WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Philip Rivers swears (No. 11 ESPN/USA Today, No. 14 AP) wasn't looking past Wake Forest to a showdown at No.
2 Ohio State.
Maybe not, but there had to be some sort of excuse after Wake
Forest stunned the Wolfpack 38-24 on Saturday.
"I thought we were ready for Wake," said Rivers, who threw for
three touchdowns and a career-high 433 yards passing in the loss.
"There was a lot of hype that we wouldn't be, but we were. We can
make a ton of excuses, but the bottom line is we are a good enough
football team that we should have won this game."
Wake Forest (2-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) thought
otherwise, jumping on N.C. State (1-1, 0-1) early and building a
25-point first half lead that put the Wolfpack on their heels.
"We knew that they might have come in unfocused and looking
ahead to Ohio State," Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said. "That
challenged our guys."
Rivers made every effort to bring N.C. State back, but came up
too late with two fourth-quarter touchdown passes.
He went 38-of-49, but was also intercepted twice. Still, he now
has 9,746 career yards passing to move ahead of Jamie Barnette on
N.C. State's all-time list.
As soon as the game was over, Rivers was already focused on next
week's showdown with the Buckeyes.
"We better get ready to go because we can't throw it into the
tank," he said. "If we do, it will be a long day next week at
While the Wolfpack was scratching their heads over the loss, the
Demon Deacons were celebrating an upset that drove their small
student section onto the field in a failed attempt to tear down a
Celebrating big football wins doesn't come naturally at Wake
Forest, an academic school known best for a basketball team that
occasionally tops the ACC. But beating a league powerhouse in
football? Not supposed to happen.
"We came out and played hard and got the victory," said
receiver Willie Idlette, who scored on a 50-yard punt return.
"Hopefully the quad will be white with toilet paper."
Chris Barclay scored on a 1-yard touchdown run, Nick Burney
added two scores and Cornelius Birgs scored on a 16-yard run as
Wake Forest scored four rushing touchdowns while gaining 202 yards
on the ground.
All told, the Deacons had just 375 yards total offense but made
few mistakes with just two penalties.
N.C. State, meanwhile, racked up 511 total yards and had little
trouble moving the ball. But penalties were crippling -- the
Wolfpack had 10 for 90 yards -- and Rivers' two interceptions were
"Stats are for losers and I'm the loser this week," N.C. State
coach Chuck Amato said. "Ten penalties and two turnovers, that's
why we lost. The only numbers that matter now are 2-0, and that's
what Wake Forest is."
Rivers opened the fourth quarter with a 22-yard touchdown pass
to Cotra Jackson and was driving N.C. State midway through the
period until mistakes finally crippled the Wolfpack comeback.
N.C. State was hit with two personal fouls and a pass
interference call in the fourth. It put Rivers in a fourth-and-30
situation late in the game, and his pass was broken up.
The Deacons took over and capped their upset with Birgs'
touchdown run that made it 38-17 with 4:41 to play.
Wake Forest's Cory Randolph, a sophomore and the only rookie
quarterback in the ACC this season, went 8-of-10 for 131 yards and
played mistake-free football.
"He knew he had to step up and rise to the occasion," receiver
Jason Anderson said. "He's a great quarterback, and he knows where
to put the ball."
Barclay ran for 90 of Wake's 202 yards rushing and Burney added
Jerricho Cotchery led N.C. State with nine catches for 173 yards
and one touchdown. But he had to team with Rivers to carry an
offense with running back T.A McLendon (knee) and receiver Sterling
Hicks (broken hand) in street clothes as last-minute injury
The McLendon injury was bizarre, with Amato not even knowing
about it until late in the week after McLendon apparently fell in
the team lounge.
"He seemed fine, but then Wednesday night he felt really bad.
He could hardly walk," Amato said. "We didn't have Sterling
Hicks, either, but we have no excuses. We put 11 players on the
field, but it came down to heart and they had more today."