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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (Wake Forest Athletic Communications) -- Tied 20-20 late in the fourth quarter, Wake Forest safety Jessie Bates III returned an interception for a touchdown 39 yards as the Demon Deacons defeated Virginia 27-20.
With the win, Wake Forest becomes bowl eligible for the first time since 2011.
The Demon Deacons (6-3, 3-2 ACC) led Virginia (2-7, 1-4 ACC) 17-6 at halftime but fell behind 20-17 in the third quarter. Following two turnovers by the Cavaliers, Wake Forest kicked a field goal and took the lead off the Bates interception.
Quarterback John Wolford rushed for 94 yards which tied his career-high while adding a rushing TD. Wolford was also 9-for-10 passing with 83 yards and one touchdown. Running back Cade Carney rushed for 87 yards. Tight end Cam Serigne had two catches for 24 yards and a touchdown.
Wake Forest's stout defense had three turnovers and five sacks during the victory. Marquel Lee had seven tackles and a sack while Josh Banks had 3.5 tackles for loss. Cameron Glenn joined Bates with an interception. Glenn also recovered a fumble.
On its first drive of the game, Virginia took an early lead courtesy of the run game. Taquan Mizzell had 45 yards on five carries while Jordan Ellis scored a touchdown on a six-yard rush. On the extra point try, Virginia failed to convert a 2-point attempt as the Cavaliers led 6-0.
Midway through the first quarter, Wake Forest scored on a 64-yard rushing touchdown from Wolford. After the pocket collapsed, Wolford scrambled and beat out the Virginia secondary for his sixth rushing touchdown of the season. Following the extra point from Mike Weaver, Wake Forest took a 7-6 lead heading into the second quarter.
Weaver kicked a 46-yard field goal early in the second quarter which tied his longest kick of the season. The kick capped off an 11-plan, 56-yard drive as the Deacons took a 10-6 lead.
With under two minutes left in the first half, Virginia quarterback Kurt Benkert fumbled an exchange which was recovered by Cameron Glenn for his team-high third fumble recovery of the season. The fumble put Wake Forest on the Demon Deacons' 48-yard line. Wolford led a touchdown drive which included an 11-yard pass to Cortez Lewis and a 21-yard pass to Serigne. The drive was capped off with a three-yard strike to Serigne.
Wake Forest led 17-6 at halftime.
Virginia scored a touchdown on its first drive of the second half as receiver Doni Dowling snagged a pass one-handed and held onto it for the touchdown. Following the extra point, Virginia trailed Wake Forest 17-13. The Cavaliers successfully recovered an onside kick after the touchdown. The Deacons sacked Benkert twice on the ensuing drive and broke up a pass on third-down to force a punt.
In the waning moment of the third quarter, Weaver missed a 48-yard field goal and Virginia capitalized off the miss. Virginia regained the lead with a 45-yard touchdown pass to Mizzell that put the Cavaliers up 20-17.
With Virginia on its own 37-yard line midway through the fourth quarter, Glenn intercepted a pass from Benkert and returned it to the 11-yard line. Wake Forest kicked a 36-yard field goal on the ensuing drive to tie the game at 20-20 with 7:51 left in the game.
Not long after, Bates turned the tide with the play of the game. As Benkert scrambled on third down to find an open receiver, Bates picked him off and returned the ball for a 39-yard touchdown. The pick-six put the Deacons up 27-20 with 6:47 remaining.
Wake Forest closed out the game for the 27-20 victory.