College Football: Wake plays host to Clemson tonight
By Joedy McCreary
WINSTON-SALEM ó School records, national rankings, bowl berths, an ACC championship ó Wake Forest has accomplished plenty during its two-year rise to relevance.
There’s still one thing the Demon Deacons haven’t done: beat Clemson.
Coach Jim Grobe’s team is looking to change that tonight when No. 21 Wake Forest plays host to the Tigers in what’s almost an elimination game between the two preseason favorites in the league’s Atlantic Division.
“If we win this game, we’re in the front seat of the ACC,” Wake Forest receiver D.J. Boldin said. “Clemson had the pressure coming into the season, they were going to win. That was a lot of pressure on them. If we win this football game, there’s going to be a lot of pressure on us, so we’ll have to keep in mind that every week is going to be a challenge, and if we’re going to stay in the driver’s seat, we’re going to have to win.”
Under Grobe, the Demon Deacons (3-1, 1-0) have always been a pesky opponent for Clemson, but he’s only 2-5 against Tommy Bowden’s team and in the past two years his team has simply found ways to lose to the Tigers.
Wake Forest’s last win in the series came in 2005, the year before it emerged as an upstart by winning the ACC and reaching an unlikely Orange Bowl.
But even during that breakout ’06 season in which the Demon Deacons won a school-record 11 games, they couldn’t top Clemson.
“I think the biggest thing’s not the Clemson thing. The biggest thing is, we went down and just got embarrassed,” Grobe said. “It wasn’t even fair. … They basically just owned us last year, so I would like to think that our players are as embarrassed as the coaches are.”
Both teams are coming off humbling home performances to sully what once shaped up as a prime-time matchup of Top 25 teams.
“You can’t say ‘must-win,’ but you really put yourself in a deep hole and have to be hoping for a lot of things to happen if we don’t win this game against Wake Forest,”‘ receiver Aaron Kelly said.
Clemson (3-2, 1-1), the preseason pick possibly contend for a national title, fell apart in the second half against Maryland, gaining just 112 yards after halftime and blowing an 11-point halftime lead in a 20-17 loss.