WINSTON-SALEM — Larry Fedora has experienced a lot of firsts during the past nine months since he became the North Carolina football coach. He went through his first spring practice, his first preseason training camp. And on Saturday, he experienced his first defeat with the Tar Heels.
Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price scored on a 1-yard touchdown run with 2:09 to play to give the Demon Deacons a come-from-behind 28-27 victory. Prices scoring run capped an 11-play, 93-yard drive that offered proof of just how much work Fedora has yet to do in his first season at UNC.
Too many mistakes tonight on our part, Fedora said. Too many penalties. You get down in the score zone, and you have to kick field goals instead of (scoring) touchdowns. And you turn the ball over on your own end, and its hard to win. Theres nothing special about it. We just didnt do what it took to win tonight.
The Tar Heels turned the ball over deep in their own territory during the second quarter, and the Demon Deacons capitalized with Josh Harris 6-yard touchdown run, which gave Wake a 21-14 halftime lead. Then, in the second half, UNC (1-1) settled for 25- and 30-yard field goals from kicker Casey Barth.
Before both of those kicks, the Heels had chances to score touchdowns but failed. Wake Forest (2-0), which narrowly defeated Liberty, 20-17, in its first game, made the Tar Heels pay late.
Price, who passed for a career-high 327 yards, orchestrated a nearly-flawless game-winning drive, which the Deacons began on their own 7-yard line with 6:36 remaining. UNC aided the drive with a 15-yard personal foul facemask penalty, and Price later passed to junior receiver Micheal Campanaro for 15 yards, which put the Deacons on the UNC 12-yard line.
Campanaro caught 13 passes for 163 yards both career highs.
I think we were trying to have Tanner sit in the pocket too long, and I think when we got away from that and started getting off some quicker throws I think that helped him, Wake coach Jim Grobe said of that 93-yard drive. We just had a bunch of guys step up and make plays in that drive. I couldnt be more proud of them.
The Heels, meanwhile, couldnt get a stop. UNC allowed 271 yards of offense in the first half, but the defense improved in the third quarter, when UNC tied the game at 21 on Romar Morris 4-yard run and went ahead, 24-21, on Barths 25-yard field goal.
Tim Scott, the UNC sophomore cornerback, intercepted a Price pass on Wakes next drive, and the turnover put the Tar Heels on the Wake Forest 8-yard line. But after a costly holding penalty, UNC again had to settle for a Barth field goal.
After his teams 62-0 victory against Elon last week, Fedora said he wished his team had experienced more adversity. There was plenty on Saturday from penalties, to missed opportunities, to briefly losing quarterback Bryn Renner after a violent collision near the Demon Deacons goal line during the second quarter.
This is the first form of adversity that weve had as a football team in 2012, Fedora said. And so we get find out a little bit about who the Tar Heels are.
Wake, meanwhile, rallied for a come-from-behind victory for the second consecutive week. Grobe improved to 13-2 against in-state ACC competition, while UNC failed to win its conference opener for the 11th time in 12 years.
UNC played without starting running back Giovani Bernard, who suffered an injury last week against Elon. Fedora said he was hopeful that Bernard would have been able to play, but that Bernard wasnt at full strength before the game.
In Bernards absence, A.J. Blue ran for 106 yards on 19 carries, while Romar Morris gained 71 yards on 14 carries. Renner completed 23 of his 39 attempts for 271 yards and one touchdown a 6-yard pass to Eric Ebron that put UNC ahead 7-0 in the first quarter.
The Tar Heels outgained the Demon Deacons by two yards 428 yards to 426 but UNC couldnt get a stop when it most needed one.
I felt like throughout the game it was like a boxing match, Grobe said. It was punch, counter-punch and it all balanced out in the end.