Deacons win Belk Bowl in record performance

December 30, 2017

CHARLOTTE — This one had everything, right down to a defensive stand in a game that lasted more than four hours and featured more than 100 points and the second-most yards in any bowl, ever.

Wake Forest beat Texas A&M by 55-52 in a thrilling, see-sawing Belk Bowl on Friday at Bank of America Stadium.

The Deacons let a 17-point first-half lead slip, turned the ball over twice in the second half and trailed twice in the fourth quarter. They were led back by John Wolford and a couple of rushing touchdowns by Cade Carney and Matt Colburn II.

Carney scored with about nine minutes left to put the Deacons (8-5) ahead 48-45. Texas A&M (7-6) answered inside the six-minute mark.

That’s when the Deacons marched 69 yards in 13 plays, Wolford completing 4 of 5 passes for 42 yards and Colburn racing around the right edge on third-and-goal.

Wake Forest won its eighth game, a mark that hasn’t been reached since 2008. It took a first-half explosion of points and a cliff-hanging second half in which the Deacons’ defense had to answer the call.

Texas A&M picked up two first downs after Wake Forest scored the go-ahead touchdown, but stalled on its side of the 50-yard line. Senior defensive end Wendell Dunn, who started for a program-record 50th time, made a tackle on second down in the open field, and two incompletions followed.

Wolford, who was 32-for-49 for 400 yards and rushed for 68 yards, took a knee and touched off the celebration.

The start couldn’t have gone much worse for Wake Forest, with Texas A&M recovering a blocked punt in the end zone for the game’s first points, partially blocking a punt four plays later, connecting on a 42-yard pass to Kirk and going ahead by two touchdowns on the next play.

It was only the prologue to a crazy first half. Wake Forest scored the next 31 points on three Wolford touchdown passes and a 59-yard punt return touchdown by Jessie Bates III. It was Bates’ first touchdown of the season after coming up short inside the 5-yard line in an interception and punt return against Boston College and Utah State, respectively.

Wolford’s fourth touchdown of the first half was a 37-yard catch-and-run by fellow senior Cam Serigne, who broke a tackle and was off to the end zone. That set Serigne alone for career touchdown catches for tight ends in ACC history, with 21, breaking away from Heath Miller of Virginia and Bucky Hodges of Virginia Tech.

Texas A&M scored on a 10-yard touchdown pass to Kirk, who racked up 147 all-purpose yards in the first half, in the final minute to make it a 10-point game at halftime.

Wake Forest lost starting cornerback Amari Henderson to an injury in the first half, putting an onus on true freshmen corners Coby Davis and Ja’Sir Taylor. Deacons senior kicker Mike Weaver, on a second-half field goal, broke Brian Piccolo’s single-season program record for points in a season. Piccolo scored 111 in 1963.