WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Part two of Tuesday’s Q&A with Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson finds the coach commenting on the physicality of the Hoosiers, and how the Deacs have been blocking and tackling well to begin the year.
On becoming a physical football team
Clawson: “We pride ourselves on becoming a physical football team. This is another step up for us. I think our guys are excited about the challenge. When you’re winning, the locker room is good, practice is fun and you look forward to the next game. But to a man in our locker room, our players will tell you that Indiana is a good football team. I really thought last year, Indiana offensively was one of the very best offenses we faced all season. Look at them, they had a NFL quarterback who’s now with the Redskins, a NFL tailback, a NFL left tackle. They have good players. Good players and a well-thought out scheme. They’re well coaches and they score points every year against good people.”
On some things not going well, but they are blocking and tackling well
Clawson: “Right now, we’re the second-least penalized team in the ACC. We had those two pass interference, late in the game where we had guys grabbing when they shouldn’t. I think right now, a positive of our team is how little we’ve been penalized.
“When you control the line of scrimmage — when you’re not good up front, there’s not a lot you do anywhere else that really matters. If you can’t block, it doesn’t matter how good your quarterback, running back or receivers are because it never gets to those matchups. I think what’s happening this year is that our offensive line is getting better, and we’re blocking people. I always want to be a balanced offense, and who would have thought our concern would be not throwing it. For two years, probably 80 percent of our offense came from throwing it, and we really struggled running the football. Now that we’re protecting better, we’ve got to start making more plays on the perimeter in the passing game.
“I think the Duke game was obviously heavy run. Then in the first half last week, we were not good throwing it. That’s why in the second half, we really wanted to spread it out more and get the perimeter working. We knew that was something we had to work on. Not only was it a positive that we ran it for 300 yards, but I also thought we were efficient throwing it. John (Wolford) answered the bell in the second half. He was surprisingly uncomfortable in the first half, especially for a guy who’s played so much. But in the second half, settled down and knew it was his game.
“I agree on the turnovers. That was really sloppy. It was a bad pick. The fumble was just an awful fumble. You’re coming out, it’s 3rd-and-1. You have to finish the play with the football in your hand and hand it to the official. You notice we didn’t give him (Tyler Bell) another carry the rest of the game. That’s a big deal. If you don’t take care of the football — and it’s nice at running back to have options to do that.”
On the pressure Indiana will bring
Clawson: “They play a lot of cover-4, but the safeties are really involved in run defense. They get them involved in the run, and get them as part of a seven-or-eight man box, because the safeties are so set. To run the ball against them, your backs are going to have to make people miss. You’re going to have to make some plays on the perimeter.”
On the Wake wide receivers
Clawson: “I think they’re improving. I think it’s a positive that every one of those six made a play. (Alex) Bachman had a touchdown, Steven Claude had a nice catch where he flipped his hands and got north and south right away. It was great to see Scotty Washington get a catch. Cortez Lewis made a play. Tabari (Hines) made a great third-down conversion right before the half that led to a touchdown. Chucky Wade made a nice play on a bubble screen and made a guy miss. That was really encouraging. We talk about our depth and how improved the wide receiver corp is — that was a game where all six of them made a play. I’m hoping, like with Scotty, that a play like that gets him going. Bachman ran a perfectly-executed red zone route, and John (Wolford) — I thought that was his best play of the game. He stepped up and threw an absolute laser on the front number. Those were really positive plays from the game, in addition to what we did running the football. Another thing was — last year we used to call runs on third down so we wouldn’t get sacked. Now, we’re calling runs on third down to get first downs. How many times did we run the ball on 3rd-and-6 or 3rd-and-5 because we had a look, then executed the run and made the first down. I think clearly the defense we play this week will be a lot more challenging because of what they do coupled with their physicality.”