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No. 19 Wake Forest stops Liberty’s 2-point play to prevail 37-36

Sep 17, 2022; Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA;  Liberty Flames running back Dae Dae Hunter (0) runs with the ball past Wake Forest Demon Deacons defensive lineman Kevin Pointer (91) during the first half at Truist Field. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Wake Forest’s Justice Ellison scored on a 1-yard run with 3:39 remaining to break a tie and the No. 19 Demon Deacons still needed to stop visiting Liberty’s two-point conversion play to hold on for a 37-36 victory Saturday at Winston-Salem, N.C.

Liberty gambled after scoring with 1:11 left, but the decision backfired.

Wake Forest’s Sam Hartman threw two of his three touchdown passes to Jahmal Banks.

The Demon Deacons (3-0), who were playing on homecoming, survived to set up next week’s Atlantic Coast Conference showdown with visiting Clemson.

Kaidon Salter’s 18-yard pass to Demario Douglas on fourth-and-4 allowed Liberty to have a chance for a go-ahead play.

Hartman, who was making his season’s home debut after missing the opener because of a blood clot that required medical treatment in August, went 26-for-44 for 325 yards with two interceptions.

Salter finished 19-for-34 for 192 yards with two touchdown throws and two interceptions.

Salter scored on a 43-yard keeper on Liberty’s first possession of the second half, closing the gap to 20-15. The Flames (2-1) went ahead for the first time on Dae Dae Hunter’s 43-yard touchdown run just four plays into its next possession.

Wake Forest failed to convert a fourth-and-1 from its own territory on its next possession, but Nick Brown’s 53-yard field goal attempt missed for Liberty.

The Demon Deacons pulled even on Matthew Dennis’ 46-yard field goal with 12:39 to play.

Liberty fumbled on the ensuing possession, with Ryan Smenda’s return putting Wake Forest at the Flames’ 4-yard line. Hartman’s 3-yard toss to Banks in the back of the end zone gave the Demon Deacons the lead to complete a 10-point swing in less than 2 1/2 minutes.

It was 30-30 after Salter’s 38-yard scoring pass to Douglas with 5:50 left.

Earlier, Wake Forest seemed in good shape, going up 20-5 after Hartman’s 8-yard touchdown toss to Blake Whitehart with 52 seconds to play before halftime.

Liberty countered with Brown’s 28-yard field goal on the last play of the half.

The Demon Deacons scored first on Dennis’ 33-yard field goal. Then Banks caught a 16-yard pass from Hartman to help push the lead to 10-0 early in the second quarter.

Liberty finally got on the board on Brown’s 47-yard field goal at the 10:55 mark of the second quarter. After Dennis booted a 27-yard field goal for a 13-3 advantage, Liberty blocked a Wake Forest punt and the ball rolled out of the end zone for a safety.

–Field Level Media