) capitalized on that turnover, getting within 14-13 on Swank’s second field goal.
The Deacs retook the lead on a 24-yard pass from Skinner to Marshall Williams later in the third, but the lead changed hands three more times before Wake got a chance for the game-winning drive.
Wake started that drive trailing 28-27 because it didn’t go for a two-point conversion on its final touchdown. Brandon Pendergrass scored on a 12-yard rush with 11:37 remaining, and Grobe figured Wake didn’t need to reach for additional points with so much time remaining.
When Ole Miss capped a 15-play, 80-yard drive with a fourth-down touchdown reception by Cordera Eason, Grobe’s decision looked like the wrong one in hindsight. And that’s when Grobe looked at Skinner.
A pair of 6-yard completions got Wake to its own 32-yard line, and Skinner then found his favorite target, D.J. Boldin, over the middle for 22 yards. Boldin had dropped several passes in the season-opener against Baylor but had 11 catches for 123 yards Saturday.
“An Ole Miss linebacker told me the game was over when we had (1:01) left,” Boldin said. “So I looked at him and told him no. I anticipated that play was coming.
“I was gonna catch the ball by all means.”
A pass interference call on a deep throw down the left sideline got Wake within Swank’s range, and Swank atoned for the 2007 Virginia loss with his third field goal of the game.
“A lot of Virginia flashbacks,” Skinner said. “I had a feeling the result was gonna be a lot different. He makes that nine times out of 10. He’s cold-blooded.”
NOTES: Snead caused Wake problems all afternoon with his scrambling ability and finished 20-of-31 with 253 yards and four touchdowns. “There were times we flat had him,” Grobe said. “For his second college start, he was really, really good.” … The game was Wake’s first at home since the addition of the Deacon Tower to BB&T Field.