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Wake Forest edges Ole Miss with FG in final seconds

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Riley Skinner didn't panic, even though he had only a minute following Mississippi's go-ahead touchdown on fourth down.

Sam Swank ran onto the field with a smile on his face before attempting the game-winning field goal.

Nerves? What nerves? No. 20 Wake Forest used its experience and poise to avoid becoming the latest Atlantic Coast Conference team to disappoint.

Skinner led the Demon Deacons on a 56-yard drive in the last minute, Swank kicked a 41-yard field goal with 3 seconds left, and Wake Forest edged Ole Miss 30-28 on Saturday.

"You've got mature guys out there. You've got guys that have been through it," said Riley, a redshirt junior. "We were pretty efficient with how we lined up."

After Jevan Snead's 5-yard touchdown pass to Cordera Eason on fourth-and-3 with 1:01 left gave Ole Miss the lead, Wake Forest was in danger of following last week's ACC upset victims Clemson and Virginia Tech. The league faced the prospect of going into next week with the embarrassment of not having a ranked team.

But Skinner and Swank weren't through.

Starting from the 20, Skinner led a calm offense. His 22-yard pass to D.J. Boldin gave the Demon Deacons hope. Then Marshay Green interfered on Skinner's long pass intended for Josh Adams. That put Swank in position.

Swank, a fifth-year senior, was grinning as he jogged onto the field. Sure, he missed a 47-yard field goal with 2 seconds left last year in a 17-16 loss to Virginia. But the nation's active career leader with 65 field goals hasn't missed since. The game-winner was his ninth straight made field goal. He's 5-for-5 this season.

"I was smiling because I knew I was going to make it," Swank said. "I was confident and that's how you have to be going out to kick a game-winning field goal."

Skinner completed 32-of-43 passes for 267 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, and Boldin caught 11 passes for 123 yards as Wake Forest (2-0) survived a wild game with six lead changes.

"I just felt really good going into that last drive," coach Jim Grobe said. "For starting at our own 20-yard line, I had a sense that these guys could do it. I just felt when I saw the guys that we had a chance to do something good."

The Rebels (1-1) were a minute away from giving first-year coach Houston Nutt a big win in only his second game, when Snead led a 7-minute, 80-yard drive. Facing fourth-and-3 from the Wake Forest 5, Snead was flushed out of the pocket, scrambled right, then left and back right again before finding Eason in the front of the end zone.

Joshua Shene's extra-point gave Ole Miss a 28-27 lead

"We could easily be in here singing and having a good time," Nutt said. "You have to finish those games."

Snead, who avoided trouble all day as the pocket routinely collapsed, completing 20 of 31 passes for 253 yards and four touchdowns.

Snead also scrambled away from a sack early in the fourth quarter, finding Dexter McCluster open in the flat. He then raced past three defenders for a 31-yard touchdown to give Ole Miss a 21-20 lead.

"I thought he was awesome," Nutt said of Snead. "To be able to escape problems, hit receivers and keep the chains moving, I thought he was awesome."

Snead did throw interceptions on consecutive plays early in the third quarter. The second, a diving grab by Brandon Ghee, led to Swank's 27-yard field goal to get Wake Forest within 14-13.

The early mistakes -- Ole Miss also gave up a touchdown after a fumbled punt return in the first quarter -- proved costly late in the game.

"We gave them some gifts," Nutt said.

Early, Nutt's "Wild Rebel" formation of direct snaps to running backs and receivers caused Wake Forest problems.

Nutt promised to add wrinkles to the formation, and a gimmick play set up the tying touchdown late in the first quarter. A direct snap to McCluster turned into a reverse-flea flicker, with Snead finding Brandon Bolden for a 33-yard gain. That set up Snead's 4-yard TD pass to Gerald Harris.

Snead's 28-yard TD pass to Shay Hodge gave Ole Miss a 14-7 lead.

But Wake Forest remained poised, securing the school's 400th victory in the first home game since the completion of a $47 million, seven-story tower that houses luxury suites, club seats and the press box at BB&T Field.

"If the home-opening crowd wanted a good game, they got it," Grobe said. "I think the guys did a good job of entertaining them."