History says Deacons will muster 'top of our game' performance against Tigers

Coach Jim Grobe: 'We're healthy for a change defensively, that's a big shot in the arm for us'

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney talks with Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe before their game.

Photo by Mark Crammer

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney talks with Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe before their game.

Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe says his Deacons will have to play "at the top of our game" to have a chance against Clemson.

Somehow, Grobe always seems to get just that kind of effort when the Tigers suit up to play the Deacons.

Just last season, with Clemson looking to clinch the ACC Atlantic Division title, the Tigers found themselves down 28-14 midway through the third quarter before rallying for a pair of touchdowns, a last-second field goal, and a 31-28 victory.

The Tigers handled the Deacons without difficulty, 30-10, at Winston-Salem in 2010, and in 2009, 38-3, at Death Valley in 2009.

The Tigers' 12-7 loss at Winston-Salem in 2008 was its third in four games at BB&T Field dating back 2003, when the Deacons routed the Tigers 45-17. Wake Forest also won 31-27 in 2005.

There have been other close calls, as well. Clemson won the 2006 game at Winston-Salem thanks to a spectacular, game-turning 66-yard touchdown fumble return by Gaines Adams on a botched field goal attempt, after the Deacons had led 17-3. And the Tigers had to outscore the Deacons to win 37-30 at home in the 2004 season opener.

On Tuesday, Grobe talked about the challenges facing his team this time around.

"They're shooting the lights out offensively," he said. "Virginia Tech did a good job against them last week and slowed them down a little bit, but their defense stepped up.

"Offensively they've got a lot of big-time players at the skill positions and they've got a good kicking game as well. You just don't see many weaknesses in them; they've got great talent but they're also very well coached."

Grobe said his own team "feels good" coming off a defense-driven 16-10 victory over Virginia at Charlottesville.

"I think the good thing is that not only did we get a win against Virginia, but we got it on the road," Grobe said. "We played better on defense and our special teams picked up a little bit. Offensively we didn't have very good numbers but we took care of the football and that was the difference in the game."

He said the Deacons' defense benefited from having some of its best players back on the field.

"We're healthy for a change defensively, that's a big shot in the arm for us," Grobe said. "We've been lacking some of our key players from a health standpoint and I think we're a healthy football team right now. But this is a Clemson team that's as good as anybody in our conference. I think we're going to compete pretty well, but we're going up against a high-octane offense."

Grobe said that while the Thursday night game and short turnaround from a Saturday road game presents a challenge, the Deacons are giving it their best shot.

"We really have not played many times on a Thursday night, and the times that we have we've had an open date to prepare for it," he said. "I think this is the first time having played Saturday on the road and then having to work Sunday through Wednesday to prepare.

"We don't have a lot of experience with this, so we're siding with working more than working less. We'll be ready to play, but it's tough for all coaches. I don't think anybody's got it down to a science."

He said he expects "an electric environment" Thursday night.

"It should be a beautiful night, I think the weather is supposed to be great, and we've got a big-time football team coming to town," Grobe said. "I hope the Wake fans get out and support us. Our guys are going to be ready to play."

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