Saturday, October 3, 2009

Adams, Wake Forest hurdle N.C. State

WINSTON-SALEM – With one final chance to get the ball back, N.C. State couldn’t stop the guy who grew up near its campus.

Four tacklers had a shot at stopping Wake Forest running back Josh Adams of Cary before he plowed forward for the first down that clinched a 30-24 win for the Deacons on Saturday at BB&T Field.

After Adams caught a flare pass, cornerback DeAndre Morgan hit him square and hard, about 7 yards short of the first-down marker. Adams shook his way free of Morgan, then Alan-Michael Cash and two other would-be N.C. State tacklers.

Adams’ 10-yard gain for a first down allowed the Deacons (3-2, 1-1 ACC) to run out the clock.

"Once I got stopped, I was like, I can’t afford to be stopped by this one man,” Adams said. “I just kept my head down and kept my feet moving.”

The missed tackles were the final, decisive error in a mistake-filled game for the Wolfpack. N.C. State (3-2, 0-1) committed three turnovers.

Seven first-half penalties on N.C. State gave Wake Forest 80 yards. Russell Wilson’s Football Bowl Subdivision-record streak of consecutive passes without an interception ended at 379 as Josh Bush and Kenny Okoro intercepted him.

Still, the Wolfpack had a chance to get the ball back and win until Adams refused to be tackled.

"We’ve just got to make a tackle there at the end of the game,” said N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien. “Call a timeout, you get the ball back and take four more shots at it every time. We didn’t make the tackle. That kid wanted it more than we did.”

N.C. State would have liked to get the ball back for Wilson, who passed for 275 yards and two scores, and rushed for 41 yards and another touchdown. But Wilson had his chance.

He’d picked on redshirt freshman cornerback Okoro for most of the game and had Donald Bowens open on a post route on first-and-10 from the Wake Forest 29-yard line. But Wilson’s throw sailed over Bowens, allowing Okoro to hustle back and pluck the ball out of the air in the end zone.

"I don’t really know (what happened), to be honest with you,” Wilson said. “I got hit. I tried to give him a chance, and we didn’t come up with it. So it’s all right.”

Wake Forest senior quarterback Riley Skinner outdueled Wilson, throwing for 361 yards and three touchdowns despite intense pressure from the Wolfpack’s overwhelming defensive front. Willie Young sacked Skinner three times, causing a fumble on the second play from scrimmage that led to the game’s first touchdown.

Cash added two of N.C. State’s six sacks. But on third-and-23 from the Wolfpack 25 in the fourth quarter, Skinner zinged a scoring pass to Chris Givens on a post route to extend the Wake Forest lead to 27-17.

After Wilson couldn’t match Skinner late, the Wolfpack lost in Winston-Salem for the fourth straight time. Senior running back Toney Baker – who lost a fumble in the second quarter - called the loss “devastating” because of N.C. State’s mistakes.

O’Brien, who’d called the Wolfpack a “bad” football team the week before because of mistakes in a come-from-behind win over Pittsburgh, was disappointed again.

"We continue to self destruct,” O’Brien said. “We have to (correct) that on the practice field. We’ve got to do that with coaching. And some guys have to grow up, too. Some of it’s youth, and that’s no excuse. But they’d better grow up. Fast. Or we’ll have a long season.”

Wake Forest, which was coming off a devastating loss of its own, was facing a long season until Adams caught the ball and made sure he reached the first down marker. The Deacons had lost in overtime at Boston College the previous week.

Winning helped them avoid an 0-2 ACC start and gave Adams a reason to stand tall when he returns to his hometown.

"I think that’s self-explanatory,” Adams said. “I don’t have to talk too much about that, because I’m from that area. It means a lot to beat these guys, of course, for our team, overall.”

Ken Tysiac