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Wake Forest Escapes with Win over Liberty

September 1, 2012
|  Winston-Salem, N.C.
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Elliott Dutra gave Liberty its first lead in the game, scoring his first career touchdown on a 37-yard TD reception in the first quarter.
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A late push by the Flames to claim their second FBS victory in three years just escaped the visitors on Saturday at BB&T Field when Wake Forest stopped Liberty in the fourth quarter to secure a 20-17.

The game marked the first under Flames Head Coach Turner Gill and drops Liberty to 0-1 on the season. The narrow three-point victory allowed the Demon Deacons to open the year 1-0 and evens Wake Forest's season-opening record under head coach Jim Grobe at 6-6.

The Flames outgained the homestanding team on the night, amassing 363 total offensive yards to Wake Forest's 293 yards. Following the graduation of last year's senior class, Liberty was looking to replace players that accounted for more than 70 percent of the Flames' offense that finished No. 20 in the country (426.45 yards per game).

Brian Hudson was Liberty's offensive leader, throwing for 263 yards and two touchdowns in his first career start under center. Sirchauncey Holloway led the Flames rushing attack with 53 yards with Pat Kelly leading all receivers with six catches for 53 yards.

The Flames defense that kept the Demon Deacons in check most of the night was paced by Walt Aikens and Francis Bah. Both players finished the night with six stops apiece, followed by a five-tackle effort by Kevin Fogg.

The two teams traded possessions early after the defenses set the tone for the night in the first quarter. On Wake Forest's second drive, the Demon Deacons where whistled for a holding call, followed by a tackle for a loss by Scott Hyland to pin the home team deep in its own territory.

Wake Forest punter Alexander Kinal's punt sailed to midfield, but the ball took a Flames bounce back to the Wake Forest 44-yard line.

After picking up seven yards on a Holloway rush, the Flames faced a third-and-three play. Hudson was flushed from the pocket, but he rolled out and gave himself enough time to find Elliott Dutra open over the middle for a 37-yard touchdown play. The quick three-play, 44-yard drive gave the visitors an early 7-0 lead with 8:01 left to play in the first quarter.

The score remained the same until midway through the second quarter when the home team pieced together its first scoring drive of the evening.

Liberty's defensive pressure continued on Wake Forest's quarterback Tanner Price, who was nearly brought down behind the line of scrimmage by defensive end Cory Freeman on a third-and-10 play. However, the junior avoided the tackle and floated a sideline pass to Michael Campanaro for a 19-yard pass play.

Two plays later, Wake Forest nearly matched Liberty's scoring play from near the same time during the first quarter. Price rolled out of the pocket where he and Campanaro connected on a 32-yard touchdown play over the middle of the field. The play capped off a six-play, 65-yard effort by the Demon Deacons and knotted the score at 7-7 with 7:15 left to play before halftime.

The Flames tried to mount one last drive late in the second quarter to give them the lead at the break. Starting from their own 11-yard line, the Flames managed to get to the Wake Forest 32-yard line and give freshman kicker John Lunsford his first career field goal attempt.

However, the rookie's 49-yard drive just missed wide right to keep the game at 7-7 at halftime.
The Flames held a slight 178-148 offensive yard edge following 30 minutes of play. Both team's passing games dominated the offensive stats during the first half, with the Flames passing for 131 yards to Wake Forest's 94 yards.

Hudson completed 8-of-14 passing attempts for 122 yards, while Price was 9-of-16 for 94 yards.
Martin led all ball carriers with eight carries for 32 yards during the first half, while Holloway finished the opening half with nine rushing attempts for 27 yards.

Campanaro led Wake Forest with seven receptions for 77 yards, while Kelly led the Flames with three catches for 31 yards.

The Flames took advantage of their first drive of the second half, marching 75 yards downfield to give Liberty a 14-7 lead with 10:51 left in the third quarter.

The home team looked like they were going to force an opening half three-and-out series, but Gill elected to go for it on a fourth-and-one play from his own 34-yard line. Holloway was given the ball and the senior's second effort gave the Flames the needed first down to extend the drive.

Two plays later, another strong second push gave Liberty possession inside the red zone, when tight end Justin Gunn caught a screen pass and broke several tackles to pick up 47 yards on the passing play.

Following a no gain rushing attempt by Holloway, Hudson went back to the senior running back, but this time in the air. After catching the ball in the flat, Holloway was about to get to the outside and find the corner of the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown reception.

The Demon Deacons tried to answer back on their first possession of the second half, getting to Liberty's 23-yard line following a 10-yard run by Deandre Martin. However, Martin was tackled behind the line of scrimmage on the next play for a six-yard loss and Lovell Jackson lost an additional yard on a screen pass. Jimmy Newman was brought in to attempt a 47-yard field goal that missed wide left and keep the score 14-7 in Liberty's favor.

But the seven-point margin did not remain in Liberty's favor for long, as a turnover three plays later tied the game in just over 80 seconds.

On a third-and-10 play, Hudson tried to find Dutra open to the left, but his pass into triple coverage was intercepted and returned 39 yards for a touchdown by A.J. Marshall to knot the game at 14-14.

The Flames were quickly stopped on their next drive and an out-of-bounds punt by Grant Bowden gave Wake Forest possession at the Liberty 40-yard line.

Price completed all three of his pass attempts on the ensuing 60-yard scoring drive, including a 28-yard play to fullback Tommy Bohanon. The lengthy sideline pass gave Wake Forest the ball at the three-yard line where Martin was able to score two plays later.

A bad snap on the point-after attempt kept the game's score at 20-14 in favor of the home team with 13:24 left to play in the ball game.

The Flames trimmed their deficit in half on the next drive which got to the Wake Forest 31-yard line before it stalled. This time around, Lunsford was able to correct his direction and the freshman easily hit his first collegiate field goal at 49 yards, cutting the lead to three, 20-17, with 9:39 left to play in the ball game.

The Flames' defense forced back-to-back three-and-out series by the Demon Deacons, giving Liberty two more scoring opportunities.

The second try came with just over three minutes left to play in the game. Liberty managed to pick up two first downs, but not a third. On a fourth-and-nine play, Hudson tried to get the ball to Gunn downfield who was able to catch the pass with his outstretched hands. However, the tight end could not keep possession when he hit the ground, ending Liberty's last try.

Holloway led Liberty's rushing attack with 17 carries for 53 yards, followed by Hudson's 12 rushes for 18 yards. Wake Forest's top rusher was Martin, who finished the night with 21 carries for 74 yards and a touchdown.

In his first career start, Hudson completed 20-of-37 passing attempts for 263 yards and two touchdown passes. Redshirt freshman Josh Woodrum finished the night 1-of-3 for nine yards.

Price was Wake Forest's only quarterback on the night, finishing the game 16-of-28 for 195 yards and one touchdown.

Seven different players caught passes for Liberty on the night, led by Kelly's six-reception, 53-yard effort. Dutra followed with four receptions for 64 yards and a score, while Gunn had three catches for 66 yards.
Campanaro recorded nine of Wake Forest's 16 receptions, finishing the game with 96 yards and a touchdown.

The Flames will open up the home portion of their schedule next weekend against Norfolk State. Kickoff at Williams Stadium is 7 p.m.

The contest will begin a stretch of three games where the Flames face three consecutive teams that advanced to the NCAA FCS Playoffs in 2011.