NC State Travels To Wake Forest
Oct. 5, 2001
By Tony Haynes
With its relatively small seating capacity of 31,500, Wake Forest's quaint Groves Stadium will never be confused with other venues in college football that have been called among the nation's most intimidating places to play.
But given NC State's recent track record in Winston-Salem, Groves seems more like "The Big House" in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
In ugly losses to the Demon Deacons in 1997 and '99, the Pack recorded perhaps two of its most lackluster performances of the last decade. In a forgettable Thursday night contest four years ago, Matt Burdick's 37-yard field goal with less than a minute to play gave Wake an easily forgettable 19-18 win.
Two years later, it got even uglier for the Pack as Wake Forest pounded out 266 yards on the ground in route to a most one-sided 31-7 triumph.
Needless to say, seniors like safety Terrence Holt will carry some bad memories into Groves Stadium when the Pack tangles with the Demon Deacons for the 95th time this Saturday evening at 6:30 p.m. (Airtime of 5:45 on Wolfpack Radio Network).
"I know the last game there was like a 12 o'clock game and there weren't a lot of fans there," Holt recalled. "It certainly wasn't the kind of crowd like we're used to with 51,000 in the stands. But that's no excuse. We have to come ready to play regardless. Everybody who was here then has that in the back of their minds and wants to pay them back. It's not a revenge thing, but we want to make sure that we don't come out flat."
In this case, a wake up call may not be needed. Last Saturday's 17-9 loss to archrival North Carolina was a slap in the face for a team that had dreamed of being this year's Oklahoma. For now, the Rose Bowl can wait. If it is to stay in contention for the ACC title, the Wolfpack will need to take care of business this week.
"I don't want to say the we have our backs up against the wall but we know what we've got to do," said senior guard William Brown.
Said Holt: "We know that we're still in it. We're mad that we lost to North Carolina, we didn't want to lose that game just like we don't want to lose any game. But we know we still have a chance because the league is real weird this year. In order to be 10-1 at the end of the year we have to be 3-1 at the end of this week."
Championship aspirations abound in the ACC, where five teams, including NC State, have one loss in conference play. And following this week's game between Virginia (2-0 ACC) and Maryland (2-0), another club will be added to that list.
After getting off to an impressive start that included victories over East Carolina and Appalachian State, Wake (2-2, 0-2) has surrendered more than 1,000 yards of total offense in back-to-back losses to Maryland and Florida State.
"The last two games they've played two pretty good football teams," said NC State coach Chuck Amato. "Florida State lost the week before and I know what it's like to be on that side after they lose a football game. And Maryland is still undefeated. It's not like they were giving up points to people who weren't capable of putting points up against anybody."
Yielding an average of 401.8 yards per game, Wake Forest is ranked eighth in the ACC in total defense. On the other side of the ball, however, the Deacons could present some real challenges for an NC State defense that has more than held its own so far. Running out of a spread formation, Wake Forest has put up big numbers on everybody-including Florida State. In last week's 48-24 loss in Tallahassee, Wake churned out 265 yards on the ground against the leagues No. 1 rushing defense.
For the season, the Deacons are rushing for an average of 231.8 yards per game, a figure that leads the ACC. Tailback Tarence Williams, whose average of 105 yards per game is second in the league, has done most of the damage.
"He makes things happen," Amato said. "They spread you out all over the field and you've got so much of the field to cover, that when they break the line of scrimmage on plays they go for big yards. He's somebody that we've got to tackle."
Wake's rotating quarterbacks-Anthony Young and James MacPherson--are also running threats. Young had 71 yards on the ground against the Seminoles. MacPherson, who's the better passer of the two, could be hampered by an ankle injury this week.
"I don't think it's a real seriously sprained ankle, but the problem is do you let the guy rest or do you try to make him go?" said first year Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe. "James understands what we need to do offensively. He's got the mental part of the game down so it's not a situation where we feel real pressed to give him a bunch of reps right now. The biggest thing that we can do for him is to have him ready physically on Saturday. My guess is he'll be ready to go."
Grobe is also concerned about the health of receiver Ira Williams, who led the Deacons in receptions last year with 45. Williams is listed as doubtful with a bruised shoulder.
For NC State, the prognosis for kicker/punter Austin Herbert remains uncertain. On his weekly radio show on Wednesday night, Amato said that a decision on Herbert's status may not be made until game day. The sophomore from Cary, who has a sprained right ankle, handled the punting chores against UNC, but was unable to do any of the placekicking.
Backup placekicker Adam Kiker nailed his only field goal attempt last week, but also missed an extra point following NC State's lone touchdown against the Tar Heels.
NC State owns a commanding 57-31-6 advantage in the all-time series with Wake Forest. Last November in Raleigh, the Pack rebounded from a 14-3 deficit and went on to score 29 unanswered points in a 32-14 win over the Deacons.