Wake Forest Wins and the Big Three from NC in the ACC get off to a good start in their football bowl seasons.
WASHINGTON (AP)–Riley Skinner found a perfect way to obliterate the miserable memory of his painful performance against Navy earlier this season.
Skinner went 11-for-11 and threw the go-ahead touchdown pass to Ben Wooster with 7:52 left, leading Wake Forest to a 29-19 comeback victory over the Midshipmen in the inaugural EagleBank Bowl to open the bowl season Saturday.
The previous school record for accuracy was a 12-for-14 effort by Mike McGlamry in 1975. Skinner added a completion on a conversion attempt.
He finished with 166 yards passing and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.
It was a rematch of a September game played at Wake Forest, when Navy took advantage of five turnovers by Skinner–four interceptions and a fumble–to pull off a 24-17 upset.
Skinner took the blame for the loss, and in the days leading up to this game, the junior quarterback expressed an intense desire to “prove something and get a little revenge.”
The Midshipmen scored the first 17 points in that game, and this time they used a 50-yard fumble return by Rashawn King to take a 13-0 lead.
But Skinner didn’t flinch. He directed Wake Forest (8-5) to a touchdown in the final minute of the first half and opened the third quarter with a 73-yard drive that ended with a 5-yard run by Josh Harris for a 14-13 lead.
Navy (8-5) went back in front when Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada scored on a 2-yard run with 12:30 to go, but Skinner went 4-for-4 for 69 yards in an 80-yard drive that ended with his 8-yard pass to Wooster. Skinner then hit Devon Brown in the back of the end zone for the conversion that made it 22-19.
Rich Belton added a 35-yard touchdown run with 54 seconds left.
That enabled the winningest senior class in Wake Forest football history to enhance its legacy. The Demon Deacons’ 16 seniors finished with a 32-19 record, three bowl appearances and the 2006 Atlantic Coast Conference championship.
Kevin Harris rushed for 136 yards in his first start since 2006 and Josh Adams scored two touchdowns for Wake Forest.
Senior cornerback Alphonso Smith set an ACC record with his 21st career interception, but his fumble while making a rare appearance on offense resulted in a Navy touchdown.
The first bowl game held at 48-year-old RFK Stadium drew a crowd of 28,777, many of them Navy fans who made the short drive from nearby Annapolis, Md.
After Wake Forest began the game with a three and out, Shun White ran for 39 yards on Navy’s first play to set up a 40-yard field goal by Matt Harmon. It was the 12th time in 13 games the Midshipmen scored on their opening drive.
The Demon Deacons then picked up a pair of first downs before Smith took off on a reverse. It was the first carry of the year for the cornerback/punt returner, and it was a disaster: He was stripped of the ball by Wyatt Middleton, and King took the fumble into the end zone for a 10-0 lead.
King, a senior, missed the Army-Navy game because of the death of his father. It was the second defensive touchdown by the Midshipmen in a bowl game, the other coming in the 1961 Orange Bowl.
Navy’s next offensive series was a 16-play drive that ended with Harmon’s school-record 19th field goal of the season, a 47-yarder.
Late in the half, King returned another fumble for a score. But the play was overturned after a replay determined the runner was down by contact, and the Demon Deacons resumed a 98-yard march that produced a 4-yard touchdown run by Adams–the first points against Navy in nearly 161 minutes.
Limited to 7 yards passing before the drive, Skinner went 3-for-3 for 58 yards. All three completions went to D.J. Boldin.