Wake Forest’s unbeaten run to start the season came to an end, but not without some down-to-the-wire theatrics and a near-miracle comeback.
Wake Forest’s furious rally from down three touchdowns in the first half, and down three scores with 5½ minutes left, came up short and Louisville beat the Deacons 62-59 on Saturday night at BB&T Field.
Sam Hartman threw touchdown passes of 22 and 21 yards to Scotty Washington and Jack Freudenthal, respectively, in a span of 35 seconds — thanks in part to an onside kick recovery by Freudenthal. The second of those came with 3:35 left, and sliced Louisville’s lead to 55-52.
Louisville added a touchdown on Evan Conley’s 41-yard touchdown run on fourth down, Hartman responded with a touchdown run of his own, and the game wasn’t over until an official determined that Louisville recovered an onside kick with 1:10 left.
For the seventh time under Coach Dave Clawson, Wake Forest lost its first game after an off week. And it did so while making mistakes it had previously navigated away from during its hot start to the season.
The Deacons (5-1, 1-1 ACC) committed three turnovers after committing four in the first five games. Wake Forest, entering as the least-penalized team in the country, committed a season-high seven penalties.
Louisville (4-2, 2-1) gouged Wake Forest on special teams, returning one kick for a touchdown, another kick to the Deacons’ 15-yard line and a punt to the 13.
The kick return to the 15 opened the second half. The Cardinals scored on the first snap, Conley throwing to a wide-open Dez Fitzpatrick. Conley replaced Micale Cunningham, who was injured in the first half and didn’t return.
Plenty of points were scored throughout the game, but the abhorrent start to the game was the main culprit in Wake Forest’s unbeaten run to open the season coming to a screeching halt.
The Deacons fell behind 28-7 by the second play of the second quarter, stormed back with a couple of quick scores, and then never came within shouting distance of Louisville’s lead in the second half.
Senior Cade Carney lost a fumble — the first time he fumbled in 364 carries, going back to his freshman season — and that set up Louisville’s first touchdown, an 8-yard run by Javian Hawkins. The Cardinals went up 14-0 when Cunningham scrambled and found Seth Dawkins across the middle of the field for a 55-yard catch-and-run touchdown.
This was the first game of the season that Wake Forest didn’t score first, and the first time it trailed by two scores.
Not even 10 minutes into the game, Louisville had two touchdowns and 154 yards.
Even when Wake Forest had success in the first quarter, it was short lived.
Jamie Newman threw a 12-yard touchdown to Sage Surratt — his eighth straight game with a touchdown catch — to make it 14-7 with 1:59 left. It ended a 13-play drive that saw the Deacons convert a third-and-19.
Hassan Hall took the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. On the second play of the second quarter, Tutu Atwell scored on a 9-yard pass and the lead ballooned to 28-7.
Wake Forest roared back with a couple of touchdowns in the span of 2:11 — the last two scores of a combined five touchdowns in a span of 6:44. First, it was the Newman-to-Surratt connection again for a 3-yard touchdown.
On the ensuing possession, Cunningham broke loose into the Deacons’ secondary and was upended by Nasir Greer. Cunningham fumbled, Traveon Redd returned it 35 yards to the Cardinals’ 4-yard line, and Cade Carney plunged in for a 1-yard touchdown. Cunningham was hurt on the play and didn’t return.
Newman suffered a shoulder injury — apparently on the play before Carney’s score — and went to the locker room, but later returned in the first half. In his absence, Hartman played one series.
Louisville’s Blanton Creque kicked a 32-yard field goal to make the lead 31-21 and, with 18 seconds left before halftime and the Deacons at the Cardinals’ 13, Newman was picked off by Yasir Abdullah.