Wake Forest Drops UVa

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Marc Verica had 279 yards and 2 TDs passing, but he also had 3 interceptions.

All of the things that made Virginia successful during a four-game October winning streak fell apart Saturday at Wake Forest. Cedric Peerman picking up big rushing yards and taking care of the football. Nope. Marc Verica picking apart defenses with accurate passes or at least bouncing back from early struggles. Not exactly. The defense controlling the opponent’s running attack. Afraid not. An unexpected comeback in the fourth quarter. Not quite.

The result? A 28-17 defeat at the hands of the Demon Deacons, the fourth loss this season by double digits. This setback leaves UVa at 5-5 on the season and likely out of the Coastal Division race.

“We got off to a very slow start and after that the defense started executing a lot better, but it was too little too late,” UVa linebacker Antonio Appleby said on the Virginia Sports Network. Appleby had a career-high 13 tackles.

Indeed, the problems started early against Wake as the hosts moved down the field on their first drive of the game to take the lead. The Deacs faced 3rd-and-Goal before tossing the ball into the end zone off of a play-action pass. On the play, Riley Skinner slid to his right and found tight end Ben Wooster running along the back line as Jon Copper tried to recover in coverage. The tip-toe touchdown gave WFU a 7-0 lead.

Moments later, the Demon Deacons added to their lead courtesy of a Virginia turnover. First, Aaron Curry blitzed past the right side of UVa’s offensive line unblocked and hit Verica as he attempted to throw; the ball popped into the air where Boo Robinson pulled down the interception. Verica finished 23-of-45 passing for 279 yards as well as 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.

It didn’t look like Wake was going to take advantage of the play, however, falling into a 3rd-and-15 hole on the next two plays. But a 58-yard bomb from Skinner to Devon Brown added points to the board. On the play, Virginia appeared to have bracketed coverage with Ras-I Dowling playing underneath the receiver and safety Byron Glaspy providing help over the top. Unfortunately, Glaspy got turned around on the play and stumbled as the ball was in the air, allowing Brown to make the catch for a 14-0 lead.

“We lost the game last week when we fell down in double coverage and today we fell down [again],” Virginia coach Al Groh said.

While the slow start wasn’t encouraging, the Cavaliers had been resilient in similar situations during their October streak of wins. This time around, they managed to put points on the board and momentarily slow the tide as Robert Randolph converted a 33-yard field goal attempt to cut the lead to 14-3.

The Demon Deacons didn’t take long to make UVa’s visit uncomfortable again, however, as they scored on the very next drive. Behind a strong running attack up the middle, Wake Forest put together a 15-play, 71-yard drive to add another touchdown to the scoreboard. Brandon Pendergrass, who piled up 59 rushing yards on the drive, capped off the methodical march with a 1-yard run that pushed the lead to 21-3. Pendergrass finished with 110 yards rushing, the third time in four weeks that a back has cracked the century mark against the Hoos.

That’s when the Deacon defense decided to get in on the touchdown act. After Gelo Orange burst through the line to stuff a Peerman run (he finished with 43 yards on 12 carries), Verica tried to squeeze a pass into a tight spot for Kevin Ogletree . The ball ended up in Kevin Patterson’s hands and he immediately turned defense into offense by sprinting 53 yards behind blockers for a TD. That gave the Homecoming crowd another reason to cheer as the lead climbed to 28-3.

“There was contact simultaneous to the catch,” Groh said. “Clearly a good play from the defensive player, very alert to catch the ball in the air and run it in. Obviously, we wish we had a better play on our end.”

Still, Virginia tried to mount a second-half comeback. The Cavaliers had a chance to get into the end zone in the third quarter when Ogletree, who finished with 6 catches for 95 yards and a touchdown, set the team up inside the 2-yard line with a 43-yard catch. Unfortunately, the Hoos could not get the ball into the end zone in the next four plays. In the fourth quarter, Verica found John Phillips and Ogletree for touchdowns, but the lead was just too large.

“A few things stand out. That [long pass] play for a touchdown, the interception for touchdown, and the series on the goal line in which we don’t’ get the ball in there,” Groh said. “But as even as this conference is, that’s [how] it is. It’s those kinds of plays. That really determines whether you played a good enough game or not.”

So in the end, the Cavaliers didn’t play a good enough game and the late offensive surge did little other than change the final margin. Just two weeks ago, the Cavaliers were alone in first place in the ACC’s Coastal Division. Now, they must regroup for the final two games of the season with an eye on another win to become bowl eligible.

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