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Grounded: Cavalier defense stifles Wake's rushing attack

Wake Forest quarterback Ben Sankey said he knows why his team fell apart in front of 50,000 people at Scott Stadium Saturday night.

"They took away our running game," Sankey said in the locker room with a tired shake of his head.

The Cavalier defense did worse than that. The fledgling, hastily assembled unit stepped up and caught fire, and succeeded in stopping Deacon advances cold. Wake Forest was unable to convert until late in the first half, and a botched second-half opening run nailed the Deacon coffin shut for good.

Wake Forest coach Jim Caldwell said the team's inability to capitalize on offense kept them from staying in the game.

Virginia's "defense moved extremely well against us," Caldwell said. "We had opportunities to run the ball and we just let them slip by. Our execution wasn't quite what we would have liked."

Times like this make you wonder whether or not switching to a ground game this season was a wise choice, but Caldwell said he has no regrets about his decision.

"Passing is just not our style anymore," he said. "One way or another we have to get a running game in order to be effective this season."

The Cavalier offense dominated the first half, led by star running back Thomas Jones, who breezed past the Deacon defense for two consecutive touchdowns and gave Virginia the momentum it needed to stay on top of the scoreboard.

"I think we underestimated their speed," Sankey said. "We made some mistakes at critical times in the game. A game is just peaks and valleys, and they had more peaks than we did."

Wide receiver Jammie Deese scored the lone Deacon touchdown, ripping a 25-yard pass from deep in the corner of the endzone with 31 seconds left in the first half.

Things looked optimistic for the Deacs in the second half, but a 14-play Wake Forest drive that ended in an interception sent the Deacons off the field again.

"We needed to go down the field and score right away and when that didn't happen it hurt us," defensive tackle Fred Robbins said.

Couple that with missed field goals on the next two drives, and the mistakes left the Deacons in a frustrated haze.

Virginia "kept coming up with the big plays and we didn't do that," free safety DaLawn Parrish said. "It's extremely frustrating for us that we weren't able to convert."

No one on the Wake squad is ready to start worrying yet though; after all it was only the Deacons' second game. Deese said he is confident the ground game will come in time, and said the main goal right now is to move on and correct the team's mistakes.

"Maybe we came out a little too content this time, but it's only our second game," he said. "We'll go back to the drawing board and concentrate on the rest of the season. Virginia is a great team, but we're not going to let this keep us down"