Everything seemed aligned against Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons had a quarterback making his first start, an injury-depleted defense facing an offense peppered with future NFL players, and trailed by 10 points in the fourth quarter in a stadium where they almost never win,
Yet No. 22 North Carolina State couldn’t seal the victory, so Wake Forest snatched it away.
Jamie Newman threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Jack Freudenthal with 30 seconds left to give Wake Forest a 27-23 upset victory Thursday night.
“It’s just about staying poised, honestly,” Newman said. “Staying poised and being smart, not letting the moment get too big for you.”
Making his first career start, Newman was 22 of 33 for 297 yards with three touchdown passes in the second half to help the Demon Deacons (5-5, 2-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) rally from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter. The 19 1/2-point underdogs earned their first road victory over a Top 25 team in a decade.
“This was going to be a game that we just have to grind, and grind, and grind, and somehow find a way to win,” coach Dave Clawson said. “And to our kids’ credit, they did it. Every time that that thing was on the brink of getting away from us, we just did one thing to stay in it.”
Newman threw a 38-yard scoring pass to Alex Bachman before his 19-yard TD to Greg Dortch pulled Wake Forest to 23-20 with 6:07 left.
N.C. State bled nearly 4 1/2 minutes off the clock before its drive stalled at the Wake Forest 20 with 1:39 left. Newman completed 5 of 8 passes on the possession that followed, taking a hit as he connected with Freudenthal — who was wide-open after Bachman blocked two defenders — over the middle for the go-ahead score.
“We were in the huddle, and we said, ‘We’ve just got to go,’” Freudenthal said.
The Wolfpack advanced to their own 49 before Ryan Finley’s final pass for the end zone was intercepted by receiver Scottie Washington — playing defensive back on the last play — to end it.
Finley finished 35 of 52 for 374 yards with a 35-yard touchdown pass to Emeka Emezie and a 2-yard touchdown run for the Wolfpack (6-3, 3-3, No. 14 CFP). The pass to Emezie put them up 23-13 one play into the fourth quarter.
After losing three of four to fall out of contention in the Atlantic Division, they’ll only reach their goal of the school’s first 10-win season since 2002 if they win out and win their bowl game.