The two QBs had two very different nights at the office on Saturday. Ryan and the Eagles put together long, deliberate drives and compiled a bunch of yards. But a fumble by L.V. Whitworth at midfield with 4:30 to go and a pick thrown by Ryan in the final minute were too costly to overcome. Skinner and the Deacs, on the other hand, struck quickly and created scoring opportunities when it looked like there were none.
They both had two interceptions, but the one that will always be remembered – by both teams – was Ryan's last. With :49 to play, the Eagles were standing on Wake's doorstep and trying to get in to tie. They had reached the Deacons' 25 yard line and had plenty of time (a minute and two timeouts) to match Wake's "21" on the scoreboard. Ryan had just completed a 22-yard bullet over the middle to redshirt-freshman Rich Gunnell for a first down on third-and-a-mile. The Eagles had momentum in their favor and a quarterback behind center known for his gritty performance in the clutch. But Ryan got perhaps a little too confident on the next play when he faked a short pass and lofted a long one into the end zone intended for a streaking Kevin Challenger. Patrick Ghee, Wake's senior safety, wasn't fooled when Ryan pumped and was in perfect position to field the pick as Challenger made a desperate lunge to try to knock it loose. Wake took over and BC's two timeouts weren't enough: The clock read zero before the Deacons even had to line up on fourth down.
The difference on Saturday was on the ground. Wake totaled 160 rushing yards to just 21 by BC. But the stats don't tell the story. The Deacons' gaudy yardage came from big plays and the Eagles' miniscule total (they entered the game averaging 125) from timely sacks on Ryan well behind the line of scrimmage. The game was decided on a few mistakes by the Eagles and a handful of momentous plays by the Deacons.
Both teams began with unsuccessful drives – a Ryan Glasper interception on a long pass attempt by Skinner to end the first possession and a three-and-out by the Eagles on the next. A punt of just 29 yards, though, by BC's Johnny Ayers gave Wake midfield position and the Deacs capitalized six plays later. Willie Idlette, a wide receiver with a 9.4-yard rushing average coming into the game, took a reverse nine yards for a touchdown and the Deacons jumped on top in the early going.
Ryan responded on the first play of the second quarter, when he faked a handoff to Brian Toal and lobbed a pass to a wide-open Jon Loyte in the back of the end zone. The Eagles battled long and hard to tie the game at seven – nine plays for 52 yards over 4:04 – but Skinner did the opposite two drives later, when he hit senior wide-out Nate Morton 46 yards over the middle on the first play of a second-quarter drive. Zone coverage by Jamie Silva and Dejuan Tribble broke down and allowed Morton to sneak behind them unnoticed for an easy score. Ryan took the ball back and marched methodically into Wake territory on the following possession, but threw a pick – on the same pump-and-go play into the end zone he would try at the end of the game – with just more than two minutes left in the half.
Second half, more of the same. A drawn-out, 50-yard drive on 10 plays by the Eagles to start the third quarter ended one-yard shy of a first down at Wake's 19-yard line. On the next play, Skinner and his offense took over and a fake-reverse end-around to junior wide-receiver Kevin Marion was all the Deacons needed to put it in the end zone. One play, 81 yards and Wake led by two touchdowns. Ryan battled back at the end of the third with an 11-play, TD drive that he ended with a two-yard, play-action quarterback draw on fourth and goal. The Eagles had a full quarter to tie the game, but Ryan's only rushing touchdown of the night would be the last time either team would score.
In the fourth, Wake needed points to put the Eagles away and BC needed seven to tie, but neither team got what they wanted. The Deacons, who held the crucial, seven-point advantage nearly turned the ball over on the first drive of the quarter, but a fumble by tight-end John Terishinski in his own territory was overturned by the replay officials and Wake got to punt it into BC's zone. A long drive by the Eagles ended when Steve Aponavicius finally tasted failure; He missed a kick for the first time all year, wide left. The two teams then traded turnovers: Skinner threw up a long pass/punt to Silva for an interception and Whitworth was stripped at midfield. With one last chance to tie and a solid 3:20 chunk of time left on the clock, Ryan marched down the field one last time, but sealed BC's fate with the uncharacteristic pick.
The Eagles, who looked like the favorites to run the table for the ACC Atlantic crown and a trip to Jacksonville for the ACC Championship game, now trail both Wake and Maryland. The Terrapins beat Clemson in the early game Saturday and, like the Deacons, improved to 4-1 in the conference. BC has a chance to pass Maryland when the Eagles host the Terps in two weeks, but now they need two Wake losses if they want to keep their Jacksonville dreams alive.