Ethan Engellau Staff Writer
The most intriguing game for Carolinians this week did not disappoint as the Demon Deacons battled it out with the Wolfpack en route to a 45-42 victory. No.12 Wake Forest coming off a disappointing loss to UNC never faltered in a similar game script to their last in which they crumbled. They may have suffered the same fate if the game-ending onside kick traveled one-yard further. This game was filled with different twists and turns throughout including, crucial injuries, ejections, and the aforementioned onside kick penalty.
The Wolfpack really made Sam Hartman work; he ended the game completing 20 of his 47 passes with three touchdown passes and three interceptions. Hartman looked good early on throwing the first touchdown of the game to A.T. Perry for 24 yards. Justice Ellison would add a one-yard touchdown run on the Deacons’s next drive while the Wolfpack kicked two field goals in the quarter leaving the score at 14-6 after one.
The story of the second quarter was defense as J.J. Roberts made a toe-tap interception that some professional receivers have been unable to make. This joy would be short lived for the Deacons as Shyheim Battle returned the favor with an interception of his own. Later in the second quarter, Devin Leary would find Devin Carter for the Devin-to-Devin connection that has worked so well for the Wolfpack this year for 13-yards. Carter would then fumble right before he hit the ground allowing the Deacons’s Traveon Redd to scoop the ball up and return it to the NC State five-yard line setting up the Deacons in beautiful field position. Sam Hartman would capitalize taking a read-option into the endzone cushioning the Wake Forest lead. However, this is the point where Devin Leary and the Wolfpack would get back on track. After a beautiful 72-yard kick return by Zonovan Knight, Leary threw a dime to Emeka Emezie for a 28-yard touchdown score. Before the end of the half, Devin Carter would get his redemption. With 32 seconds left, Leary found Carter wide open in the endzone to put the Wolfpack back into the game down 21-20. A 57-yard kick return by Trenton Gill would allow the Deacons to tack on a field goal before the half.
On the opening kickoff of the second half, Zonovan Knight topped his previous return going 100 yards to the endzone for a Wolfpack touchdown. The Deacons would respond with a 75-yard drive of their own ending with a five-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Chapman. Following these scores, Leary and Hartman would trade interceptions once again: this time with Leary being picked off by Nick Andersen and Hartman by Tyler Baker-Williams. This would all be for not as Christopher Dunn would miss a critical 33-yard field goal on the ensuing drive. The Wolfpack momentum seemed to be wavering. On the next drive, Shyheim Battle would be ejected for targeting. But on a broken play in the end zone, Derreck Pitts Jr. was able to intercept Hartman for the third time on a ball that bounced off three players.
The fourth quarter started with Hartman and Leary exchanging touchdowns and with Wake providing a targeting penalty of their own on the Wolfpack drive as Ryan Smenda was ejected. With two minutes remaining, Justice Ellison would add his third touchdown of the day giving the Deacons a 45-35 lead. However, the Devin-to-Devin connection once again flourished as Leary found Carter to score on a drive that took only a minute. This set up the Wolfpack down three points with a chance at victory. The Wolfpack lined up for the onside kick and were able to recover. However, the ball only traveled nine yards when Ricky Person Jr. snatched it up. This illegal touching penalty would end the game as the Deacons were given possession and kneeled the clock out on their way to a hard-fought, stressful win.
Other Notable Finals:
No.22 Coastal Carolina desperately needs the return of Grayson McCall as they fell 42-40 to a Georgia State team that was laughable early in the season when we covered them playing other Carolina colleges.
UNC goes 1-2 in their run against ranked opponents as Kenny Pickett was able to squeak No.21 Pittsburgh past the Tar Heels in overtime.
Memphis got greedy as ECU was able to stop an overtime two-point conversion to pull out the win 30-29.
Charlotte loses their fourth game in a row in a loss to Louisiana Tech 42-32. A disappointing second half for what was an exciting team early in the season.
Trey Cobb returned a pick-six for 100 yards as Appalachian State steamed past South Alabama 31-7.