Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe spoke to the media Wednesday that cover the Atlantic Coast Conference and as he talked about what his team has to do in order to knock off No. 3 Clemson this Saturday in Death Valley.
Opening statement: Big, big challenge this week down in Death Valley, against a very talented Clemson team, and very well-coached football team. They are a team that we’ll have to play great for four quarters to have a chance. But we’re looking forward to the challenge, so we’ll see what happens. But certainly they are one of the better teams in the whole country right now.
Q. When you look at film of what NC State did to slow Clemson down a little bit, is there anything you can take from that or emulate, or did they expose a weakness?
JIM GROBE: Well, I think we try to take a little bit from every game. Most teams throughout the season do some good things and some things you kind of like, some things you don’t like. But yeah, there’s no question that NC State did some good things. In the same breath I would tell you I know how tough it is to go to Raleigh and play football, so I think Clemson got a really good win. I think sometimes they don’t get the credit they deserve for beating the Wolfpack team in Raleigh because that’s a really tough environment. But yeah, no question we try not only from NC State but from all their opponents, try to figure out if there’s anything you can do to slow them down. But in the end they’re just an awfully talented offense that can run it and throw it, and I think that’s what gives you so many problems with Clemson right now is that they could probably beat you either way, running or throwing, and of course those are the scariest teams to face.
Q. Talk about how difficult it is to play at Memorial Stadium there at Clemson. Is it a difficult place to play?
JIM GROBE: Yeah, it’s really difficult. They have a great fan base. They have great attendance. They really support the Tigers, and I think Clemson plays especially good at home. You know, I think they’re glad to come home from Raleigh I know with a win and to get back home in front of their crowd. But you get 80,000 plus fans in there, and there aren’t many of them for the opposing teams. They’re all for Clemson, and it’s an intimidating environment. You have to really not only go in and play good football against one of the most talented teams in the country and a very well-coached team, but you’ve got to fight the distractions of being in a hostile environment.
Q. I know your defense has been up and down this year. What do you guys have to do with Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd? I know he’s a scrambler, and if he finds a hole he’s gone pretty much.
JIM GROBE: Well, you know, the thing is you’ve got to have help from the offensive side and special teams has to play good. We talk a lot about defensive football and what defenses are good and whatnot, but really most of the really, really good defenses that I’ve ever been a part of or seen had a little bit of balance on the offensive side of the ball, so they didn’t spend all their time on the field. If your offense is three-and-out a lot, you’re going to have problems, and that’s especially true with this Clemson team with Tajh Boyd and all the talent that he has around him. You’d like to think that your defense is going to play hard and they’re going to fly around and try to do the best they can, but if you don’t have a little bit of possession time from your offense, it can be a long day.
Q. At this point in the season have you kind of got a handle yet in terms of how much offensively you want to be an option running team or how much you want to be a throwing team? Have you kind of figured out what you want to hang your hat on the rest of the day?
JIM GROBE: I think we’re getting closer. I don’t think we really feel comfortable yet. I think we’re figuring out that some kids do obviously some things better than others, but I do think that we’ve got to continue to fight the fight because with the people that we’re playing against, Clemson is a great example, if you’re one-dimensional, you’re in trouble. If we just go in there and try to throw the football and let these guys rush the passer, it’s going to be really a long day, and vice versa, if you just try to sit the ball on the ground and run it all the time, they’re going to hunker down and beat you up. I think you’ve got to have a little bit of balance, and quite frankly, we haven’t thrown the ball as well as we need to and we certainly haven’t run it as well as we want to. I think we’ve got to keep chipping away at it. We’re obviously not where we need to be yet, but I felt we’ve improved a little bit against Army last week, and we’re going to have to improve quite a bit before we get down to Death Valley.
Q. Your defense hasn’t allowed more than 24 points in a game this year. What’s the biggest thing your defense needs to do to hold Clemson in the 20s?
JIM GROBE: Oh, I think the key for us and any defense against this Clemson offense that’s so talented and so well-coached that they try to get you in a lot of different ways, and I think last year what really hurt us is we gave up a bunch of big plays, big chunks of yardage. So they’re going to get some of those, but if you give them too many, then you just can’t — you don’t have a chance to win. I think the big part of it is you certainly want to try to stop what they do, and that’s run and throw the football. They do both of them really, really well. But I think the key is if you give up too many big plays, you’re not going to have a very good day.