Defense optional? More like defense prohibited, or at least that was the case in Friday’s record-setting Belk Bowl between Wake Forest and Texas A&M.
After more than four hours of back-and-forth scoring – blocked punts and punt returns, deep bombs and short runs – Wake Forest finally outdueled (or perhaps outlasted is more apt) Texas A&M 55-52 in the highest scoring postseason game this year.
At first the game seemed likely to be a rout, as Texas A&M (7-6) took a 14-0 lead just minutes into the game on a series of Wake Forest (8-5) miscues. Then the Aggies sputtered on offense while Wake Forest quarterback John Wolford settled into a groove, guiding the fast-paced Deacons’ offense back to its normal pace.
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From that point, a pattern presented itself: Texas A&M cut the lead, Wake Forest extended it, and then repeat over and over again. Even as Texas A&M briefly retook the lead in the waning minutes of the third quarter, the game continued with the teams exchanging the lead.
It wasn’t until the game’s end that it was decided, when Wake Forest ran it in for the final go-ahead score with 2 minutes, 18 seconds left. Then penalties and incomplete passes took care of the rest, as a desperation heave on fourth down with less than a minute left sealed the Deacons’ second consecutive bowl victory.
Three who mattered
DeShawn Capers-Smith, DB, Texas A&M: He might not have opened the scoring, but when he burst through protection on Wake Forest’s first punt attempt minutes into the game and blocked the kick, which then was recovered in the end zone for a Texas A&M touchdown, it set the tone for the afternoon.
John Wolford, QB, Wake Forest: If Wake Forest had any chance of winning Friday, Wolford needed to have one of his best games. He did just that, throwing for 400 yards and four touchdowns and rushing for another 68 yards. He did have a critical fumble, though.
Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M: Someone had to be the beneficiary (or reason) for all these touchdowns, and Kirk was it. He finished the game, which might be the last of his college career, with 13 catches for 189 yards and three touchdowns.
▪ Wake Forest’s first two punts were both tipped, with the first being blocked and recovered in the end zone for the game’s opening score. Later, the Deacons’ kicking woes continued, as they had a long field goal try blocked.
▪ Extraordinary play of the first half goes to Wake receiver Scotty Washington, whose 37-yard catch set up the Deacons’ third touchdown. Washington dove for the deep pass with two defenders draped all over him, and he hung on even as the three of them collided in midair.
▪ Special-teams play was definitely special, as two plays in the kicking game resulted in touchdowns. The first was a blocked punt recovered in the end zone by Texas A&M for the game’s opening score. Then to even the special teams outburst, Jessie Bates III returned a punt 59 yards for a Wake Forest touchdown early in the second quarter.
▪ While Wolford was impressive, it was running back Matt Colburn who gave Wake Forest an unexpected edge with his speed, vision, and refusal to be tackled. He ended the game with 21 attempts for 150 yards and a score.
▪ Three protestors were arrested when they ran onto the field and sat down during the first half. According to their signs, they were protesting animal cruelty at several Texas A&M labs.
▪ After trailing 14-0 in the game’s first four minutes, the Deacons scored 31 straight points. The 38 points Wake Forest scored in the first half are the most points Texas A&M has allowed in a first half this season.
▪ At halftime, the combined 66 points made the Belk Bowl the highest scoring of any postseason game this year. The teams also surpassed the 64.5 over/under total for the entire game by halftime.
▪ For all the fans who stayed for the entire game, or even those who watched it all on TV, it spanned more than four hours, making it the longest Belk Bowl in history.
They said it
“I knew there was a chance that there could be a shootout, and the first half happened and we’re like, ‘Oh, here it goes.’” – Wolford on if he expected the game to be so high scoring.
“We just look at it as we lost by three points to Wake Forest and we’re all sick to our stomachs.” – Texas A&M interim coach Jeff Banks.
“Write the movie script. If you write it, as soon as he walks out of the door, there’s a girl that falls in love with him and he gets married and lives happily ever after. I mean, that’s a storybook ending. You can’t make this stuff up.” – Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson on how nice of a send-off this victory was for Wolford.
Wake Forest 55, Texas A&M 52
TXAM— (LaCamera kick)
TXAM—Tr.Williams 2 run (LaCamera kick), 11:04
WF—Washington 50 pass from Wolford (Weaver kick), 8:47
WF—T.Hines 7 pass from Wolford (Weaver kick), 5:47
WF—FG Weaver 28, 1:33
WF—T.Hines 7 pass from Wolford (Weaver kick), 5:47
WF—Bates 59 punt return (Weaver kick), 12:21
TXAM—Kirk 52 pass from Starkel (LaCamera kick), 7:31
WF—Serigne 37 pass from Wolford (Weaver kick), 4:33
TXAM—Kirk 10 pass from Starkel (LaCamera kick), :18
TXAM—Kirk 9 pass from Starkel (LaCamera kick), 12:51
WF—FG Weaver 27, 5:55
TXAM—Ford 1 run (LaCamera kick), 1:59
TXAM—FG LaCamera 19, 12:39
WF—Carney 1 run (Weaver kick), 9:06
TXAM—Ausbon 13 pass from Starkel (LaCamera kick), 5:52
WF—Colburn 1 run (Weaver kick), 2:18