After weeks of preparation, Wake Forest's highly anticipated opener with Baylor did not go quite as planned; with four turnovers and missed opportunities, the Demon Deacons fell to the Baylor Bears 24-21.
"That loss is a team loss," said head coach Jim Grobe. "There's no individual to sort out. We just can't give up turnovers on offense and big plays on defense."
"It's very hard to win on the road, especially when you come into someone's place and they have a four-year returning starting quarterback and their stadium is full," said Baylor head coach Art Briles. "From that standpoint it's a huge win for us."
Baylor started the game with an impressive eight play 80 yard drive to take a 7-0 lead. Wake had no immediate answer, with Riley Skinner throwing an interception on his first passing attempt of the game. Unfortunately for the Deacs, it would not be his last.
The Bears capitalized on the opportunity with a field goal, quickly capturing at 10-0 lead. Clearly, though, Wake's defense had made some adjustments, and after holding Baylor short of the endzone and allowing a field goal, they held Baylor scoreless the rest of the half.
Wake's offense finally got some momentum with a nine play 50 yard drive, using Brandon Pendergrass, Devon Brown, and a Mike Rinfrette touchdown run to bring the score to 10-7. Wake would later have another drive halted by a careless Jordan Williams fumble, and thanks to a missed field goal from Baylor went into the half down 10-7.
Wake got the ball to start the second half, but quickly wasted their chance when Skinner through his second interception of the day when he underthrew Andrew Parker. Baylor took advantage, striking immediately with a 37 yard run by Kendall Wright who crisscrossed the field with an impressive cutback.
Wake's next drive ended with a shanked punt by Shane Popham, Baylor cruised down the field once again, surprising Wake with a trick receiver pass for a touchdown. The lead was 24-7 and the prospects looked bleak for the Deacs.
But Wake showed some signs of life, driving 80 yards and scoring a touchdown on a 19 yard pass from Skinner to Devon Brown on a do-or-die fourth down and three play.
Starting the fourth quarter Baylor drove the field, but stalled at the 11 yard line, forcing a field goal attempt. Kicker Ben Parks drove the ball too low, and Kyle Wilber managed to get a hand up to block the ball, maintaining hope for Wake.
Wake drove 50 yards down the field, with Skinner repeatedly hitting Marshall Williams and Jordan Williams for sizeable gains. On third and nine at the Baylor 30 Skinner threw a perfect pass to a wide open Jordan Williams, who failed to catch the ball with his hands, allowing the ball to bounce off his shoulder pads and into the waiting arms of Baylor defensive back Mikail Baker.
Wake seemed dead in the water, but six plays later Matt Woodlief forced a Robert Griffin fumble which was scooped up by Kyle Wilbur at Baylor's 25. After a roughing the passer penalty on Baylor Skinner found Andrew Parker in the back of the endzone for a touchdown to bring Wake within three, 24-21.
Unfortunately, Wake didn't have any points left in them. Baylor punted the ball back to Wake with 1:11 left on the clock, but a sack and three incomplete passes later Wake's chances were sunk.
Although they struggled in the final quarter, Baylor clearly outplayed Wake Forest for most of the game. They outgained the Deacs 366-269, and most importantly won the turnover battle 4-1. Very few teams win games when they are -3 in the turnover battle.
Riley Skinner's three interceptions were particularly disheartening, and he wasn't making any excuses for them.
"One was just a bad throw," explained Skinner. "I was trying to throw it to the tight end, he was between the linebacker and safety. I was trying to put it over the linebacker's head and I just babied it a little too much. The linebacker made a good play. The first one was tough. They had covered down pretty good and I threw it to the back and I don't know if Kevin (Harris) knew I was throwing it to him. It's not good when you throw up a ball and there are lots of people around waiting for it."
Wake now must regroup and get ready for next week's home game against the Stanford Cardinal. The Cardinal are opening with a conference game against Washington State tonight, and currently lead 29-10 in the third quarter.
Deacons Illustrated will continue to bring analysis on this loss and next week's game throughout the week. Premium subscribers can expect detailed thoughts and analysis from the loss on Sunday and Monday, and coverage of next week's opponent later in the week.
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