Playing in its first game against a BCS opponent since moving to Division I, the Presbyterian College football team made some terrific plays and fought hard, but it was not enough in the 53-13 loss to Wake Forest Thursday evening.
“I think this was a great night for PC,” head coach Harold Nichols said. “Our fans and alumni were very excited to be at BB&T Field playing against Coach Grobe’s football team. They’re an outstanding football team, well coached and he has done a great job over the past 10 years building this football program. It’s something I aspire to do at PC. Being a transitional team, being in the Big South Conference and being in the fourth year of our transition, I think going and having the opportunity to come and play in this kind of arena and atmosphere is a great experience for our young football team.”
The Blue Hose are now 0-1 on the season while the Demon Deacons improve to 1-0. Nichols, who is known for pulling out all the stops, called one of the gutsiest plays in PC’s history. Trailing 28-0, Brandon Miley took the snap from Jared Tavernier and threw the ball toward Derrick Overholt. The ball skipped off the ground directly to Overholt, who then picked up the ball and smacked it, seemingly upset. As the Wake Forest players stopped thinking the pass was incomplete, Overholt lofted a pass deep to Mike Ruff, who raced past the defense for the 68-yard touchdown completion.
“We’ve been working on it for a couple of weeks,” Nichols said. “Sometimes it’s just trying to find the right time in the course of the game and Doug picked a good play. We got to midfield there and our back-up receiver (Overholt) threw the ball pretty well. He did a good job acting and Wake Forest’s defense relaxed a little bit and then we just kind of rose up and hit them off guard. It worked just like we practiced.”
Down 35-7 at the break, PC drove the ball 80 yards in eight plays, taking 3:20 off the clock to start the second half. Miley ended the beautifully-called drive by offensive coordinator Doug Malone by connecting on an 18-yard pass to Anderico Bailey on a flag route. The Demon Deacons blocked the point after attempt and returned it for two points, making the score 37-13 with 11:40 left in the third quarter.
Nichols went into his bag of tricks on the ensuing kick-off, calling for an onsides kick that his team recovered. However, the Blue Hose were whistled for being slightly off-sides on the play. PC was unable to get back into scoring territory the rest of the night, but the young Blue Hose played valiantly the rest of the way. In the third period, PC controlled the time of possession and outscored the home team 6-2, with the only points coming on the touchdown pass from Miley to Bailey and the ensuing point after return by Wake Forest.
The Blue Hose recovered from not getting the onsides kick after forcing a 43-yard punt by Wake Forest with 5:33 to play in the third. At that point, rookie Seth Moreland scampered 11 yards on a reverse to the 31-yard line and a first down. On the next play, Overholt took another lateral and hit Jeremy Cole for a 15-yard gainer to the 46. Miley and Byrd each rushed for three yards before Miley hit Robert Bumgarner for a first down. Facing third and 10, Miley went back to the well, drilling Bumgarner for 14 yards, moving PC to the home 27. After two plays that resulted in a loss of eight yards, Miley could not connect with Bailey for a first down. On fourth and 18 from the 35, Nichols’ team punted the ball back to the home squad.
In the fourth, the Demon Deacons took a 44-13 lead, but the Blue Hose once again headed toward the red zone. Starting on its own 29, PC moved to the Wake Forest 43 before being stopped on fourth-and-four with 8:39 to play. Later in the quarter, Myron Gary returned to the field on what turned out to be the final possession of the Blue Hose. Gary hit Lance Byrd for an eight-yard gainer. Byrd then rushed for five yards and a first down. Gary got hot, hitting Jeremy Cole on back-to-back plays for a total of 29 yards before missing on second-and-six. On fourth down, Byrd bull-dozed his way to the 23 before time expired.
For the game, Miley connected on 18-34 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown. Overholt went 2-2 for 83 yards and a touchdown while Gary was 4-6 for 44 yards. Ruff hauled in a career-high 122 yards and a touchdown, including the 68-yard gainer for a score. Bailey had the other touchdown reception. Cole pulled in a game-high six passes for 76 yards. Dendy led the rushing attack with 49 yards on 16 carries. Byrd had eight for 19 yards while Moreland had one carry for 11 yards. Moreland posted a game-high 136 return yards on seven returns.
Defensively, CeeJay Harris notched a team-high seven tackles, including four solo stops. Justin Bethel had six solo stops. Derek Brown and Cedric Byrd each had six stops for the night. Brown added 1.5 tackles for loss. Xavier Boatwright, LJ Perry, Matthan Burton, Connor Hawkins, Nathaniel Wuellner and Iouli Burroughs all had tackles for loss. Brian Wilson recovered a fumble while Brown and Damon Lawrence had pass break-ups.
The Demon Deacons totaled 509 yards to 362 by PC. The Blue Hose totaled 292 passing yards to 94 by the home squad.
The Blue Hose return to action next Saturday at 3:30 p.m., when they travel to Clemson, S.C. PC will take on the Tigers in its second consecutive battle with an ACC foe – as it will also be broadcast on ESPN3.com.