Going into Saturday, the Virginia Cavaliers faced a tall task. In order to make a bowl game, they would need to win each of their final four regular season games. Unfortunately, that goal did not come to fruition, as the team dropped a heartbreaker in Winston-Salem. For the fifth consecutive season, the team will not play in a bowl game.
Virginia (2-7, 1-4) began the game with a beautiful 75-yard drive that ended with Jordan Ellis rushing for a 6-yard touchdown. The Cavaliers elected to go for a two-point conversion but were unsuccessful, bringing the score to 6-0. After the teams exchanged punts, Wake Forest faced a third and long late in the first quarter. The play broke down, but Wake Forest quarterback John Wolford found a huge hole in the middle of the field and raced 64 yards to the end zone on a scramble to put the Demon Deacons ahead, 7-6.
Virginia was unable to muster anything on offense the rest of the first half, highlighted by a fumble on a bad handoff exchange on fourth and one between quarterback Kurt Benkert and running back Taquan Mizzell. Wake Forest jumped on the loose ball and drove down the field for a touchdown to take a 17-6 lead into halftime.
The Cavaliers came out red hot to start the second half. After forcing Wake Forest to a three-and-out, the Cavaliers marched down the field. Facing second and goal from the Wake Forest 2-yard line, Benkert lofted a ball to the corner of the end zone. The Wake Forest cornerback applied tremendous coverage on the play, but the ball was perfectly placed where only Virginia’s Doni Dowling could reach it. Dowling reeled in a beautiful one-handed catch worthy of SportsCenter’s top 10. The Cavaliers tacked on an extra point to close the gap to 17-13.
On the ensuing kickoff, Virginia stunned Wake Forest with a beautiful onside kick by kicker Sam Hayward that was recovered by Juan Thornhill. This was the first successful onside kick for the ‘Hoos since 1998. The teams again exchanged punts before Virginia put together a quick 4-play, 70-yard drive that ended with a 45-yard touchdown pass to Taquan Mizzell. Benkert did a tremendous job moving around in the pocket to keep the play alive before finding a wide-open Mizzell, who powered his way into the endzone. This put Virginia up 20-17.
After forcing a Wake punt, Virginia got the ball back but was intercepted by the Demon Deacons’ Cameron Glenn. Wake Forest would tack on a field goal to tie the game 20-20. Just a minute later, Virginia had the ball back and faced 3rd and 22 on their own 13 yard line. It was again a broken play and Benkert tried to make something happen for the Cavaliers, but threw into quadruple coverage on an ill-advised decision. Wake Forest’s Jessie Bates intercepted the ball and returned it 39 yards for the go-ahead touchdown to bring the score to 27-20 on what was a back-breaking play for the ‘Hoos.
The Cavaliers had one last chance in the final minute but turned the ball over on downs when Wake Forest’s John Banks sacked Benkert on fourth down.
With the win, Wake Forest (6-3, 3-2) became bowl eligible. Virginia hosts Miami in their final home game of the year next Saturday, November 12th. Kickoff is at 2:00 PM.