Chapel Hill, N.C. - Wake Forest (5-3, 4-2 ACC) only had five turnovers going into today's game, but added five more on its way to a 49-24 debacle at the hands of North Carolina (6-3, 2-3 ACC).
"I was amazed that we played as poorly as we had," Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe said. "We were still in the game but it never changed, we kept turning the ball over and never really helped ourselves. I thought five turnovers … you just can't beat anybody doing that."
Giovani Bernard (27 carries for 154 yards and two touchdowns and three receptions for 21 yards and a touchdown) demoralized the Demon Deacons all game, but he came down with a heartbreaker 0:13 before halftime. Alex Wulfeck's 59-yard punt (career high) pinned the Tar Heels back deep at their own four with 3:24, but Bernard deflated the Deacs with a four-yard scoring scamper eight plays later to give Carolina a 21-10 lead at the intermission.
"That was terrible," Wake Forest nose guard Nikita Whitlock said. "That's something we would've done last year, let them go 96 [yards]. I thought we were going to stop them, but they had some big plays."
Before Bernard's touchdown Wake blundered majorly, committing two consecutive illegal substitution penalties to set him up for the score.
"It's having some energetic guys who wanted to be out there and kind of substituted themselves a little bit, but that's still the coaches' fault," Grobe said.
Brandon Pendergrass breathed new life into the Demon Deacons when he sprinted up the middle for a 30-yard touchdown at the 6:32 mark of the third quarter to make it 21-17. But with every other punch the Deacs dealt North Carolina countered with a bigger blow. Ryan Houston answered Pendergrass four minutes later with a one-yard touchdown plunge to begin a 28-0 Carolina run.
As devastating as it was for Wake Forest to see North Carolina reclaim a double digit lead turnovers are what dug the Deacs grave, leading to 21 points for the Tar Heels. Zach Brown set the tone from the opening get-go when he sacked Tanner Price, forced and recovered the fumble not even a minute and a half into the game. Brown also picked off Price with 13:08 left in the game.
"I think our coaches on defense did a great job of studying their offense, their passing game especially," UNC interim head coach Everett Withers said. "I felt like this week our secondary and linebackers [had] the best week of practice in terms of knowing what was coming at them."
Carolina's offense must have had its best week of practice too, as the Demon Deacons not only struggled to defend Bernard, but allowed Bryn Renner to have a career day. The redshirt sophomore completed 21 of 38 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns without throwing an interception.
"Ultimately as the quarterback, you just have to get the ball out of your hands be the point guard," Renner said. "And I think that's what I tried to do today."
For Wake Price got the ball out of his hands too, but put it in the hands of UNC defenders four times (three interceptions and a fumble).
"I think we really hurt ourselves," Price said. "We just played a poor football game. Not to take anything away from North Carolina, because they're a great team, but at the same time we really hurt ourselves."
Turnovers cost Wake the most, but the Deacs lost the battle in time of possession for the third game in a row, and the second consecutive week by more than 10 minutes. Consistently giving the defense a short field to defend, turnovers, costly penalties and lack of possession time make for a disaster recipe, and those were the ingredients for the Demon Deacons debacle.