NC State fell behind early, trailed by as many as 21 points in the second half, but managed to rally late and get within a touchdown in the fourth quarter. The defense, which struggled mightily for much of the day, stopped Wake Forest on 3rd-and-one to give the offense one last chance.
The Pack got as close as Wake's 38-yard line on its final possession, but a dropped pass by George Bryan on 3rd down and an incompletion on fourth ended the comeback attempt and gave the Pack a 34-27 loss. It is the fifth consecutive loss for the Pack in Winston-Salem.
The defense struggled to contain Tanner Price and the Wake offensive attack, as Wake moved the ball with ease and racked up over 438 yards of total offense. It's the second consecutive game the defense has given up over 400 yards.
"The defense, we haven't played defense like this in God knows how long," said Tom O'Brien after the game. "So many big plays. You come in knowing that you are going to get the reverse passes, all that, and it looks like we never saw one of this things. Wake Forest does a great job doing those things."
Redshirt junior Mike Glennon, making his second career start, had a strong performance, passing for 315 yards and three touchdowns with just one interception. Tobais Palmer led the receivers with seven catches for 96 yards and a touchdown while T.J. Graham added six catches for 117 yards and a score.
Wake came out of the opening kickoff and moved the ball at will, marching down the field for the first score of the game. The Wake offense ripped off an eight-play, 80-yard drive which Price capped off with a 31-yard touchdown pass to Michael Campanaro to make it a 7-0 game early.
The Deacons would get another three points on its next drive, again having little trouble moving the ball. The big play for Wake came on 4th-and-8, when Price found an open receiver at the Pack's 10-yard line to get the Deacs in field goal range. The Pack held there, but Wake made the ensuing field goal to extend its lead to 10-0.
Glennon and the offense put together its first good drive of the game on the next possession, going 44 yards but stalling outside of the red zone. Freshman kicker Niklas Sade got the Pack on the board though, nailing a 45-yard field goal to bring the Pack back within a touchdown.
Price and the Wake offense struck again, scoring on its third consecutive drive. This time the Deacons went into its bag of trick plays for a touchdown. Price took the snap and pitched to Campanaro on an apparent end around, but the wide receiver held up and threw a deep pass to a wide open Danny Dembry for a 40-yard touchdown.
The Pack responded on its next drive with another field goal, using a heavy running attack to get it down the field but coming up short inside the redzone. Wake scored again the final possession of the half, kicking a field goal to make the score 20-6 at the half.
"They had more energy than we did," said O'Brien. "You can't do that, especially on the road in a conference game. We have to look for leadership and we certainly haven't gotten any right now out of anybody on this football team. The guys that have played have to be the ones to pick it up and set the pace and we didn't get that."
The Pack defense got a stop on Wake's first possession out of the half, but the offense quickly gave the ball back when Glennon threw his first interception of the season. The pick gave the Deacons the ball in Pack territory, and Josh Harris quickly put Wake up by three scores with a 15-yard scamper into the endzone.
The offense finally showed some life late in the third quarter, as the defense stopped Wake Forest deep in its own territory to give the Pack great field position. Glennon quickly took advantage, hitting Graham on a long pass and immediately following it with a touchdown toss to Bryan down the seam.
Unfortunately for the visitors they couldn't maintain any momentum from the score, as Wake returned the ensuing kickoff to midfield. They followed that with a long pass play to put the Deacons in the endzone, then scored on a reverse to Dembry to negate the Pack's comeback attempt and make it a 34-13 game.
It took the Pack all of one play to answer right back, as the three teams scored three touchdowns in a five-snap sequence. This Pack drive went only one play as Glennon faked a hand-off, then rolled right and threw deep to Palmer who managed to stay upright as he stumbled into the endzone, completing the 65-yard touchdown pass.
The Pack narrowed the lead to a touchdown later in the fourth quarter, as Glennon and the Pack faced 4th and 10 from their own 37-yard line. With only six minutes left, O'Brien opted to go for it and Glennon threw a perfect pass to a streaking Graham who never broke stride on his way to a 63-yard touchdown that made the score 34-27.
The offense had one more chance to win the game after the defense stopped the Deacons on 3rd and one, giving the Pack the ball at the Wake 34 with nearly four minutes left on the clock.
The Pack got down to the Wake 40, but Bryan couldn't pull in a pass that was thrown behind him and Glennon rushed a throw to Graham on fourth that was knocked down to end the Pack's comeback hopes.
"We're 1-1," said O'Brien. "We have a lot of work to do and I'm going to make sure we get it done starting this week. A lot of games left to play and a lot of good football players on this team.
"The guys need to wake up, this isn't last year. We have to come out with a whole different mindset and effort than we've been getting out of this football team. I have to get it out of them and I'm going to get it out of them."
NC State returns to action next Saturday at home against South Alabama.