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Wake Forest WR Campanaro a threat to catch, throw against wary NC State

The Atlantic Coast Conference's top receiver once again can try to beat teams by throwing the ball.

Wake Forest's Michael Campanaro says his broken right hand has healed enough that "I got my fingers back," and that could make him doubly dangerous as a threat to catch the ball — or throw it — this week at North Carolina State.

"Can't let you know if it's in the playbook or not," Campanaro said Tuesday with a laugh. "Might be. We might have some tricks up our sleeve this week."

Campanaro, who missed two games after breaking his hand Sept. 29 against Duke, averages a league-best 8.6 catches for the Demon Deacons (5-4, 3-4). He matched an ACC record with 16 catches while scoring three touchdowns last week against Boston College.

He's also known to throw the ball on trick plays.

He has a passer rating of 412.6 after completing 3 of 4 passes last season with two touchdowns — including a 40-yarder against the Wolfpack that they still haven't forgotten.

N.C. State (5-4, 2-3) certainly has been vulnerable to unorthodox plays, giving up TDs to Tennessee and North Carolina on end-arounds by receivers, then dodging a bullet last week when Virginia quarterback Phillip Sims dropped an easy pass from a running back while wide open in the end zone.

"By now, it's out there that teams are going to try something early, and if we continue to allow them to have success, then they're going to continue to show up early in games," N.C. State safety Brandan Bishop said. "Wake Forest has been known, especially with some reverses, to do some tricky stuff, so I'm sure that we'll see it this week. In fact, I pretty much guarantee it."

But Campanaro doesn't always need to resort to trickery. He's proven he can put up huge numbers in conventional ways, too.

Three times this season, he's established a career high for receptions in a game.

For a few days, his 10-catch evening in the opener against Liberty was his best, but a week later he had 13 against North Carolina.

Then came his big day against BC, something coach Jim Grobe said wasn't part of the plan. Grobe says he would prefer that another receiver steps up so that the offense isn't exclusively Tanner Price pitching to Campanaro.

"We didn't have a plan to try to have Mike set a record or anything," Grobe said. "We just went in hoping to complete a few and he ended up being the beneficiary."

Campanaro's three-touchdown performance in that game was his second this season — he also caught two TDs and rushed for a third against Army.

Part of the reason for his gaudy stat line: Wake Forest often asks its flanker to catch screen passes, then turn up field. They count as receptions on the stat sheet but are basically extensions of the run game.

"I thought there were a lot of balls out there that anybody could have been catching," Campanaro said. "It's kind of like an outside running game when you're catching those balls. ... I have fun with it. I like touching (the football) as much as I can."

When he was hurt early in the Duke game, the offense basically came unglued. In two full games without Campanaro, Price — a career 59 percent passer — hit on just 35 percent of his throws in a loss at Maryland and a close win at Virginia.

Campanaro had six catches for 52 yards in his return two weeks ago against Clemson before getting in a groove against BC. And with his favorite target back to form, Price was 39 of 57 for 293 yards.

"My main goal is to win as many games as possible and get to a bowl game, so that's kind of what we're focused on right now," Campanaro said. "Anything I can do on the offensive side of the ball to keep us on track. I think we're ... getting better each week now, and we're getting our identity back on offense."