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Yellow Jacket Comeback Falls Short at Wake Forest

Box Score
O’Leary’sPost-Game Audio

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (Nov. 20) — Tailback Morgan Kane keyed a potent ground attack rushing for 228 yards on 39 carries and Wake Forest’s defense held 12th-ranked Georgia Tech to a season-low 23 points as the Demon Deacons weathered a last-second Tech rally to score a 26-23 victory before 25,620 fans at Groves Stadium.

The Deacons got on the board first late in the first quarter marching 79 yards in nine plays quarterback Ben Sankey completing three key passes on the march including an eight-yard toss to reserve tailback Chris McCoy for the score with 4:21 remaining in the opening stanza.

With Tech’s potent offense stymied by penalties and the Demon Deacon defense early in the game, Wake Forest started on the march again in the waning moments of the opening quarter. A 19-yard run by Deacon fullback Ovie Mughelli got the drive going and two key penalties on the Yellow Jackets kept it going as Kane finished it up scoring from four yards out with 14:09 left in the second quarter for a 14-0 Deacon lead.

Tech would threaten three times in the second quarter moving into Deacon territory. But one drive was halted when a Hamilton pass was intercepted by Wake Forest defensive back Adrian Duncan at the Deacon nine. A second ended when placekicker Luka Manget was wide left on a 37-yard field goal. And a third died at the Wake 42 when tailback Sean Gregory, who had 70 yards on 19 carries, was stopped for no gain on a crucial fourth and one play.

Twice the Deacons moved for field goals by Matthew Burdick. The first, a 22-yarder was set up when Kane ripped off a 54-yard run down the left sideline to the Tech 26. The Jackets’ defense, though stiffened at the Jacket five and Burdick had to come on and boot a 22-0yard field goal for a 17-0 lead with 3:49 remaining in the half. Wake boosted their lead to 20-0 late in the half after Tech’s failed fourth and one attempt. Two Kane runs and a run by Sankey resulted in a first down at the Tech 31, But three Sankey pass attempts netted only eight yards and on fourth down Burdick connected on a 40-yard field goal with just 17 seconds remaining on the clock.

Tech’s defense, led by linebacker Ross Mitchell and defensive end Greg Gathers stiffened in the second half, allowing the Deacons just 145 yards of offense after intermission.

Tech’s comeback started midway in the third quarter when the Jackets marched 77 yards in 10 plays. Hamilton, who despite a subpar pertformance still managed to complete 23 of 40 passes for 281 yards on the evening, got the march started with a 17-yard pass to flanker Kerry Watkins. The pass play allowed Hamilton to become the first player in Atlantic Coast Conference history and only the 16th-player in NCAA history to top the 10,000-yard mark in total offense. Gregory capped the march with a two-yard run for the score and with 8:50 remaining in the third quarter, Tech had trimmed Wake’s margin to 20-7.

Tech’s defense immediately stopped Wake Forest and the Yellow Jackets started on the march again. But Tech’s drive stalled at the Wake Forest 34 when three straight Hamilton passes went incomplete.

Tech’s defense again stopped the Deacson after a couple of first downs, but on first down a Hamilton pass was intercepted by Wake linebacker Kelvin Moses and returned to the Tech 42.

From there, the Deacons marched to the Tech 19, but on a third and one play, Kane was stopped for no gain by Gathers. Burdick came in a booted a 36 yard field goal for a 23-7 lead with 12:37 remaining in the third quarter.

Wake Forest put together another drive later in the quarter, marching 53 yards in 12 plays eating up precious time on the clock. But Tech’s defense again stiffened when, on a third and three play, Kane was stopped short of the first down by Tech defensive tackle Guenter Kryszon. Burdick came in a kicked his fourth field goal of the game, this one a 35 yarder with 5:41 remaining in the game for a 26-7 Deacon lead.

Hamilton, though, immediately went to work, driving Tech 80 yards in six plays for a touchdown. A 31-yard toss to Watkins got the drive going and a 25-yard touchdown pass to Brent Basquin capped it off with 4:36 remaining in the game. Hamilton’s two-point conversion pass was caught by Watkins in the right corner of the end zone and the Jackets had narrowed the Deacon advantage to 26-15.

The Jackets’ Ron Mabra then recovered Manget’s onsides kick attempt at the Tech 46. First, Hamilton scrambled 25 yards up the middle to the Wake 29. A 19-yard pass from Hamilton to Will Glover and a 7-yarder to Kelly Campbell put the ball on the Wake three. But three straight passes from Hamilton went incomplete and Wake Forest took over on downs with 3:30 left in the game.

Still, Tech’s defense stopped Wake on three running plays and James MacPherson’s punt was blocked by Tech’s Shannon Ashmon and recovered in the endzone for a touchdown by the Jackets’ Jeremy Muyres. Watkins then scored the two-point conversion, taking an option pitch around left end to narrow the score to 26-23 with just 2:27 to play.

But Wake Forest’s Adrian Duncan managed to recover the ensuing onsides kick and the Deacons were able to run the clock down to just 8 seconds before giving the ball back to the Jackets.

Tech could manage only an incomplete pass and Hamilton was sacked on the game’s final play, as Wake’s fans stormed the field, tearing down the goal posts.

The loss dropped Tech to 7-3 overall and 5-3 in the ACC, ending any hopes Tech might have of a berth in the Bowl Championship series. Wake Forest, which finished 6-5 overall and 2-6 in the league, became bowl eligible with the win. Despite the loss, Tech could clinch a berth in the Toyota Gator Bowl next week with a win over arch-rival Georgia.

Despite the loss, Hamilton continued to set new records, shattering the Tech career passing yards mark with 8,541 yards. Campbell became the first receiver in Tech history to top the 1,000-yard mark in a season, with 1,013 yards.

Tech was hampered in the game, though, when standout wide receiver Dez White suffered a strained hamstring early in the contest and did not return for the rest of the afternoon. White’s status for next week’s Georgia game is stated as day-to-day.

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