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November 6, 2011Winston-Salem, N.C. - Brandon Pendergrass's third quarter fumble, and Tanner Price taking an 11-yard sack in the fourth quarter ended two red-zone opportunities for Wake Forest (5-4, 4-2 ACC), as Notre Dame (5-3) hung on to win 24-17.
"I think that will be one of the big things that we look at," Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe said. "We didn't protect Tanner very well, and we took some hurtful sacks that ended drives. There will definitely be some things that we look at that we don't feel very good about."
The Demon Deacons had their chances, but choked when it mattered most.
Wake's first major mistake came when Tommy Rees caught the defense unprepared, and connected with his tight end Tyler Eifert on a 38-yard touchdown pass that tied the game at 10-10 with 3:38 left in the first quarter.
"We gave them one touchdown, because we weren't aligned," Wake Forest outside linebacker Kyle Wilber said. "We just gave it to them. Everybody was just looking around for play-calling. They just threw it right over our heads. We were sitting on the sideline looking over at our coach, and all of a sudden boom."
Aside from those three major blunders Wake has much to be positive about.
Tanner Price rebounded from his four-turnover performance at North Carolina, completing 17 of 24 passes for 187 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions.
Free safety Josh Bush made two interceptions to inject some much-need momentum into Wake Forest.
Defensively the Deacs held the Irish to 341 yards of total offense, which is 98 yards below their season average.
The tale of two halves theme remains as a problem for Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons roared out to a 17-10 halftime advantage, outgaining the Fighting Irish 197-145 in total offense, but unfortunately for the Deacs the game did not end at the intermission.
After only gaining 70 yards on the ground in the first half Notre Dame rediscovered its rushing attack, as Jonas Gray and Cierre Wood ended the game with a combined 179 yards.
Gray scampered 25 yards to set up his one-yard scoring plunge that tied the game at 17-17 with 12:54 remaining in the third quarter.
Nearly four minutes later Michael Floyd sprinted behind Wake Forest's secondary to catch the game-winning, 16-yard touchdown pass from Tommy Rees.
"The third quarter was the deciding part of this game in terms of our ability to put points on the board, and I think we did a great job in the second half against Wake Forest," Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said. "The words that I would use are gritty and tough."
Grit, toughness, mistake-free football, some breaks and big plays are what the Demon Deacons need to have next week at Clemson (8-1, 5-1 ACC). Mathematically Wake is still in contention to win the Atlantic Division, but an extra week off has given the 11-ranked Tigers more time to devote to the Deacs and remember the pain of the Georgia Tech loss.
Wake Forest cannot survive any more second-half letdowns, especially not one in Death Valley.