Jim Grobe said this is as good as it gets following Wake Forest's (2-0, 1-0 ACC) heart-pounding 28-27 win over North Carolina (1-1, 0-1 ACC) in Winston-Salem.
The Demon Deacons definitely took the road less traveled, overcoming injuries and other obstacles to win the game.
What are the biggest takeaways for the Deacs?
1) Wake's 93-yard game-winning drive
An offsides penalty on Joey Ehrmann negated a punt blocked, enabling Thomas Hibbard to pin Wake Forest back at its own seven.
Tanner Price completed an impressive 5-6 passes for 67 yards and snuck into the end-zone on a one-yard keeper to set up Jimmy Newman game-winning extra point.
"Our offense just wanted it," Price said. "Our defense had been stepping up and holding them to field goals and stopping them, and it was time that our offense stepped up and made some plays."
"We kind of challenged each other to doing that and helping out our defense. I think going into that drive everybody had 100-percent confidence that we could take it down there and score, and that's what we did."
2) Winning without Johnson and Whitlock
Wake's defense sustained significant setbacks to its defense when cornerback Kevin Johnson left the game with a concussion near the end of the second quarter and nose guard Nikita Whitlock was knocked out with a sprained right ankle midway through the third quarter.
"We tried to play as many as we could [on defense]," Grobe said. "We're just not very deep. We don't have a lot of depth. That [losing Johnson] presumed a lot of problems for us. We had to keep those two corners [Merrill Noel and Chibuikem Okoro] on the field all day, and losing Nikita [Whitlock] we had to play Tylor Harris the true freshman at nose guard the rest of the game. I thought he fought hard and played pretty good football. I think we're going to like what he did."
"Our tackles were kind of getting dinged from time to time, our defensive ends, and we were rolling Hasan [Hazime] and Kris Redding and Desmond Floyd. We're just not very deep, but they kept finding a way. Guys were putting duct tape on and going back, so we found a way to get the job done. Depth is a little bit of an issue for us, especially if we don't play together. When the offense went flat it really put our defense in a bind."
After Johnson and Whitlock went down the defense rose to the occasion, forcing the Tar Heels to settle for field goals twice, punt twice and UNC quarterback Bryn Renner to throw an interception to Riley Haynes.
3) Campanaro's catches
Michael Campanaro broke Desmond Clark's school record (11 catches) for most receptions in a single game with 13 catches for a career-high 164 yards.
"Just film-study and understanding what the defense is trying to give you and Tanner and I are on a great page as far as offensive-wise, but I was giving those guys the best stuff I had as far as moves," Campanaro said. "They kept putting different guys on me. They kept switching."
"It wasn't like one guy was getting used to what I was doing. I kept getting a new guy, so I was able to give him some of my good stuff. I was just happy. Our offensive coaching staff does a great job of designing plays to get me the ball, so hats off to them."
He has 32 receptions for 388 yards and a touchdown in his last three outings, dating back to last season's Music City Bowl loss to Mississippi State.
"The guy's amazing," Grobe said. "I think our offensive coaches do a nice job of designing plays to get it to Camp, but he's just got a knack for getting in the creases and getting open."
"If you just looked at him height, weight, speed all those tangible things you wouldn't know that he's that kind of player, but he's pretty special."
4) The emergence of Ragland and Terry
Sherman Ragland and Brandon Terry could not have picked a better time to step up.
Ragland, who sustained a compound dislocation of his pinky finger in the season opener and had not caught a pass for nearly the entire game against the Tar Heels, was Price's go-to-guy twice on Wake's game-winning drive, as he reeled in two passes for 42 yards. The second reception, an 11-yard catch, set up Price's one-yard run touchdown run.
"Sherman has showed us a lot of toughness," Grobe said. "He didn't practice the first couple of days this week, because there's so much swelling. He had two fingers taped together. He showed a lot of toughness, because a lot of kids would have gone ahead and taken this week off, but he came back and made a couple of plays for us."
"I think he did some good things blocking too. I think he's one of those guys you're really proud of, because a lot of times redshirt freshmen don't show a lot of toughness and I thought he went out there and showed he's a pretty tough guy."
After the game Ragland, who had his finger wrapped, said it felt like it could pop at any second and that it was throbbing.
Terry, who missed most of fall camp with an eye injury, caught four passes for a career-high 87 yards.
5) O-line passes big test
The last month and a half has not been easy for the Wake Forest offensive line. This unit entered the off-season with the task to replace four starters, and sustained a rash of injuries to some of its most experienced players during the pre-season and versus North Carolina when Colin Summsers sprained his ankle. However, it fought through that adversity to protect Price when it mattered most.
"When we lost Colin Summers and Dylan Intemann had to go in
when you put those redshirt freshmen out there against a team like Carolina you just don't know how it's going to turn out, so we took our lumps for about a quarter and a half and then when it counted they went down and got the job done," Grobe said.
6) Kinal's punting
Redshirt freshman Alexander Kinal punted seven times for an average of 42.9 yards per punt with a long of 50 yards, but more importantly he pinned the Heels back inside their 20 five times.
"I thought that Alex Kinal was fantastic punting the ball," Grobe said. "The last punt as you can tell we took about 20 timeouts trying to figure out what the best thing to do was. We were trying to decide whether to run a play, and try to get the first down or to let him punt the football. We were worried about the snap, hold. We talked about field goal, and then we ultimately relied on the defense and said what do you guys want to do."
"They said let's let Alex punt the football. We were expecting to have the ball on the 20-yard-line. We thought 20-yard-line starting rather than 28-yard-line. He kicked that ball so high, and got it right down there where A.J. [Marshall] could pin it. I think we're going to go back and look and think that Mate was a big part of this win tonight."
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