WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Kenneth Walker III had 123 yards rushing and three touchdowns, including the go-ahead 75-yard scoring, run, and Wake Forest beat Virginia 40-23 Saturday.
On the first play from scrimmage after Brian Delaney’s 32-yard field goal that pulled Virginia into a tie at 23-all early in the fourth quarter, Walker took a handoff, bounced left, broke free from a Virginia tackler and raced down the left sideline.
Walker’s run provided a big momentum shift, coming only seconds after Virginia, which fell behind 14-0 in the game’s first four minutes, seemed to have found a way to stop the Wake offense.
“That run was huge,” said Jaquarii Roberson, who had seven catches for 126 yards for Wake Forest. “We needed a big play. We needed that momentum.”
Virginia’s Perris Jones muffed the ensuing pooch kickoff while attempting to make a fair catch, setting up Walker for a 4-yard TD run that put the Demon Deacons (2-2, 1-2 ACC) in control for good.
Prior to Walker’s 75-yard run, the Cavs (1-3, 1-3 ACC) had shut down the Wake running game and kept consistent pressure on Sam Hartman, who was sacked three times. “We had played the run game very well up to that point. A running play goes out the gate for a touchdown,” said Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall. “Immediately following, we muff a kickoff return, and then an interception. So really, those three plays, back-to-back-to-back, changed the outcome.”
The Deacons had suffered a 45-42 loss at N.C. State in their previous ACC game. “It’s exciting,” Hartman said of the Virginia victory. “With the N.C. State game, there was just kind of that feeling of defeat.” Wake finished with 174 yards rushing on 42 attempts. The Deacons were hampered by 12 penalties for 119 yards.
Hartman did create time to hit on some long pass plays. The sophomore completed 16 of 27 passes for 309 yards and one TD. The Deacons seemed on the verge of making quick work of the Cavs.
Hartman found A.T. Perry behind the Virginia defense for a 40-yard TD strike on the game’s opening drive. After holding the Cavs without a first down, the Deacons tacked on a second TD on 3-yard run by Walker that followed a 49-yard pass from Hartman to Roberson.
With starter Brennan Armstrong sidelined due to concussion protocol, Virginia used a combination of backups Lindell Stone, Iraken Armstead and Keytoan Thompson, often rotating Stone and Armstead in the same series.
After a slow start, the trio lead the Cavs back into a 20-20 tie at halftime. Delaney, who kicked three field goals, missed a 36-yarder that would have given the Cavs the lead with 5:25 left in the third quarter.
“I’m especially proud of our defense in the second half,” said Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson. “They (the Cavs) probably do as good a job manufacturing offense as anybody. They really had us scrambling in the first half.”
Stone, seldom used in his first three seasons at Virginia, completed 24 of 42 passes for 193 yards and two interceptions. Led by Thompson’s 71 yards on 10 carries, the Cavs rushed for 218 yards on 38 carries.
“Both Ira and K.T. were probably around seven yards per rush,” Mendenhall said. “Ira’s scrambling ability probably added something to that. So, I thought collectively, our approach gave us a chance. We didn’t execute well enough to finish the game, to finish with the win, but I think it gave us a chance.”
Armstead scored Virginia’s first TD on a 4-yard run, capping an 11-play, 73-yard drive on the first play of the second quarter. The Cavs sent the game into halftime tied at 20 on Wayne Taulapapa’s 15-yard TD run in the final two minutes.