Skinner makes history as Demon Deacons roll

August, 29, 2008
8/29/08
1:11
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

 
 AP Photo/ Donna McWilliam
 Riley Skinner throws a TD pass during the first half of Thursday night's game against Baylor.

WACO, Texas -- Riley Skinner could joke a little about his relative place in Wake Forest's football history.

So when somebody told him that he became the Demon Deacons' winningest quarterback after his 41-13 victory over Baylor, the junior chuckled at his place in a school without much of a previous winning history

"It's not too impressive of a record, I guess," said Skinner, who rifled a career-best three touchdown passes to lead the victory. "It feels nice. I just hope I can add onto it a little."

Much like their undersized quarterback, the Demon Deacons persevered for a workmanlike victory.

And they made history doing it, winning their first game as a ranked team to start the season.

"I thought our coaches prepared our team well, but I was still nervous," Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said. "We've always played well as an underdog. But I was really concerned with the top 25 ranking coming in here."

The Demon Deacons played like they're familiar with such rankings. They jumped to a quick 17-0 lead and cruised to the easy victory as they spoiled Baylor coach Art Briles debut with the Bears.

And they proved something to themselves by doing it.

"Being ranked is nice, but it puts a target on your back," Skinner said. "People expect you to win this game. We knew it would be a tough battle. We played well, but they're still some things left we'll have to work on."

Interestingly, Grobe was an unsuccessful candidate for the Baylor job when Guy Morriss was hired in 2002. When he took over the Wake Forest job a year earlier, the Demon Deacon program could have been considered the Baylor equivalent in the Atlantic Coast Conference after compiling seven losing records during an eight-season span.

But he steadily built the program into the ACC champion two years ago, the school's first title in 36 years. He followed that team with one that overcame an 0-2 start last season to qualify for the Meineke Car Care Bowl. The Demon Deacons had back-to-back bowl teams for the first time in Wake Forest history.

And with a veteran lineup of 17 starters, the Demon Deacons needed to prove their ranking to a national television audience.

Skinner especially did that, completing 17 of his first 19 attempts. His only missed connections during that stretch came on a throwaway pass and a drop. And his performance showed the form that is leading many to call him the ACC's best returning quarterback this season.

"People were getting open and they were making it easy on me making their catches," Skinner said. "We need to be efficient to score a lot of points like this. Basically, we took what they were giving us. I was really happy how everybody played."

Grobe sounded more relieved than happy as he related how his team had little to go by as they prepared for new Baylor coach Art Briles before the game.

"Every coach's nightmare is opening on the road, especially against a good team in a major conference," Grobe said. "We knew that coach Briles does a great job wherever he is and knew he had some great players.

"But we had little knowledge about their X's and O's on offense and defense. We had to do a lot of adjusting as the game went on. It was a good win for us and a great challenge."

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