CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) -- Three games for Wake Forest against its
Tobacco Road rivals, three dramatic endings -- and, most
importantly, three wins.
Now the 24th-ranked Demon Deacons' dreams of success can stretch
well beyond the North Carolina state line.
Riley Skinner threw a 39-yard touchdown pass to Ken Moore and
Jon Abbate intercepted a pass in the end zone to seal Wake Forest's
24-17 victory over North Carolina on Saturday.
"I'll stick with the thrills if we can keep getting Ws,"
Abbate picked off Joe Dailey on the game's final play after the
Tar Heels drove to the Wake Forest 3 with 41 seconds left.
His interception gave the Demon Deacons (7-1, 3-1 Atlantic Coast
Conference) their first season sweep since 1987 over cross-state
rivals Duke, North Carolina State and North Carolina.
Each victory came down to the final moments, with Wake Forest
blocking a field goal to beat the Blue Devils and intercepting
passes in the final minute to hold off both the Wolfpack and Tar
"This is something we've been building toward for a long
time," Demon Deacons coach Jim Grobe said. "We've lost a lot of
heartbreakers over the years, but this year we've got a lot of
seniors. I'm not sure we're doing it pretty, but we're doing it."
Now Wake Forest remains in contention in the ACC's jumbled
Atlantic Division entering next week's home game against division
rival Boston College.
"What you (players) did tonight, we've given ourselves a chance
to do something pretty special next week," Grobe said.
The Demon Deacons have won seven of eight to start the season
for the first time since 1979 and just the third time in school
Wake Forest trailed 17-14 before Sam Swank tied it with a
41-yard field goal on the second play of the fourth quarter.
Then, almost immediately, the Demon Deacons' defense helped its
offense take the lead for good.
North Carolina was trying to get something going when Cam Sexton
found fullback Nick Starcevic toward the right sideline. But Demon
Deacons linebacker Stanley Arnoux stripped Starcevic and Josh
Gattis recovered at the Tar Heels' 39.
On the next play, Skinner found Moore over the middle for the
"I looked over at Riley and smiled, and said 'Here we go,"
Moore said. "We had been setting up the run all day. I think we
kind of lulled them to sleep."
North Carolina had one last chance to force overtime, converting
two fourth downs on its final drive and advancing to the 3 on
Dailey's 44-yard sideline pass to Hakeem Nicks. But three plays
later, Abbate stepped in front of Dailey's final pass.
Moore, who also rushed 34 yards on a reverse for a TD, finished
with six receptions for 82 yards to lead the Demon Deacons, who
kept the hapless Tar Heels (1-7, 0-5) winless in seven tries
against I-A opponents.
Nevertheless, North Carolina played inspired football in its
first game since the firing of coach John Bunting, effective at the
end of the season.
"I knew we were walking into an ambush and I'm just glad to get
out of here with our heads above water," Grobe said.
Ronnie McGill had 100 of his 117 yards rushing in the first half
and became just the second running back this season to rush for at
least 100 yards against the Demon Deacons, joining Clemson's C.J.
Spiller. McGill also had a 1-yard touchdown run.
"Just to come out there and prove to everybody that if they
call on me that many times, I'm there for them," McGill said.
"That's what I thought at the beginning of the season how it would
unfold, but we just kept doing different things."
Dailey, making his first start since Week 2 and alternating
every other series with Sexton, finished 13-of-19 for 156 yards
with one touchdown and two interceptions.
"It's not just about the quarterback. It's about other players
(who) play on offense also, and the coaches who coach them,"
Bunting said. "This is a thing that's not been effective the way
we wanted it to be, the way we expected it would be. We're all in
this together, and we have not achieved enough."
Skinner was 7-of-8 for 89 yards for Wake Forest, which never
trailed during the first half but fought off several North Carolina
Wake Forest took an early 7-0 lead after returning a blocked
punt for a TD. Alphonso Smith burst through the middle, smothered
David Wooldridge's punt and returned the ball 16 yards for the
North Carolina tied it on its following possession on Dailey's
1-yard touchdown pass to converted tackle Andre Barbour.
Connor Barth kicked a 35-yard field goal in the third quarter to
give North Carolina its first lead in a span of nearly 10 quarters,
dating back to the first quarter against South Florida on Oct. 14.
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... Wake Forest's Jon Abbate picked off UNC's Joe Dailey in the end zone on the game's final play.
Gameball goes to... Kenneth Moore. Moore caught six of the seven passes the Wake Forest completed including the game-winning score in the fourth quarter.
Stat of the game... 9. Nine Wake Forest players had carries in racking up 200 yards rushing for vs. the Tar Heels.