Right at home: Wake wins 21-17 and snaps their 3-game losing streak
Preview: Pittsburgh Panthers (2-4, 1-2) vs Wake Forest Demon Deacons (3-3, 0-3)
Today's a big day, and not only because it's homecoming at Wake Forest University.
The Demon Deacons return home for a key game during their "gauntlet" of 8 consecutive weeks with a game (starting with the team's 17-12 loss at Clemson on October 7, 2023). With a 3-game losing streak and today's opponent coming off a blockbuster win over previously undefeated #14 Louisville (38-21), to call today's game pivotal is an understatement, especially with their aspirations of extending their consecutive bowl game streak (currently at 7 consecutive seasons).
The Panthers (their offense is scoring 25.8 points per game/305.3 total yards per game) are led by quarterback Christian Veilleux (345 passing yards/45.3% completion percentage along with 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions) as his key targets include tight end Gavin Bartholomew (14 receptions for 291 yards/20.8 yards per catch), Konata Mumpfield (23 receptions for 279 yards/12.1 yards per catch and 3 touchdowns). In the running game, leading rusher Rodney Hammond, Jr. (57 carries for 246 yards/4.3 yards per carry along with 3 touchdowns) looks to provide offensive balance against the Wake Forest defense (they are allowing 359 yards per game along with 23.0 points per game). On defense, defensive backs Donovan McMillon (49 total tackles) and Javon McIntyre (38 total tackles), along with defensive end Bam Brima (3 sacks) look to apply pressure on the Deacs' offense (Pitt's defense is allowing 25.2 points per game along with 323 yards allowed per game).
Wake Forest looks to quarterback Santino Marucci (who is making his first start of the season) to pace the offense. On the ground, both Demond Claiborne (85 carries for 375 rushing yards/4.4 yards per carry and 3 rushing touchdowns) and Justice Ellison (56 carries for 288 rushing yards/5.1 yards per carry) look to test the Pitt rushing defense; wide receivers Jahmal Banks (36 receptions for 374 yards/10.4 yards per receptions/3 touchdowns) and Taylor Morin (26 receptions for 334 yards/12.8 yards per catch and 2 touchdowns) look to get untracked and provide a spark for the offense. Linebackers Jacob Roberts (46 total tackles with 5 sacks) and Dylan Hazen (40 total tackles), along with defensive lineman Jasheen Davis (4.5 sacks) look to thwart any offensive momentum the Panthers have from their previous game.
Game recap: the Deacs comeback win earns their first conference win of the season
The Panthers would take an early 7-0 lead thanks to their opening drive which takes up nearly the first 7 minutes of the first quarter. Christian Veilleaux's 7-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Johnson helps them get some early momentum.
However, thanks to steady play by the Wake defense, it allows the offense time to get things together. With a late drive in the 2nd quarter capped off by an assertive 18-yard touchdown run by Demond Claiborne, the Deacs tie the game going into the half (7-7).
At the 13:03 mark of the 4th quarter, Pitt's Ben Sauls nails a 41-yard field goal to give Pitt a 10-7 lead.
At the 3:02 mark of the 4th quarter, thanks to a ground oriented drive, Demond Claiborne adds his 2nd touchdown of the game, a 42-yard burst to help Wake retake the lead (14-10). However, Pitt would eventually answer with a touchdown at the 1:30 mark of the 4th quarter, thanks to Bub Means' 22-yard touchdown reception.
Twenty-seven seconds later, it appears MJ Devonshire's interception of Wake's Santino Marucci would seal the deal; however, Wake's defense would hold, and a rushing/sliding attempt by Pitt quarterback Christian Veilleux would fall short of a first down, giving the Deacs another opportunity.
And to the surprise of many in attendance, but not to this team, they deliver an improbable comeback.
A 6-play drive highlighted by a 24-yard reception by Ke'Shawn Williams on a 4th and 1 sets up the game-winning pass from Marucci to tight end Cameron Hite (15 yards) with 7 seconds left in the game to give Wake a 21-17 lead. With the team defense closing out the game, not only do the Deacs snap their 3-game losing streak, but earn their 1st in the ACC, improving to 1-3 in conference (4-3 overall).
Post-game: Wake ends their 3-game losing streak to improve to 4-3 (1-3) with a tremendous team effort
Although Pitt outgains Wake (414 to 323 total yards) and wins both the turnover (with a +2 rating by recording 2 interceptions) and time of possession battle (having the ball for nearly 7 more minutes), the Deacs earn a gutty victory to potentially change to trajectory of this part of their season.
In his first collegiate start, Santino Marucci's effort (12 for 21 with 151 passing yards, along with a touchdown and 2 interceptions), including the game-winning drive, provides a much-needed lift for the team. Demond Claiborne (14 carries for 96 yards and 2 touchdowns), along with a stingy defense led by DaShawn Jones (10 total tackles) and Jacob Roberts (9 total tackles), lead to the team's victory.
Pitt's Christian Veileux (28 for 45 for 302 passing yards along with 2 touchdowns), C'Bo Flemister (23 carries for 105 yards), and Bub Means (9 receptions for 109 yards and a touchdown) lead the offense. Donovan McMillon (8 total tackles) and AJ Woods (2 sacks) lead the Panthers' defense, who drop to 2-5 overall (1-3 in the ACC).
During the post-game press conference, Wake Head Coach Dave Clawson, quarterback Santino Marucci, tight end Cameron Hite, defensive back Chelen Garnes, and running back Demond Claiborne all speak with the media. The following is a compilation of their responses to our questions as all speak to the team's focus, execution, and larger mindset to rally around each other and getting back in the win column (you may watch the snapshots below):
On October 28th, Pitt travels to Notre Dame.
And for the Deacons, they'll look to extend their 3-game winning streak over Florida State at Allegacy Stadium (home).
Notes; All photos and video are recorded by Andrew Snorton via CCS/LLC (click HERE to visit our coverage). You may watch and subscribe to our 2023 season playlist on our YouTube channel (click HERE to do so).