WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — Kenneth Walker III had 123 yards rushing and three touchdowns, including the go-ahead 75-yard scoring, run, and Wake Forest beat Virginia 40-23 Saturday.
On the first play from scrimmage after Brian Delaney’s 32-yard field goal that pulled Virginia into a tie at 23-all early in the fourth quarter, Walker took a handoff, bounced left, broke free from a Virginia tackler and raced down the left sideline.
Walker’s run provided a big momentum shift, coming only seconds after Virginia, which fell behind 14-0 in the game’s first four minutes, seemed to have found a way to stop the Wake offense.
“That run was huge,” said Jaquarii Roberson, who had seven catches for 126 yards for Wake Forest. “We needed a big play. We needed that momentum.”
Virginia’s Perris Jones muffed the ensuing pooch kickoff while attempting to make a fair catch, setting up Walker for a 4-yard TD run that put the Demon Deacons (2-2, 1-2 ACC) in control for good.
Prior to Walker’s 75-yard run, the Cavs (1-3, 1-3 ACC) had shut down the Wake running game and kept consistent pressure on Sam Hartman, who was sacked three times.
“We had played the run game very well up to that point. A running play goes out the gate for a touchdown,” said Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall. “Immediately following, we muff a kickoff return, and then an interception. So really, those three plays, back-to-back-to-back, changed the outcome.”
The Deacons had suffered a 45-42 loss at N.C. State in their previous ACC game.
“It’s exciting,” Hartman said of the Virginia victory. “With the N.C. State game, there was just kind of that feeling of defeat.”
Wake finished with 174 yards rushing on 42 attempts. The Deacons were hampered by 12 penalties for 119 yards.
Hartman did create time to hit on some long pass plays. The sophomore completed 16 of 27 passes for 309 yards and one TD.
The Deacons seemed on the verge of making quick work of the Cavs.
Hartman found A.T. Perry behind the Virginia defense for a 40-yard TD strike on the game’s opening drive. After holding the Cavs without a first down, the Deacons tacked on a second TD on 3-yard run by Walker that followed a 49-yard pass from Hartman to Roberson.
With starter Brennan Armstrong sidelined due to concussion protocol, Virginia used a combination of backups Lindell Stone, Iraken Armstead and Keytoan Thompson, often rotating Stone and Armstead in the same series.
After a slow start, the trio lead the Cavs back into a 20-20 tie at halftime. Delaney, who kicked three field goals, missed a 36-yarder that would have given the Cavs the lead with 5:25 left in the third quarter.
“I’m especially proud of our defense in the second half,” said Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson. “They (the Cavs) probably do as good a job manufacturing offense as anybody. They really had us scrambling in the first half.”
Stone, seldom used in his first three seasons at Virginia, completed 24 of 42 passes for 193 yards and two interceptions. Led by Thompson’s 71 yards on 10 carries, the Cavs rushed for 218 yards on 38 carries.
“Both Ira and K.T. were probably around seven yards per rush,” Mendenhall said. “Ira’s scrambling ability probably added something to that. So, I thought collectively, our approach gave us a chance. We didn’t execute well enough to finish the game, to finish with the win, but I think it gave us a chance.”
Armstead scored Virginia’s first TD on a 4-yard run, capping an 11-play, 73-yard drive on the first play of the second quarter. The Cavs sent the game into halftime tied at 20 on Wayne Taulapapa’s 15-yard TD run in the final two minutes.
Virginia: The Cavaliers let a great effort get away without a victory. Bronco Mendenhall’s team responded well after falling behind 14-0 in the first four minutes, but Walker’s 75-yard TD run and the kickoff muff were too much to overcome. The Cavs defense gave up some big passing plays but stiffened in short-yardage and third-down situations.
Wake Forest: The Deacons almost squandered a fast start against a Cavaliers team playing on the road without an established quarterback. The Deacons’ inability to mount a capable running attack allowed the Cavs to put the heat on Hartman, who was sacked three times while under a consistent pass rush. But the Deacons made big plays in the fourth quarter to hang on.
WHAT’S IN A NUMBER?
With Armstrong out, Virginia was left with players wearing the numbers 36 (Stone), 98 (Armstead) and 99 (Thompson) taking the snaps. Mendenhall uses a “draft system” to allow his players to choose their number from the numbers available. Unlike most other college coaches, Mendenhall doesn’t want to allow more than one player to wear a number -- acceptable in college if the players aren’t on the field at the same time.
PENALTIES, BUT NO TURNOVERS
Wake’s 12 penalties for 129 yards were both highs for the Deacons under Clawson. But Wake won the turnover battle 3-0, a major reason the Deacons escaped with the victory. The Virginia muff on the pooch kickoff put the Deacons in clear control. Take away Walker’s 75-yard run and the Deacons rushed for only 99 yards on 41 carries. “We’ve got some things we have to clean up,” Clawson said.
Armstead threw only three passes, completing one for 9 yards. Thompson didn’t throw a pass. Instead, Armstead and Thompson were the Cavs’ running quarterbacks. Armstead rushed six times for 46 yards, giving the duo 117 rushing yards. “I think it (the rotation) worked pretty well, to be honest,” Thompson said. “We’ve been getting off to kind of slow starts and stuff like that. I think it helped us jump-start and it helped us in the running game a lot.
“All the way up until the fourth quarter, I felt like we had a chance.”