Deacs Hold Off Pack, 30-24

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- In a game full of mistakes and missed opportunities for both teams, NC State fell 30-24 to Wake Forest in its ACC season opener in Winston-Salem.

The Wolfpack defense, which had played well through most of the first four games, allowed the Demon Deacons to tally 395 total yards. Riley Skinner led Wake, finishing the day 31 of 45 for 361 yards with three touchdowns.

NC State wasted little time getting on the board against Wake Forest one week after finishing strong against Pittsburgh in Raleigh. On the Demon Deacons first possession defensive end Willie Young sacked quarterback Riley Skinner and forced a fumble, setting the Wolfpack up with good field position.

8 plays and 33 yards later, the Wolfpack took an early 7-0 lead on Wake when Russell Wilson hit George Bryan on a four yard touchdown pass in the right side of the end zone.

Wake Forest answered with a 27-yard field goal by Jimmy Newman midway through first quarter after an 11 play drive that saw the Wake Forest offense move the ball well against State's defensive unit. Riley Skinner looked accurate when he had time in the pocket, finishing the first quarter 8 of 13 for 116 yards.

NC State added a field goal late in the quarter after an impressive 14 play drive of its own. Despite being position to go up 14-3, the Wolfpack could not keep pressure off Russell Wilson near the goal line, leading to a Josh Czajkowski field goal, pushing the score to 10-3. In a penalty and turnover filled second quarter, Wake Forest drew even with the Pack at 10 following a poor punt from Jeff Ruiz. The Demon Deacons only had to travel 29 yards before Riley Skinner found Marshall Williams in the back right corner of the end zone on the four-yard scoring play.

On its second possession of the second quarter, NC State quarterback Russell Wilson finally did what he hadn't done in 379 passing attempts when he threw an interception. The turnover came when Wilson tried to hit Owen Wilson on a deep pass on first and 35. Wake returned the interception deep into NC State's territory but could not convert, missing a field goal attempt.

The turnovers continued on State's next possession when Toney Baker fumbled the ball away deep in NC State territory. But once again the Demon Deacons failed to convert when Riley Skinner threw an interception of his own to NC State's Leroy Burgess.

The final score of the half came on an 11 play, 76 yard Wake Forest drive. Jimmy Newman hit his second field goal, a 23-yarder, to put Wake Forest up 13-10 at the half. NC State's defense assisted Wake Forest's last scoring effort by committing two personal fouls. The Wolfpack finished the less than pretty first half with seven penalties for 80 yards.

The sluggish offensive effort continued early in the third quartet for the Wolfpack as the offense sputtered on its first two possessions. Several dropped passes and a couple of overthrown passes by Russell Wilson contributed to what appeared to be an overall lack of rhythm and comfort for the Pack.

Wake Forest took advantage of State's struggles on its second possession of the third quarter, marching 60 yards in seven plays to pull ahead 20-10. Riley Skinner hooked up with Marshall Williams for the second time of the day on a pass in the left corner of the end zone. After Wake pulled ahead by 10, NC State took the field in a situation where it needed to produce points. Led by Russell Wilson, the Pack did just that. Wilson scampered for a 14-yard touchdown to cap off a six play, 60 yard drive to pull the Wolfpack back within three. The key play of the 1:54 drive came on a third down when Russell Wilson found Owen Spencer deep across the middle. On its first possession of the fourth quarter, Riley Skinner continued his stellar performance as he led the Deacons on another scoring drive. The nine play, 57-yard drive culminated when Skinner found Chris Givens on a 25-yard touchdown strike.

Down 27-17 with a little more than 10 minutes remaining, the Wolfpack did not quit. Russell Wilson found Owen Spencer deep again on 45-yard pass before hooking up with Toney Baker a few plays later for a 5-yard touchdown pass. The positive feelings following the touchdown drive to pull within three didn't last long as Wake Forest's Lovell Jackson returned the kickoff deep into NC State territory. After getting down to the Wolfpack one yard line, Wake Forest failed to convert and settled for a field goal to go up by six with five minutes to go.

The Wolfpack drove down the field, picking up a key third down when Russell Wilson flipped the ball to Jamelle Eugene for a 21-yard gain. But the drive, along with State's hopes of picking up another come-from-behind victory, ended when Russell Wilson threw his second interception of the day attempting to find Donald Bowens in the end zone.

Wake Forest picked up the last, and most important, first down of the game on a swing pass from Riley Skinner to Josh Adams with a little more than a minute remaining to seal the deal and run out the clock.

Russell Wilson finished the day 20 of 43 for 275 yards and two touchdowns, but two costly interceptions proved to be crucial.

The loss drops the Wolfpack to 3-2 on the year and 0-1 in the ACC. The Pack returns to action next Saturday when Duke visits Carter-Finley Stadium.

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