Both teams had an explosive first half before enduring less-than-perfect weather in the second, as rain poured down and a tornado watch was in effect for the duration of the contest.
The explosiveness started at the very beginning of the game, the Wolfpack took its opening possession 67 yards on 12 plays for a touchdown. State marched down the field in a methodical manner, converting all four of its third downs.
"I would rate [our offense's performance] as a 10," senior Andre Brown said. "For our offense to go out there and gel like we did and play a great game like we did shows we are all coming together."
The Pack had an opportunity to widen the lead further on its next possession. From its own 27, redshirt freshman quarterback Russell Wilson threw a perfect ball to sophomore wide receiver Owen Spencer, who had nothing but open field in front of him. But after having the ball land directly in his hands, Spencer proceeded to drop the ball on the turf. State would not score on that drive.
After a Bradley Pierson punt pinned the Demon Deacons inside the 10-yard line, Wake decided to do away with the goose egg on the scoreboard. On its own 36, the Deacons pulled an end-around to redshirt senior D.J. Boldin. But after receiving the ball and running into the pocket, Boldin threw the ball to redshirt sophomore Marshall Williams, who was 15 yards behind the play and easily scored the touchdown.
In the second quarter, Wilson took over the Pack offense. He rushed five times in a drive that concluded with a Wilson four yard rush for a touchdown. He led State in rushing on the day with 69 yards on 14 carries. Wilson said that he has matured a lot since the beginning of the season, and he is now right at home in the pocket.
"I'm completely comfortable; being on the field getting experience definitely helps. Coach Bible does a great job on the field and off the field leading me and helping our offense," Wilson said.
But Wake Forest countered with a quick drive at the close of the half, capping it off with a seven yard redshirt junior Riley Skinner pass to Boldin with 4.5 seconds to go.
But whatever momentum was gained from the late score was dampered by the weather. Both teams came out onto the field in the second half into pouring rain, and the explosive plays seen in the first half disappeared. The entire third quarter was played to a standstill, with the only points being on a Wake field goal by redshirt freshman Shane Popham, playing in the place of the injured Sam Swank, with nine seconds left in the quarter.
The Pack then took the lead on more of Wilson's heroics. His timely scrambles kept the drive alive, and then he tossed a pass to redshirt senior Anthony Hill for a touchdown that would put State up for good, 21-17.
"I thought it was a fourth quarter scramble drill out there. [Wilson's] very athletic and a great mobile quarterback. The other thing is that he keeps his eye's downfield. We've got to stay in coverage and then he scrambles," Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said.
The Pack's defense then took over, stopping the Deac's drive short on several great plays by individuals and the defense as a whole.
"The [defense] hung in there and kept playing. They've got this concept of forget the last play and play the next. It's not revolutionary, but it is something that you have to play with especially on defense," coach Tom O'Brien said. "I give credit to our whole defense. They bought into the coaches' mantra of finishing a play and getting ready for the next one."
But despite the win over a quality ACC opponent, State knows better than to be satisfied.
"I think we can be way, way better than we are right now," graduate Jeremy Gray said.