WINSTON-SALEM Sam Swank told himself not to try anything out of the ordinary.
Not in the face of a 41-yard field goal try with three seconds remaining and his 20th-ranked Wake Forest team trailing Mississippi by a point. Changing the natural order of things would not have been a bright idea, considering 31,986 fans were looking at him and thinking about the last time he was called upon to make a game-winning kick.
So the 6-foot-2, 201-pound redshirt senior walked off his steps and visualized booting the football through the uprights.
“I was really focused on doing what I've done for the last 41/2 years in this program,” said Wake Forest's all-time leading scorer.
Of course there were some nerves, but Swank – with a smile on his face – nailed the attempt and secured a 30-28 victory over Ole Miss at BB&T Field in Wake's home opener.
It was Swank's ninth consecutive field goal made since he missed the potential game-winning kick at Virginia last Nov. 3. He had walked around with the hurt of that failure – missing a 47-yard attempt with two seconds remaining – but cast all doubt from his mind.
“No,” he told himself. “I'm not going to miss it. I'm not going to feel like that. I'm going to make this field goal and this team's going on to victory.”
Swank's kick, nailed from the right hash, sailed through the uprights with room to spare, cutting through a slight wind that had changed throughout this game. It capped a thrilling rally for the Deacs, who needed shrewd pass plays from Wake junior quarterback Riley Skinner and his wide receivers to have any chance.
Ole Miss took a 28-27 lead with 1:01 left after quarterback Jevan Snead found Cordera Eason over the middle on a 5-yard touchdown play. He scrambled, and with a defender in his face made a play that Wake Forest supporters thought had sealed the game.
Wake, beaten down but not beaten up, responded with a nine-play, 57-yard drive that took 58 seconds. During the drive, Skinner completed passes to Marshall Williams, Ben Wooster and D.J. Boldin, who caught a 22-yard reception that coach Jim Grobe said gave his team the spark to overcome.
Skinner also made a heady play in throwing long to Josh Adams down the left sideline. The pass was incomplete, though a pass interference penalty was called on Ole Miss corner Marshay Green.
Skinnercompleted 20 of 26 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns. He was sacked four times but still led the Deacs to 223 yards of total offense on 52 plays.
This was Wake's 400th victory. It has an all-time record of 400-581-33. It also owns the third-lowest winning percentage among all of the 119 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Mississippi coach Houston Nutt, in his first season with the Rebels after 10 years at Arkansas, brought with him a spread-formation package now called “Wild Rebels,” where Ole Miss flanker Dexter McCluster takes direct snaps on specially designed plays. McCluster debuted in the package last week against Memphis, where the reviews were positive and results plentiful.
Against Wake, the Rebels had more success with their traditional offense. They compiled 255 total yards, with Snead completing 15 of 21 passes for 193 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Still, it wasn't enough to overcome a guy who had something to erase from his past.
“You can't have any negative thoughts,” he said, “just go out and execute.”