Louisville forces five turnovers for slim win at Wake Forest
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Louisville's offense didn't need to do a whole lot in the second half. Thanks to an opportunistic Cardinals defense, Wake Forest managed even less.
Louisville forced five turnovers in the second half of a 20-19 victory over the Demon Deacons on Friday night.
''That's the best feeling in the world, that you can rely on your defense to make plays,'' receiver Jamari Staples said.
Staples caught two touchdown passes from Lamar Jackson for Louisville, which managed just 108 total yards after halftime and turned those five takeaways into only three points.
For the Cardinals, the most important thing was that the ball belonged to them - not to Wake Forest.
''When we're put in that situation, we pride ourselves on making those stops,'' linebacker Trevon Young said. ''We know we've got to come through in those big times.''
Jackson was 19 of 26 for 207 yards with those scoring throws covering 14 and 22 yards to Staples for the Cardinals (4-4, 3-2 Atlantic Coast Conference).
John Wolford was 6 of 19 for 131 yards with a 58-yard touchdown pass to Tabari Hines for the Demon Deacons (3-6, 1-5), but he threw three of his team's four second-half interceptions.
Wake Forest completed as many passes after halftime to Louisville players (four) as to its own receivers, turning it over on each of its final four possessions.
''If football was just based on effort, we'd be undefeated,'' Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said. ''But it's also based on execution and understanding situations and making critical plays. When you have four turnovers in the second half, you don't give yourself a chance against anybody.''
John Wallace kicked field goals of 37 and 39 yards for Louisville. The latter was set up by Chucky Williams' serpentining interception return and giving the Cardinals a one-point lead with 1:25 left in the third.
Then, the D made it stand — even after a late scare.
Wake Forest's Tylor Harris blocked Wallace's 36-yarder with 5:22 left and recovered at the Louisville 45.
But Shaq Wiggins intercepted Wolford's underthrown deep pass for K.J. Brent with 3:31 to play.
''The defense really came to play,'' Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said, ''and in the second half really dominated.''
The Demon Deacons forced a punt with 1:42 remaining but lost 13 yards in four plays. Young stripped the ball from Kendall Hinton on fourth down, Devonte' Fields recovered at the Wake Forest 5 and the Cardinals ran out the clock.
Hinton finished 3 of 11 for 95 yards with an interception and a 78-yard catch-and-run touchdown throw to Cortez Lewis - Wake Forest's longest completion since 2011.
Staples had 10 catches for 133 yards for the Cardinals, who gained 317 total yards and held the Demon Deacons to 266 — 40 yards on the ground — in winning their second straight and fourth in five games.
''We're battling away,'' Petrino said. ''We know every game's going to be a tough, fourth-quarter win. ... We've got to get better offensively, be more efficient, score when you get chances and make plays when you get chances. But we're a work in progress.''
The Demon Deacons have lost three straight and four of five since starting 2-1.
They led 10-0 early and were up 19-17 after the opening half ended with three scores in the final 2:15.
Wake Forest defensive end Duke Ejiofor started it by sacking Jackson in the end zone for a safety that put the Demon Deacons up 12-10.
Hines later hauled in a long pass from Wolford, outjumping one defender, stepping aside as another slid by and running untouched into the end zone to make it 19-10 with 55 seconds left.
Louisville hurried downfield and pulled back within two on Jackson's 22-yard TD pass to Staples with 22 seconds left.