Deacs serve Wake up call to ACC

Originally Published: September 7, 2003
By Ivan Maisel | ESPN.com

Stock in paper companies may plummet because of Auburn's demise -- think of all those lost sales from the rolls that haven't been hanging in Toomer's Corner. Then again, they can ship that excess out of Auburn to Winston-Salem.

"We came out and played hard and got the victory," said Wake Forest freshman Willie Idlette after the Demon Deacons beat North Carolina State, 38-24, Saturday, "and hopefully the quad will be white with toilet paper."

Eric King
AP PhotoWake Forest and Eric King could do little wrong in Saturday's win over NC State.
The biggest compliment that anyone could give Wake, a long-time have-not in the Atlantic Coast Conference, is that the victory over the Wolfpack didn't surprise anyone who has been paying attention. The word has gotten out in the ACC, and is beginning to spread across the country. Jim Grobe, in his third season at Wake, can coach.

Wake, one week after winning at Boston College, 32-28, blew out North Carolina State by racing to a 28-3 lead, capped by Idlette's 50-yard punt return for a score. Wake itself didn't punt until the third quarter.

Sophomore Cory Randolph threw for 131 yards, ran for another 39, and caught a pass for 42 yards. Imagine how much Wake might have won by if running backs Chris Barclay (90 yards, one touchdown) and Cornelius Birgs, who closed out Wake's scoring with a 16-yard touchdown run punctuated by an effective stiff-arm on rover Andre Maddox, hadn't played with sprained ankles.

Wolfpack quarterback Philip Rivers threw for 433 yards, a career high, yet NC State never quite got a handle on the Wake defense. The Deacs dropped as many as nine defenders into pass coverage, which made it doubly embarrassing when, with the Wolfpack at the Wake 11, trailing 31-17 in the fourth quarter, NC State right tackle Sean Locklear got called for clipping. That's five blockers, two rushers and one clipping penalty, which ended any realistic chance of a comeback.

"The team celebrating next door gave us as big a butt-whipping (as we've had) since Florida State in my first year," Wolfpack coach Chuck Amato said. Amato exaggerates somewhat. The Seminoles won, 58-14. But I can't remember the last time I looked up the date and location of the Wake-Florida State game because of the bearing it may have on the ACC race. It's Oct. 25, in Tallahassee.

Talking' About The BCS -- Again
The campaign waged by Tulane president Scott Cowen to wrest greater access to the BCS will reach another crescendo Monday when Cowen and William R. Greiner, president of the University of Buffalo, will meet with six university presidents representing the BCS conferences.

Cowen has done a Sharptonesque job of attracting attention to the concerns of the schools in Conference USA, the Mid-American, the Mountain West, the Western Athletic and the Sun Belt conferences. The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing last Wednesday.

All of this and two bucks will buy Cowen a Happy Meal. The BCS commissioners have dismissed the threat of antitrust litigation. The commissioners know bad pub when they hear it. They want to work something out with the non-BCS leagues. But there are more questions than can be answered in the meeting Monday.

"We want to have a discussion, but it's got to be fact-based. Rhetoric is one thing, but let's sit down and go over the facts," Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive, in the Bryant-Denny Stadium press box, said Saturday night. Among the facts that Slive finds relevant: "Historically, nothing has really changed. We have six million people who come to our games."

That is the crux of the stance of the BCS leagues. Slive is sympathetic to the non-BCS leagues, perhaps more so than the other BCS commissioners. Slive used to be the C-USA commissioner. One issue that both sides think can be addressed is the whole issue of "BCS" and "non-BCS."

"The BCS became a brand," Slive said. "I don't think anybody really expected that."

The BCS commissioners are willing to change the name, and they are willing to discuss access and cut the non-BCS schools a bigger annual check. But don't expect to see Colorado State in the Rose Bowl anytime soon (merely writing those words may be a misdemeanor in some parts of Pasadena).

Back To Form
Frank Gore's second touchdown of the night, the one that capped Miami's comeback to beat Florida, 38-33, epitomized Gore's first two games. He didn't look flashy, he didn't juke a safety into twisting an ankle. Gore saw the hole, hit it hard, and turned what looked like it might be a four- or five-yard gain into six points.

Frank Gore
Getty ImagesFrank Gore must prove to NFL scouts that he can take the pounding at the next level.
The touchdown must have felt very good, given the words of Gator defensive end Bobby McCray inspired Gore. During the Gators' yapathon last week, McCray appraised Gore this way, according to the Orlando Sentinel: "He's still going off what he did two years ago. I don't think he's nothing compared to McGahee."

Gore appears fully recovered from the ACL injury he suffered 18 months ago that cost him a year of his career and propelled Willis McGahee from second-string to fourth in the 2002 Heisman Trophy race. He rushed for 118 yards against Louisiana Tech, and 127 against Florida. That's all well and good, and given the Hurricanes' offense, Gore will continue to make his presence known on the national stage. But when Miami running backs coach Don Soldinger talks about the rehabbed Gore, what Soldinger is most proud of is Gore's work without the ball.

"You knew he would be able to run the ball," Soldinger said. "He is right there on the verge of breaking one. That will come. He did so many other things well. Frank did really well in pass protection against Louisiana Tech. He had no mistakes. He's a real intuitive football guy."

First Quarters First
Forget playing four quarters. Alabama might look into playing the first quarter. One week after the Crimson Tide started out against South Florida as if their playbooks were written in Sanskrit, the Tide bungled the most basic assignments against Oklahoma.

On the first play of the game, Brodie Croyle threw an interception. Oklahoma converted it into three points. Alabama fumbled on each of its next two possessions, and that doesn't include the low snap that punter Bo Freelend bobbled. Not to be outdone, punt returner Triandos Luke called for a fair catch on the Tide 4.

Given that dog's breakfast of a start, it's a wonder that Alabama fought its way back into the game. A week earlier, Alabama rallied against South Florida to score the game's final 33 points and reached the middle of the third quarter with the game tilted in its direction. On a surprisingly cool summer night in the Deep South, Alabama spotted Oklahoma a 13-3 lead, then began playing with the same efficiency. One problem: Oklahoma is not South Florida, and neither are the Tide's SEC opponents.

"If you lose, you have to give your best effort," Alabama coach Mike Shula said. "And I'm not taking anything away from Oklahoma. They are a great team. But we looked sloppy in the beginning. We've got to grow up in a hurry."

Groh-ing Pains
Virginia coach Al Groh, usually painstaking in explaining a coaching stratagem, is painfully quiet when it comes to the subject of injury. Groh refused to elaborate on the condition of quarterback Matt Schaub, who suffered a shoulder injury in the opening victory over Duke and didn't play Saturday in the 31-7 loss at South Carolina.

"When players and coaches talk about injuries," Groh said, "it's a built-in excuse. A player says, 'Gee, I really want to play. I'm only 80 percent,' means, 'If I don't play well, you can't give me a hard time.' Either be ready and play well, or don't play. If a coach talks about it, he's saying, 'It's not that I'm a bad coach, but if I had this guy...' Teams don't become completely tough until there is a no-excuse mentality."

Groh made no excuses after the second-half collapse against the Gamecocks. However, the quicker that Schaub, the 2002 ACC Player of the Year, returns, the quicker that the Cavaliers can resume their place in the conference race.

Just F.Y.I.
Since the Associated Press began compiling its weekly poll, which schools have been No. 1 for the most weeks without ever finishing No. 1? Answer below. ... Chris Perry of Michigan leads the nation with 416 yards rushing. Anthony Davis of Wisconsin is second with 414 yards. The two of them on the same field would be a Big Ten showcase. It won't happen this year. The Badgers and the Wolverines don't play each other. There may be bigger ramifications, as anyone who recalls that Iowa and Ohio State didn't play each other last year can tell you. Non-conference games become more important, as if Michigan didn't have enough reasons to beat Notre Dame. ... The most telling of Auburn's litany of bad offensive statistics is that the Tigers have allowed 13 sacks. We can officially label the Tigers' blockers the offen(sieve) line. ... One stat in Illinois' 49-22 rout of I-AA Illinois State is unsettling. The Redbirds threw 56 passes, and the Illini managed only one hurry and no sacks. Better find a pass rush. Jeff Tedford brings Cal to Urbana-Champaign on Sept. 20. ... Answer: Washington has owned the top spot No. 14 weeks without finishing No. 1 in the AP poll (the Huskies won the coaches' poll in 1991). After Washington comes Iowa with seven weeks at No. 1 and, here's the shocker, Northwestern is third with five weeks at the top. The Wildcats held the No. 1 spot for three weeks in 1936, the first year of the poll, and for two weeks in 1962.

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ivan.maisel@espn3.com.

Ivan Maisel | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

SPONSORED HEADLINES

ALSO SEE

MORE COLLEGE FOOTBALL HEADLINES

MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM