Wake Forest holds on to beat Liberty 20-17

Wake Forest football stock photo (AP)

Wake Forest football stock photo (AP)

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Redshirt freshman Deandre Martin scored the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 2-yard run as Wake Forest came from behind to defeat Liberty 20-17 Saturday.

On a rain-soaked evening, the Demon Deacons had all they could handle with Liberty, a Football Championship Subdivision foe with 65 scholarship players.

The Flames led 14-7 late in the third quarter when Wake Forest safety A.J. Marshall stepped in front of a Brian Hudson pass and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown to help turn the tide.

On Wake Forest’s next possession, Martin capped a nine-play, 60-yard drive by racing around right end to give the Demon Deacons their first lead at 20-14 with 13:24 remaining.

Martin ran for 74 yards after taking over in the first quarter when starting running back Josh Harris left with a concussion and did not return.

Hudson threw for 263 yards and two touchdowns for Liberty.

Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe had concerns over his offensive line after replacing four starters from last season – and that inexperience showed.

The Demon Deacons looked out of sync in the early going, failing to register a first down on their first three possessions. Even when they did finally move the chains late in the first quarter it looked ugly as quarterback Tanner Price had to scramble for a 4-yard gain on third-and-4 on a busted play.

Wake Forest had 42 total yards midway through the second quarter and trailed 7-0 until Price found his favorite target Michael Campanaro down the middle for a 31-yard touchdown pass to tie the game. Campanaro had 96 yards on nine catches.

Liberty outgained Wake Forest 178-145 in the first half and had a chance to take a 10-7 lead entering the locker room but John Lunsford’s 49-yard field goal sailed wide right as time expired.

That miss would come back to haunt the Flames.

Liberty proved it wasn’t going to go away on the first drive of the second half as Hudson capped an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive with a 14-yard touchdown pass to SirChauncey Holloway to take a 14-7 lead. Holloway caught the ball in the left flat and juked Justin Jackson before racing down the left sidelines for the touchdown.

Suddenly the crowd grew tense, sensing an upset was possible.

It was Hudson’s second touchdown pass of the game after hooking up with Elliott Dutra on a 37-yard scoring play in the first quarter.

Liberty came in looking for a replacement for former quarterback Mike Brown, a two-time Walter Payton Award candidate, who graduated after last season – and appears to have found one in Hudson. He started off splitting snaps with Josh Woodrum, but that didn’t last long.

Hudson played from the second quarter on, finishing 20 of 37.

However, the one big mistake proved costly as he threw into double coverage on a third-and-long and Marshall picked it off and eluded two tackles as he raced to the end zone to tie the game at 14 with 4:16 left in the third quarter.

Price, Wake Forest’s junior quarterback, struggled all night with accuracy.

He finished 16 of 28 for 195 yards. He also had his streak of passes without an interception dating back to last season snapped at 181 when he was intercepted in the first half by Marques Jenkins.

The schedule gets tougher for the Demon Deacons from here on out as they host rival North Carolina next Saturday and then visit Florida State the following week.

Liberty returns home Saturday to face fellow FCS opponent Norfolk State.

Credit: The Associated Press.

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