Palmer then opened the second half with his end-zone-to-end-zone return, tied for longest in school history, to blow the game open and ensure the Wolfpack would remain in firm control.
Michael Campanaro threw a touchdown pass on a miserable afternoon for the Demon Deacons (5-5, 3-5), who also needed a win to become bowl eligible. But the Wolfpack dominated up front, sacking Tanner Price five times and holding the Demon Deacons to 185 total yards.
That included allowing just 16 yards rushing on 23 attempts.
While both teams were chasing that sixth win, this was about more than just a bowl trip for the Wolfpack.
After an upset of then-No. 3 Florida State and a win at Maryland, N.C. State controlled its own destiny in the Atlantic Division race to earn a spot in the league championship game in Charlotte. But rival North Carolina snapped a five-year losing streak to the Wolfpack with a final-seconds punt return for a touchdown, then N.C. State returned home with a lifeless performance in a 33-6 loss to Virginia last weekend.
Coach Tom O'Brien said the team had to relocate its pre-UNC form. The Wolfpack responded.
Glennon threw for 258 yards on 25-for-41 passing, while Shadrach Thornton ran for 110 yards on 27 carries in only the third 100-yard rushing game for N.C. State all season.
Wake Forest was coming off a 28-14 win against Boston College in which Campanaro tied the ACC single-game record with 16 receptions. He didn't get open often Saturday, with his only highlight coming when he took a quick lateral from Price, then found Terence Davis alone downfield for an easy 39-yard touchdown early in the second quarter.
But the Demon Deacons didn't score again, while Campanaro finished with five catches for just 14 yards. Price threw for 113 yards on 18-for-33 passing with an interception.
This game might've been the best chance for the Demon Deacons to reach bowl eligibility. Next week, they travel to No. 4 Notre Dame, then return home for Thanksgiving weekend to face Vanderbilt, which won last year's meeting 41-7 in Winston-Salem.