Clemson - Wake Now a Rivalry?

When Wake Forest head football coach Jim Grobe reflects on his last three meetings against Clemson, he thinks of two games that got away, rather than the 45-17 blowout victory of last year. "We've had three barn burners with those guys, all three years," head coach Jim Grobe said.

Clemson's narrow 31-23 win against the Demon Deacons in 2003 in Death Valley, as well as the Tigers' 21-14 win in 2002 in Wake still eats at him.

A few plays here and there and Clemson might very well have a three-game losing streak entering the 2004 season opener against the Demon Deacons.

"Down at their place two years ago, I thought we did play well offensively, except we didn't take very good care of the football in the second half," Grobe said. "That's the one game where I thought we played real well offensively.

"Then in that first year when Clemson came to our place, (quarterback) Woody Dantzler got a big first down toward the end of the game to secure the win."

Due to the close losses the first two years of Grobe's tenure as coach, Wake Forest players felt as though they owed the Tigers some payback. And they most definitely got their revenge.

But because of last year's extreme lopsided loss that wound up putting Tigers' coach Tommy Bowden on the hot seat, the folks at Clemson have been looking forward to the first game of this season since the start of spring football.

All of this has added up to a budding rivalry.

"We've had three barn burners with those guys, all three years," Grobe said. "I think typically when two teams compete against each other really well it becomes a rivalry, whether it started out that way or not.

Last year, Wake Forest rolled up 406 yards of total offense, with an amazing 321 of them coming on the ground.
"I think in the past we haven't been able to make the Clemson game a rivalry. But with the way we've played with them the last few years, it may have become a little more intense."

Prior to last year's contest, Clemson had won eight of the nine previous meetings.

However, since the arrival of Grobe, Wake Forest has been one of the teams that have given the Tigers the most fits.

Because of the complex running game that the Demon Deacons use, Clemson has had extreme difficulty in even slowing them down, let alone stopping them.

Last year, Wake Forest rolled up 406 yards of total offense, with an amazing 321 of them coming on the ground.

"I don't see that there's any scheme in there that gives us any better opportunity against Clemson," Grobe said. "Our kids for three straight years against Clemson have been ready to play. I can't explain it. It's just a good rivalry.

"It's really hard to tell (what the reason is). I thought the big difference last year was a couple of fluke plays. … Last year, I thought we played OK, but I thought a couple of defensive plays were the real difference."

Tigers senior linebacker LeRoy Hill said he and his teammates are ready for the meeting this year.

"Last year, it killed us," he said. "I can't explain how embarrassed we were. I felt so bad walking off that field. But I knew deep down that we could bounce back and you saw what happened the rest of the season.

"That's still the last game we've lost, so it's still fresh in our minds. We've worked on them during the spring and I know we'll spend a lot of time on them in camp. It's real important for us to get off to a good start and I'm pretty confident we're going to."

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