WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Resurgent Wake Forest put its best foot forward and gave Maryland one last kick to remember it by Saturday at BB&T Field.
Tanner Price completed 26 of 36 passes for 231 yards and contributed to touchdowns in three different ways, and Michael Campanaro caught 11 passes in a record-breaking performance as the Deacons rolled to a surprisingly thorough 34-10 victory over the Terps.
While the Deacons improved to 4-3 going into next week’s trip to Miami, Maryland (5-2) limped out of its final game against Wake Forest as an ACC member. Three of the Terps’ key offensive players, running back Brandon Ross and receivers Deon Long and Stefon Diggs, were knocked out of the game by the tough, physical Wake Forest defense.
Long broke his fibula and tibia, and Diggs broke his fibula.
Campanaro, meanwhile, broke the Wake Forest record with 217 career receptions on the same day that Coach Jim Grobe tied Peahead Walker for most victories by a Deacons’ coach, with 77.
“It’s nice when you have the whole team clicking,” Price said. “And that’s kind of what we have right now. It makes it a lot of fun out there.
“So we’re just going to try to build each week and get better.”
Although he played turnover-free football and was sacked just once, Price’s performance will be best remembered for the ways he got the Deacons into the end zone. His 4-yard touchdown run in the second quarter gave the Deacons a 17-3 lead; his 4-yard touchdown reception from Campanaro with 1:21 left in the first half extended the lead to 24-3; and his 10-yard touchdown strike to Campanaro with 2:54 left in the third quarter answered the Terps’ one touchdown drive and pushed the lead back to 31-10.
In doing so, he became the first ACC player to run, pass and catch for a touchdown since C.J. Spiller of Clemson managed the feat against N.C. State in 2009 — and the first player ever to do it for Wake Forest.
“Yeah — the trifecta,” Price said with a grin. “That was pretty exciting. It’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime moment and it was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed that today.”
Nikita Whitlock ignited the defense with a 14-yard sack of C.J. Brown on the game’s first play from scrimmage and the Deacons stuffed a Terps’ offense that entered the game ranked fourth in the ACC with 449 yards a game.
“Right out of the blocks Nikita was really a beast,’’ Coach Jim Grobe said.
Maryland finished with 383 yards, 73 of which came right after Caleb Rowe replaced Brown at quarterback and directed a blitzkrieg two-play touchdown drive that cut the lead to 24-10 with 7:47 left in the third quarter. It was the way that his team responded — by marching 88 yards on nine plays to score on Price’s 10-yard pass to Campanaro — that convinced Grobe of how far his team has progressed since a 21-19 home loss to Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 14 and a 56-7 shelling at Clemson on Sept. 28.
“They got our attention there when they cut it to 14,” Grobe said. “But I was really proud of them when they went right down the field and got another score.
“That kind of got us back on track, and from an emotional standpoint, it got us back in the game.”
A 15-yard loss on Whitlock’s sack of Brown provided the Deacons with favorable field position late in the first quarter and, after the Terps’ defense stiffened, sophomore Chad Hedlund nailed a 51-yard field goal — the longest by a Wake Forest kicker since Sam Swank’s 52-yarder against N.C. State in 2007.
Previously, Hedlund’s longest field goal in college was a 44-yarder against Virginia last season.
“Honestly, Billy Mitchell came up to me,” Grobe said, alluding to the assistant who coaches the special teams. “He said, ‘Coach, he’ll make this.’
“We went ahead and called a timeout and said, ‘OK, Mitch, you’re fired if he doesn’t.’ That put a little bit of pressure on Mitch, but he stayed with the call. That was the good thing.”
Campanaro started slowly, with only two catches in the first half. But he warmed up by catching six passes in the third quarter, four of which came in the Deacons’ 88-yard drive that extended the lead to 31-10.
He tied Desmond Clark’s record of 216 career catches on the first play of the Deacons’ final drive. Two plays later, Campanaro caught a 12-yard pass from Price with the clock winding down.
Price then took the snap and knelt to the turf for the game’s final play.
Grobe said the records — both his 77th career victory and Campanaro’s 217th career catch — were incidental to the victory.
“I never cared about Camp breaking the reception record,” Grobe said. “To be honest with you, the main reason we got him the record at the end of the game is I didn’t want to carry it to Miami. I didn’t want that carrying over to where that’s all everybody’s talking about. And I didn’t want him worrying about it in practice.
“Records are good to talk about when you look back on them, but they’re not good to talk about going forward.”
By Dan Collins/Winston-Salem Journal