Notre Dame Closes Out Wake Forest

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) - Tommy Rees threw two touchdown passes and Notre Dame shut out Wake Forest in the second half of its 24-17 victory on Saturday night.

Rees was 14 of 23 for 166 yards with scoring passes of 38 yards to Tyler Eifert and 16 yards to Michael Floyd. Jonas Gray added a 1-yard touchdown run for the Irish (6-3).

They outgained the Demon Deacons 341-297, scored on their first two possessions of the second half and held on to win their second straight.

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Tanner Price was 17 of 24 for 187 yards with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Pendergrass. Josh Harris added a 2-yard touchdown run for Wake Forest (5-4), which led 17-10 at halftime but has lost three of four.

Twice in the second half, the Demon Deacons had the ball at the Notre Dame 10 while down by a touchdown - and they came away with no points.

Wake Forest squandered Josh Bush's long interception return midway through the third quarter when Pendergrass fumbled at the Irish 9. Wake Forest then had a first-and-goal from the 10 midway through the fourth, but lost 15 yards on its next three plays and David Newman's 42-yard field goal sailed wide right with 5:24 left.

Gray and Cierre Wood then took over on the ground for the Irish, who ran out the clock.

Gray finished with 92 yards for the Irish, who took the lead for good with their strong start to the half. The senior tied it at 17 when he took a pitch untouched around left end for his ninth touchdown of the season. That came two plays after Gray appeared to score from 26 yards out, but an official review determined his elbow touched the turf inside the 1-yard line.

Notre Dame went back to work 1 1/2 minutes later, with Wood's 27-yard run up the middle setting up Rees' go-ahead touchdown pass. Floyd slipped behind a pair of Wake Forest defenders and pulled down a perfectly thrown ball in the right corner of the end zone before 6 minutes had elapsed in the half.

Ball security has been a problem all year for the Irish, who entered ranked 118th nationally in turnover margin, and it looked like the Demon Deacons were going to make them pay for Rees' second interception to Bush before Pendergrass' costly fumble swung momentum back to the Irish.

Harris put Wake Forest up 17-10 when he powered in from 2 yards out with 28 seconds left before halftime. That capped an 11-play, 81-yard march that chewed up nearly five minutes and ended with just the fifth rushing touchdown allowed all year by the Irish.

The first meeting between the schools - and the only one scheduled in Winston-Salem - was billed as one of the biggest in Wake Forest history with an announced crowd of 36,307 at the 31,500-seat BB&T Field, the smallest venue to host Notre Dame since 1945.

The teams combined to provide plenty of early fireworks, with both scoring on their first two possessions before the defenses finally settled down.

Price capped the Demon Deacons' opening drive with his scoring pass to Pendergrass down the right sideline just over four minutes in. They traded field goals - Notre Dame's David Ruffer kicking one from 44 yards out, and Newman following with a 46-yarder - before Eifert slipped through a seam in the defense and Rees found him for a long score that tied it at 10-10 with 3:38 left in the quarter.