Deacs face little room for error in bowl quest
With half the season left to play, Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe isn’t shying away from talking about how his squad has little room for error if it wants to get to six wins and go to a postseason bowl game for just the second time in six seasons.
Going into Saturday’s contest with Maryland at BB&T Field, the Demon Deacons are 3-3 with disappointing early losses to Boston College and Louisiana-Monroe, making the bowl road tougher considering all of their remaining opponents are currently .500 or better.
Two of the remaining games are against nationally ranked Miami and Florida State, leaving games against the Terps, Syracuse, Duke and Vanderbilt as crucial to the bowl hopes.
“It’s become an issue for us right now,” Grobe said of the Deacons’ bowl prospects during his weekly press conference Tuesday. “We had opportunities to win a couple of games earlier in the season that we didn’t win, so that’s put a lot of pressure on us. There’s no need to shy away from it — if you want to go to a bowl game, you’ve got to win. So, it is something that is front and center.
“Sometimes when you go to three in a row (from 2006-08), you might start taking it for granted, and you better not because it’s not easy to get there. You think six wins might be a piece of cake. But when you look at who we play, six wins is gigantic step. Obviously, we’d like to win more, would wind up with nine regular-season wins. But to do that, we’ve got to play great football. So, we don’t mind talking about (what’s needed to go to a bowl). The coaches want to go, too.”
In Maryland, the Deacons face one the ACC’s surprise teams of the season. Not highly regarded after a 4-8 campaign last season that included injuries to four quarterbacks, the Terrapins are 5-1 in Randy Edsal’s third year. They cracked the top 25 after beating West Virginia 37-0, then lost to Florida State 63-0 and then managed to edge Virginia 27-26 without starting quarterback C.J. Brown, who was sidelined by injury.
Brown, who has passed for 1,125 yards and rushed for 283 this year, was listed as the starter over backup Caleb Rowe on the Terrapins’ depth chart released Monday. Grobe said the Terrapins’ offense is much the same with either quarterback under center.
They like to throw to big-play threat Stefon Diggs, who is averaging 20 yards per catch, and Deon Long, who is averaging 15.9 yards per grab.
“If they play Brown, then you would expect them to run him a little bit more (Rowe has just 12 rushing attempts),” Grobe said. “The throw game and the predetermined running game are probably going to be the same.”
With a open date last weekend, the Deacons are still riding the euphoria from beating N.C. State in their last game. Grobe gave the team Friday, Saturday and Sunday off before resuming practice Monday.
“It was a good time to have an open date after a win,” Grobe said. “It wouldn’t have been very good if we hadn’t gotten it done.”
Two areas that Grobe is still concerned about are the offensive line, although it played its best game against N.C. State, and the continued lack of a reliable wide receiver other than All-ACC prospect Michael Campanaro.
“(The offensive line) is where we want them to be, but that’s kind of good news,” Grobe said. “They played better against N.C. State, and if they could continue to improve that would be a huge shot in the arm for the offense. Our receiving corps has been shaky because of injuries, but our run blocking has been a problem and our passing has been a problem and it got better against State. I’m not comfortable with where they are, but if they continue to improve then they could get to the point to where we could say they are playing good.”