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Wake's offense comes alive in EagleBank Bowl win

12/20/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Wake Forest can finally exhale.

The Demon Deacons strung together a little over two quarters of arguably their best offense this season, and another impressive performance from their top 20 defense led to redemption in a 29-19 win over Navy in the inaugural EagleBank Bowl.

The difference the second time around was glaring -- the offense moved the ball.

Quarterback Riley Skinner, who had accounted for five of his team's six turnovers in Wake's September loss to Navy, completed all 11 of his passes for 166 yards and one touchdown.

Wake Forest was finally able to run, which in turn helped Skinner pass effectively. Skinner's mobility took some pressure off of his offensive line, and offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke was able to accomplish his goal of giving Navy a dose of its own medicine. The Demon Deacons were able to control the clock on offense and contain fullback Eric Kettani on defense. There were only a few occasions they fell asleep on quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, and allowed only a few big plays.

Wake Forest's offense, which had struggled all season, peaked at the right time and now has a springboard heading into next season. The Demon Deacons racked up a season-high 405 yards of total offense and a season-high 239 rushing yards.

Believe it or not, Wake Forest outrushed the No. 1 rushing offense in the nation.

Wake scored three touchdowns on the ground to Navy's one, and Kevin Harris led both teams with 136 yards on 24 carries. That's an amazing feat, considering Wake Forest was held to under 100 yards rushing in half of their regular season games, including the 24-17 loss to Navy on Sept. 27.

It was a gritty comeback effort for a team that trailed 13-0 in the first quarter, when the defense still looked asleep for the 11 a.m. kickoff.

Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe is not one to reveal his emotions on the sideline, but as he pursed his lips together tightly in the first half, his team's miscues were clearly wearing on him. Lobotzke got creative in the first quarter and gave standout cornerback Alphonso Smith a tryout on offense. Smith made a nice run, but it was negated by a fumble that was returned 50 yards for a touchdown, and Wake Forest trailed 10-0 early.

That was exactly what the Demon Deacons were afraid of when they accepted the invitation into the bowl for a rematch against Navy. There wasn't any lack of drama in the first bowl game of 2008, but not only did Wake Forest save face in this game, the Demon Deacons looked good in the process.

Despite the many veterans who will be lost on defense, Wake Forest has also used plenty of young players this season who can build on this win.