Winston-Salem, N.C. -Joe Looney challenged the Wake Forest defense at the timeout with 1:40 left in the game. Two plays later on fourth and eight at the Demon Deacons' 38 yard line Nikita Whitlock answered his teammate's call to action, and broke up Mike Glennon's pass that was intended for T.J. Graham, helping Wake Forest (1-1, 1-0 ACC) edge N.C. State (1-1, 0-1 ACC) 34-27.
"He (Looney) said, 'Refuse to lose,'" Wake Forest outside linebacker Kyle Wilber said.
Refusing to lose, that is what the Demon Deacons were unable to do in last week's 36-29 overtime loss to Syracuse. The Deacs blew a 29-14 lead in the fourth quarter against the Orange, and nearly saw a 27-6 lead evaporate today.
"It was a different resolve on the sidelines," Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe said. "You could sense that our guys didn't want to let this one slip away. You could sense the importance that they felt down the stretch of not letting it slip away. It wasn't pretty, and we'll probably be mad at the defense when we get them in practice Monday, but right now we're going to enjoy it."
It is hard to believe this is the same Wake team that suffered such a disappointing loss in its season opener, especially with the way it started the game.
Tanner Price picked up where he left off at Syracuse, leading the Demon Deacons straight down the field on the game's opening drive. At the 10:06 mark of the first quarter he threw a dart to a streaking Michael Campanaro, who juked and cut his way 31 yards to give Wake Forest an early 7-0 advantage.
Price finished 22 of 35 for 297 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
The hits kept coming, and with 12:53 away from halftime it was time for some vintage 2006 Demon Deacon razzle dazzle. Wake Forest caught the N.C. State defense with its pants on the ground on a wide receiver reverse pass.
Campanaro looped around, took the handoff, and hit an unbelievably wide open Danny Dembry for a 40-yard touchdown pass, putting the Deacs up 17-3.
"Normally I thought I'd be the one throwing it, but Camp lined up, and I was like, 'Okay I guess I'll just catch it,'" Dembry said. "It was pretty good. I thought the corner was with me at first, and then I saw him go off toward Terence [Davis]. I was like, 'Oh yeah just throw it.'"
Josh Harris gave the Deacs a three-touchdown advantage with 8:35 remaining in the third quarter, their largest of the game, when he sprinted 15 yards for the score.
"Well, certainly not a good effort on our part," N.C. State head coach Tom O'Brien said. "We have nobody to blame but ourselves. We have to get it straightened out next week. Coaches first, players, everybody on this football team. Too many big plays, we never gave ourselves a chance to win."
The Wolfpack did not show signs of life until the third quarter, but traded touchdowns with the Demon Deacons.
Glennon rose to the occasion with 0:11 in the third quarter found Tobais Palmer on a 65-yard scoring toss, putting the pressure back on Wake.
Was it happening again? Were the Deacs going to blow it two weeks in a row?
Those thoughts had to be coursing through the minds of Wake Forest players, coaches and fans, especially when T.J. Graham got behind the Deacs' secondary on a 63-yard touchdown pass from Glennon, cutting it to 34-27 with 8:33 left in the contest.
That is when the 'Refuse to lose' instinct kicked in, as the defense mustered one last stop, enabling Price to take field in the victory formation.
"When we got up 21 I felt like maybe this is going to be a little easier than I thought it was going to be," Grobe said. "It turned out we made it really, really tough. I think it would have been really tough on us today to play so good for as long as we did, and let this one get away. Today we found a way to get it done, and hopefully that's going to be something that we learn how to do down the road."