WFU Week One: Clash of the Titans

In a clash of the titans that resonated throughout college football, my two alma maters met in a gridiron war tonight. In the first live college football game televised on ESPN-U, Vanderbilt (my graduate school) beat Wake Forest (my undergraduate school) 24-20.

I care about Wake Forest and follow the Deacons football team closely, even though I know from 40+ years experience that it will almost always be painful and frustrating. I don’t follow Vanderbilt athletics at all, so the fact that this was a game between my alma maters is more trivia than conflict.

Jim Grobe has been anointed the savior of Wake Forest football, and he may be (to the extent it can be saved). Wake loses games by a few points now, whereas it used to lose by a lot of points. Vanderbilt, who was 2-9 last year and is even more entrenched near the bottom of the SEC than WFU is near the bottom of the ACC came into Wake’s home stadium and beat the Deacs again, raising Vandy’s record against Wake to 7-3 (a better record than either team has had since 1992). Next week, the Deacs travel to Nebraska. Let’s do some projections: Wake loses to a traditionally pitiful Vandy team at home by 4 then travels to play a traditionally good Nebraska team. Hmmm…. Sounds like a recipe for moral victory (Wake has a lot of those). Mark it down- Wake will lose by 10 or less next week. For sure, the Deacs will lose, but they will look good doing it. Otherwise we Deac fans would just write off the season and try to recoup our emotional investment. An investment that has had consistently poor returns over the years.

Here are my thoughts on tonight’s game.

Yes, Vandy’s Jay Cutler is a good QB (276 yards passing). But to try to rationalize this loss on the fact that the opponent has a good QB is simply a canard. If it hadn’t been the QB it would have been a RB, WR, kicker or equipment manager.

Like every other year, the Deacs seem utterly unable to put any pressure on the QB. With 11 seconds to throw, Harpo Marx would look like Johnny U.

I thought we were in for another year of horrible special teams play after a few of those squib kick-looking kickoffs, but Swank later sent one out of the end zone. Maybe he was just messing with us on the first few, setting expectations low and all that.

The Deacs still have trouble throwing downfield, but I think this year that has more to do with the inexperienced receiving corp that the QB or the system.

Granted, it was against Vanderbilt, but the offensive line looked very good and Micah Andrews (254 yards rushing) looks like a player. Wake has good pass/run balance and that should help keep the loss margins in the single digits.

I sure hope Jon Abatte (Wake’s best defensive player and the anchor of the defense) isn’t hurt. He was not on the field much, if any, in the second half (at least as far as I could tell). Without him, our defense would be much less effective against the run. Granted, the run defense was pretty good tonight until Vandy’s final drive, but the Deacs don’t play Vandy every week (much to Vandy’s dismay).

Yes, I sound frustrated. That’s because I am. But make no mistake, I love the Deacons. I just keep expecting them to become the good team they are allegedly on the verge of becoming. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t care.

Few of us picked our colleges based on how good their sports teams are. Obviously, I didn’t. There are many, many reasons to love Wake Forest that go beyond and above its football record. But it sure would be nice to have one more reason to love my school.

If you want to talk about the Deacons, visit the WFU message board at ACCBoards.Com. It’s hopping tonight.

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