WFU Week Four: Downward Spiral

After beating ECU for win number one in this soon to be written off season, the Deacs took on Maryland this afternoon in the Deacs’ Homecoming game. Not too many people came home if the crowd on TV, particularly early, was any indication. The Deacs lost a game that was only within reach because of Maryland mistakes 22-12.

Rather than rehash how bad we looked, how predictable our offense is and how we couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean from the shore, I think I’ll jump right to my conclusions:

1) Like everything in college sports, it comes down to recruiting. Some optimists at ACCBoards.Com love to bash recruiting rankings and claim such rankings are skewed and don’t matter. Here’s the only problem with that: it’s utterly and completely wrong. While rankings are certainly part art as well as part science, it has been empirically proven by the ACC Area Sports Journal on more than one occasion that the teams that get the higher ranked players will win more games than those that don’t. I’m not bashing our players by saying that- I am simply stating a fact.

2) The fact that WFU generally battles Duke for the lowest ranked recruiting classes in the ACC requires Jim Grobe to do things to compensate for the talent differential. At first, he was able to close that gap by running a lot of misdirection and orbit plays (I don’t know where that overused and never successful shovel pass came from- it was on almost as much as the commercial for that stupid golf movie). The problem is that other teams, especially the other ACC teams, have figured it out. The smoke and mirrors quit working and while the coordinators have not distinguished themselves this year, there’s only so much they can do. The way to win more games consistently over the medium and long term is to recruit players as good or better than most of the other teams you play. I don’t know if that’s possible at WFU, but trying to pretend it’s not necessary is a recipe for failure. You simply can’t count on sneaking up on people to get you to a bowl every year or five.

3) The talent differential also makes it easier for other coaches to implement halftime adjustments than for Grobe to do so. The second half trends this year bear that out. Grobe appears to be getting outcoached at halftime, but again there’s only so much he can do.

4) WFU does not have a single real threat at wide receiver. Part of the reason Ben (who ain’t jamin’) Mauk looks so bad out there (and he does look really bad out there) is because his receivers can’t get open. And even when they do and he actually throws the ball to them instead of tucking it for yet another QB keeper (if I were the running backs I wouldn’t even bother running on the option plays because Mauk never gives them the ball), they often drop it. If we had better receivers, Mauk would look less bad.

5) Now for the thing I’m the most certain about- the coaching staff does not have confidence in Mauk. They can say they do, but their game plans make it obvious they don’t. Grobe said earlier this year that Mauk does not have the green light to audible out of plays except in certain situations (which must mean that all the pointing and walking around pre-snap is some sort of head fake designed to fool any defensive players who didn’t read that interview). If that’s the case, then the play calling makes it abundantly clear that the staff views Mauk’s arm as the weapon of last resort. Whether this is because of him or them, I don’t know. But if this is so obvious to me, it’s also obvious to other coaches, which is exactly why other teams keep daring Wake to pass the ball.

This all adds up to a long season for the Deacs. I’m not sure if there is an answer, but if there is, someone on the WFU board at ACCBoards.Com will come up with it.

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