WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The Deacs have returned to work, anxious to shake off the offensive woes that plagued them in an ugly 7-3 victory over Tulane last week.
They’re not preparing for a matchup with in-state rival, Duke, who they’ve lost to the last four years after previously taking 12 in a row over the Blue Devils.
Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson addressed the media Tuesday afternoon. This is the question and answer portion of his comments.
On if there were first-game jitters:
Clawson: "There's really no excuses. I have to give credit to Tulane, their corners played very well. We did some uncharacteristic things and I think it's because it was guys who have never played before. Now that they have a game under their belt, they'll be better prepared. They're good players. They don't make the plays they made at camp if they don't have the ability. I have confidence that those guys will make plays. A lot of that game was that you had to take your shots, and you had to come up with your share. I look at the first scrimmage, and we had the same issue. In the second scrimmage, we completed those shots. It can’t be all or nothing. You take six or seven of those, and you have to come up with two or three of them. We didn’t come up with any.”
On trying to establish a vertical passing game against the experienced Duke secondary
Clawson: “We always want to say it’s on us. Everything is determined by how we execute. But by the same token, your ability to execute somehow is based on the opponent you’re playing and their skill level. Duke has a very talented secondary. Those guys have played a lot of football for them. They have been there — the same depth chart we faced two years ago and last year. The Fields kid is back for them, who missed last year. They are good players and have played a lot of football. They’re smart and don’t get the football over their heads much. They keep the ball in front of them and they make you drive and execute. This is a game — we’ve been able to move the ball against them, but we haven’t been able to make explosive plays against Duke the last couple of years. They’re a very smart, fundamentally sound football team.”
On the mentality of the offense after Thursday’s performance
Clawson: “They know they’re better than that. The object of the game is to win, and we won. Half the teams in the country last week lost, but I don’t think our offense came away saying ‘we did out job and we’re satisfied.’ As a group, they know they’re better than that, and they’re disappointed they didn’t perform better. I think they’re determined to do much better this week.”
On if Josh Banks will be available to play this week
Clawson: “I expect Josh Banks to play, but I expected him to play last week. That was a game day decision. He practiced today, and as long as everything continues on track, we expect to have him.”
On Tyler Bell
Clawson: “Tyler Bell was available last week, but now he’s getting more reps. Yes, Tyler Bell is available.”
On the defensive line getting thin with early injuries
Clawson: “We went into the year and I was excited about the depth. Thank goodness we had that depth, because I don’t know who we would have played if we didn’t have it. We had a player that took a leave of absence, who we expected to be our starting nose guard. We have Josh Banks who was out. Willie Yarbary, halfway through the game was out. So now you’re playing Shelldon Lewinson a lot of snaps, along with Chris Stewart and Elontae Bateman. Those guys stepped up and played. The bad news is we got a lot further down that depth chart than we wanted. The good news is that those guys went in there and played well. They did a good job. They held the point of attack, and didn’t get pushed off the ball. I think that will only help us as we get those guys back.”
On if Willie Yarbary will be back
Clawson: “I think so. He practiced today. It was an ankle, and he was doing conditioning striders and sprints at the end. We’re four days away, so we kept it light for him and Banks today. We think we’ll have both those guys, but if it takes a turn for the worse, it could change.”
On not playing Justin Strnad at linebacker, despite Jaboree Williams going down in the Tulane game
Clawson: “Right now, Grant Dawson is the backup at both spots. It’s the pair and a spare. The pair is Marquel (Lee) and Jaboree. Grant can play either position. If Jaboree can’t go this week, Grant would get the start, then Nate Mays and Justin Strnad would get those two (back up) spots.”
On if Duke quarterback Daniel Jones offers the same running threat the Blue Devils got from Thomas Sirk
Clawson: “They ran him last week. Daniel Jones was a good athlete in high school. He really had a phenomenal senior year. His senior year, he lit it up. He’s a good athlete. Duke ran him last week, and he scored a touchdown. They ran some zone read with him. He kept it once and got about 20 yards. He certainly moves well in the pocket and isn’t an immobile quarterback. Last week, they wanted to get him settled and had him handing the ball off early. They got their running game going, but they won’t hesitate to run him and he’s a good athlete. He’s got a live arm.”
On if Cade will start at running back
Clawson: “Yes. Cade will start again this week. We’re going to roll guys in there. You look at it, and the way they were defending us, we had to get over the top of the coverage. People will talk about the offensive line, but the offensive line didn’t play poorly. They had an unblocked safety in the box, and we’ve got to make that guy miss more than he did. We had one sack for three yards and we didn’t turn the ball over. We didn’t beat ourselves, but we weren’t productive enough. That’s across the board. I don’t think anybody in that offensive room said, ‘Hey. I did my job.’ We have to get more push on the offensive line, we have to make people miss at running back, we have to get open at wide receiver. I think it’s across the board with the production level, but the good thing is, we didn’t beat ourselves. There’s games on offense in the past two years where we’ve lost the game on offense by turning the ball over or giving them a short field. For the most part we made first downs and flipped the field position. We just didn’t gain enough yards. Part of that, as well as our defense played, is that we didn’t get off the field in the second half. We gave up a lot of 3rd-down conversions in the second half, and didn’t give ourselves good field position. It seemed like we were always backed up. We had two 3-and-outs, then we had the situation with the lead and four minutes to play where we tried to run out the clock. We made one first down and gave them the ball back with 1:40 left and no timeouts.”
On players feeling like the win over Tulane felt like a loss
Clawson: “You just challenge them. We won the game. You go through the course of the year, and you can win games all different way. You can win 47-44 or 7-3. We happen to win the 7-3 variety and not the other way. I think when you win the other way, you have the same feelings on defense. It’s a win, and you certainly enjoy coaching after a win. But there’s also a standard and a level of performance you expect from your team, and we did not get that standard of performance on offense. That’s a standard we’re capable of playing to, and we didn’t. In spite of that, we won the game. We won the game because we played really well on defense and our kicking game did a good job. We pinned them four times inside the 20, and twice inside the 10. Dom Maggio, for his first night, did a good job. I thought our special teams, other than the penalty, were solid.”
On the quarterback situation this week
Clawson: “We’re going to play both guys. Obviously I’m not going into any more detail than that, because I don’t want to tell Duke how we’re going to do it. We went into the year with a plan, and we’re not going to stick with the plan. At a certain point if we have to re-evaluate it, we will, but we’re not going to blow it up after one week. John (Wolford) is starting, but Kendall (Hinton) will play.”
On that trend happening across the country
Clawson: “I think it’s two reasons. The nature on no-huddle offenses. The whole quarterback as the leader in the huddle and the take-charge guy that everybody hears — nobody huddles anymore. Few teams huddle. The other nature of offenses now is that the quarterback runs so much. You better have two ready to go, especially early in the season. Teams want to play two, because if you have to play your second in weeks 4, 6, or 8, you want to make sure that you’re getting them snaps and they’re ready to go. In Texas, for instance, they have two different skill sets. They did certain things with one, and other things with the other. Notre Dame is another team that’s doing that. When it works, you get to congratulate yourself. When it don’t, you look in the mirror and ask, ‘Is that right for you?’ We’re still evaluating that. We went into the season with a plan. It’s hard to evaluate because of how few snaps we had. I’d say those first two drives went good. We had a nice mix going. John converted some third downs and Kendall was running the ball. We had two really good drives to start the game, then in the second half it bogged down a little bit. Now was that because we had two quarterbacks? I don’t think so. I think we had some execution issues. We had penalties that put us off schedule. Again, if we complete some of those deep balls, we probably feel a lot different.”
On the significance of no player on the Wake roster having defeated Duke
Clawson: “It’s an in-state game. It’s a rivalry game. This is the 97th meeting between the two teams. Whenever we play an in-state game — every game means a lot, this one means more. It’s a very important game on our schedule. When we play N.C. State and when we play North Carolina once every how many year. This game is very important to us.
“Every year is a new year. We look at every game independently. I’m not going to go in there and say, ‘Hey. Nobody here has beaten Duke.’ I don’t know how that helps us get ready. The motivation is that we want to win the game, execute better. What happened four years ago, I don’t think has much bearing on this.”