With a surprising 38-24 win over No. 14 North Carolina State in
Winston-Salem last Saturday, Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe put the
ACC on notice: The Demon Deacons are no longer the equivalent of
an automatic win on the conference schedule. Grobe drew
motivation from Wolfpack coach Chuck Amato, who was so concerned
that his players would look past Wake to their game against
third-ranked Ohio State this Saturday that he forbade his players
to mention the Buckeyes to the media last week. Grobe might have
been the only one who saw a slight in Amato's edict, but he made
sure his players took it as a sign of disrespect. "The
inference," Grobe said five days before the N.C. State game, "is
that as long as they don't say anything about Ohio State, they'll
kick the hell out of Wake Forest."
It's unlikely anyone else will underestimate the Demon Deacons,
who are 2-0 and ranked No. 20 after Saturday's win and a
season-opening 32-28 victory at Boston College. Indeed, it's been
hard to ignore Wake Forest since the 51-year-old Grobe took over
the team two years ago. In his first season he led the Deacons
back to respectability, taking a squad that had gone 2-9 the year
before and leading it to a 6-5 finish and an ACC-best 221.6
rushing yards per game. Last year Wake went 7-6--only the third
time the Deacons had turned in back-to-back winning seasons in 51
years--and ended on a high note with a 38-17 rout of Oregon in
the Seattle Bowl.
"Being Wake Forest, we can never think we can just line up and
whip you," says Grobe. "That doesn't mean it's not our mentality,
but we're not to that point as a program yet."
The remarkable turnaround is largely the result of the
entertaining run-oriented offense Grobe favors. Based in part on
the flexbone he learned as an assistant to Fisher DeBerry at Air
Force, it relies heavily on misdirection and incorporates the
shotgun and no-huddle sets Grobe developed in his six seasons as
coach at Ohio before taking the Wake Forest job. "They will
formation you to death," Amato said last week. "What makes it so
tough is the diversity of the running game. They run inside, run
outside, run reverses, run counters. Then they'll throw the
Under Grobe the Deacons have reached double digits in 26 straight
games and have topped 30 points on 13 occasions. The success
hasn't gone unnoticed. Last March nearly 300 high school and
college coaches attended Grobe's coaching clinic, about 200 more
In Saturday's win Wake rushed for 202 yards and had three backs
with at least 11 carries, led by sophomore tailback Chris Burney,
who ran the ball 21 times for 90 yards and a touchdown. "I don't
think we're going to sneak up on anybody," says Grobe. "We aren't
the team everybody wants to beat yet, but I think we've earned
COLOR PHOTO: RICK HAVENER/AP Eric King's interception helped defeat the Wolfpack and lift Wake into the Top 25.
Head to Head
Ohio State CB-WR Chris Gamble versus N.C. State WR Jerricho Cotchery
The 6'1", 200-pound Cotchery is quarterback Philip Rivers's
favorite target and N.C. State's big-play threat. He has caught
at least one pass in 29 consecutive games and has 14 catches for
235 yards and two touchdowns this season. As the nation's best
two-way player, the 6'2", 200-pound Gamble knows a thing or two
about running good routes and locking down All-America receivers.
He neutralized Washington star Reggie Williams in the Buckeyes'
28-9 victory on Aug. 30, and if he shuts down Cotchery, it's
going to be a long afternoon for the Wolfpack.