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December 29, 2007
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Put to rest those derogatory nicknames for Wake Forest. There's nothing weak about the Demon Deacons under coach Jim Grobe.
Behind do-it-all receiver Kenneth Moore and a swarming defense full of big plays, the Wake Forest rallied to beat fellow upstart Connecticut 24-10 in the Meineke Bowl on Saturday.
Often called "Weak Forest" for a long history of ineptitude, Wake Forest (9-4) secured the second-most wins in school history, behind only last year's improbable 11-3 mark that included an Atlantic Coast Conference title and an Orange Bowl berth.
"You know 20 wins in two years for little ol' Wake Forest isn't too bad," Grobe said.
While this year wasn't as stellar, Wake Forest finished with nine wins in its last 11 games - including a bowl win after last year's loss to Louisville in the school's first Bowl Championship Series appearance.
The Demon Deacons had to come from behind to do it, reeling off the final 24 points after falling behind 10-0 at halftime against the Huskies, who were playing in only their second bowl game.
"We're not about losing anymore," Wake Forest cornerback Alphonso Smith said. "We're not about coming close or competing in a game."
It was a disappointing end to the Huskies' best season since they completed the move from what used to be called Division I-AA six years ago. UConn was limited to nine first downs and failed to score an offensive touchdown.
"You have that pit in your stomach right now because you didn't win," coach Randy Edsall said. "But what these guys did for this year for this program, to get nine wins, to be (Big East) co-champs, be ranked for the first time in school history, they accomplished a lot."
Edsall bemoaned his team's lack of depth, and UConn had a hard time keeping up with Moore. A senior playing in his hometown in his final game, Moore caught 11 passes for 112 yards and was voted MVP.
Micah Andrews finished of UConn with a 9-yard touchdown run with 29 seconds left for Wake Forest, which was playing in bowls in consecutive seasons for the first time and displayed an opportunistic defense.
Linebacker Stanley Arnoux highlighted a series of big plays for Wake Forest with an interception and two fourth-down stops.
"Stanley Arnoux is one of those guys nobody talks about, but he might be our best defensive player," Grobe said.
Tyler Lorenzen would agree. The UConn quarterback, disrupted all day, completed just 13-of-26 for 98 yards and was sacked twice. Donald Brown rushed for 78 yards for the Huskies (9-4), whose poor second half ended their hopes of being ranked at the end of the season for the first time.
"Defense played great. Special teams played great," Lorenzen said. "Offensively we just didn't get it done."
While Wake Forest came into the game with a nation-best 10 non-offensive touchdowns, UConn struck first in an unconventional way late in the first quarter.
The Demon Deacons' offense was shut out in a half for the first time all season, with part of the blame pinned on offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke hectic schedule. Lobotzke was away from the team much of the week while his wife gave birth.
Lobotzke returned Saturday morning, and the offense returned in the second half, as Adams' 38-yard run up the middle on the first drive of the second half got Wake Forest on the board.
Skinner put the Demon Deacons ahead late in the third quarter by floating a pass to the left corner of the end zone for tight end John Tereshinski for a 20-yard TD.
Arnoux's first fourth-down stop, bringing down Brown for no gain, set up Sam Swank's 34-yard field goal that made it 17-10 early in the fourth.
Arnoux then broke up Lorenzen's fourth-down pass from the Wake 39.
"There's execution problems that could be faulted on the offensive and some with the quarterback," Edsall said. "It wasn't just Tyler. There were certain things that each phase could have done a little bit better."
The Huskies, picked to finish seventh in the eight-team Big East, ended the conference's seven-game bowl win streak dating to 2005.
Moore was much of the reason. He passed former North Carolina State star Torry Holt's ACC single-season record of 88 catches early in the game. He ended up with 98, and was honored on the field after the game as his family - including his grandmother - cheered on.
"It's definitely a storybook ending," said Moore, who grew up watching Carolina Panthers games at the same stadium. "I remember I was at a Monday night football game here and I always imagined one day I'd be on that field. Today was that day."