WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) – Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe is trying to solve the riddle of how to turn his players’ hard work into onfield production.
The Demon Deacons (2-3, 0-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) have struggled to find consistent offensive success and battled slow starts all season. That’s left the longtime coach searching for a way to get things running smoothly, though extending the program’s long-running success against instate opponents Saturday would be a good place to start.
“You look at the kids and you scratch your head because we’re working hard,” Grobe said Tuesday. “We’re just not getting anything out of it.”
Wake Forest heads into Saturday’s home game with North Carolina State after a 56-7 loss at No. 3 Clemson, though the problems go beyond just one ugly score. Opponents have scored first in all five games and the Demon Deacons have trailed after the opening quarter four times. The offense – which incorporated elements of the option for this season – ranks last in the 14-team league in both scoring (18.4 points per game) and total offense (316 yards).
This wasn’t what Grobe expected for a team loaded with upperclassmen, from senior quarterback Tanner Price (37 straight starts) and receiver Michael Campanaro (24 career starts) on offense to nose guard Nikita Whitlock (38 starts) and defensive end Zach Thompson (33 starts) on defense.
Grobe said he was pleased with how his team responded to the Clemson loss. He just doesn’t know if that will mean much come Saturday against the Wolfpack (3-1, 0-1).
“We’re just not getting carry-over to Saturday for whatever reason,” Grobe said. “And I told our guys I think in some cases our coaches are more energetic than they are, and that’s not a good thing. You want your players to be the kind of guys you’ve got to kind of grab them by the jersey and calm them down.”
Beating the Wolfpack here could certainly help matters. N.C. State hasn’t won in Winston-Salem since 2001, when San Diego Chargers 10th-year veteran Philip Rivers was a sophomore quarterback.
Overall, Wake Forest has won five straight meetings at BB&T Field and seven of eight dating back to 1997. That’s part of Wake Forest’s overall 31-10 record against instate opponents under Grobe, including 22-10 against ACC members Duke, N.C. State and North Carolina.
The Demon Deacons know they can’t squander many more games if they want to return to a bowl game. Wake Forest has been to just once after going to three straight from 2006-08.
And considering a home game with No. 25 Maryland, a trip to No. 14 Miami and a visit from No. 8 Florida State still loom on the schedule, the Demon Deacons can’t afford to let the N.C. State game get away.
“We have a good attitude in the locker room,” tight end Spencer Bishop said. “It’s frustrating but we’re a resilient team. We can bounce back. (If) we play well against N.C. State, it’ll be a lot easier to forget about the mistakes we’ve made this year.”