Quarterback John Wolford tied a career high with 94 rushing yards, including a 64-yard touchdown run, and Wake Forest beat Virginia 27-20 on Saturday.
The Demon Deacons (6-3, 3-2 ACC) became bowl eligible for the first time since 2011 with the win, their third in a row over UVA (2-7, 1-4).
Wake Forest trailed 20-17 early in the fourth quarter, and the Cavaliers had opportunities to build on the advantage. But as has often been the case in the Deacons’ wins under coach Dave Clawson, the team’s defense made momentum-shifting plays.
On consecutive fourth quarter drives, Virginia’s Kurt Benkert threw interceptions. Wake Forest capitalized on them both.
Mike Weaver’s 36-yard field goal following the first of those picks made it 20-all , and safety Jessie Bates returned the second 39 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 6:47 remaining.
Wake Forest: The Deacons’ ground game paved the way for their offensive success. Wake Forest eschewed all pretense of play-calling balance in the early stages; Wolford didn’t attempt a pass in the first quarter. The Cavaliers defense simply could not stop the ground game, as Wolford combined with running backs Cade Carney and Matt Colburn for 130 rushing yards on 14 carries by the end of the quarter.
Virginia: The loss ensured the Cavaliers would finish with a losing record for the fifth consecutive season. Their last bowl appearance, like Wake Forest, came in 2011, when they lost to Auburn 43-24 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Wake Forest: The Deacons will play their final road game of the season next Saturday when they travel to No. 5 Louisville. Wake Forest has not beaten a nationally-ranked opponent since knocking off then-No. 22 Florida State 35-30 in 2011, and it has not beaten a team ranked in the top 5 since a 1946 win at then-No. 4 Tennessee.
Virginia: The Cavaliers return to Charlottesville to host Miami next Saturday. That will be UVA’s final home game before ending the season with trips to Georgia Tech and rival Virginia Tech.