Lessons from Clemson (aka Punting is for Losers)

Honestly, not sure what there really is to say about the game tonight. Going into the game, it looked like Wake was a severe underdog; during the game, it looked like Wake was a severe underdog. Still, at this point, I think I can definitely offer a couple statements about this edition of the Ol' Gold and Black.

1) Our special teams are pretty "special" this year. Kickoffs were fine today. Grobe apparently got the message into the players that if the ball goes into the end zone, it has no business coming out. The botched extra point raises a few eyebrows, but was ultimately inconsequential. Punting was... mediocre. Let's face it, Kinal doesn't really have a great, great leg at this point (either that or the coaches have asked him to coverage kick more). But what really makes this infuriating...

2) Jim Grobe's conservative nature is hurting this team currently. I know that our offense is no great shakes, but you play to win the game. Sometimes that means taking chances that you otherwise wouldn't take. At least twice this game, we were presented with favorable opportunities to go for fourth downs, and we punted on both occasions. One time we gained 19 yards of field position after a touchback, and the other time Clemson marched straight down the field for a score. This might be masking the issue somewhat (the punt does not mean the defense would play poorly on the subsequent drive), but we were just too cautious for my taste tonight, and I think it hurt on the scoreboard. Plus, we have a fantastic possession receiver who has shown a continued ability to get open on short routes. That should factor in as well.

3) We are a good team against the run. Clemson obviously shredded the defense tonight, but the vast vast VAST majority of the damage was through the air. This seems to be par for the course, with the exceptions of the Army and FSU games. Generally speaking, our front seven has been the best part of the team this season. But...

4) Our secondary, for all the fact that it seems good on paper, needs some work. Against Duke we couldn't play zone. Tonight, we somehow managed to forget about their ALL-AMERICAN RECEIVER HEY GUYS NO ITS COOL HE'S ONLY OPEN 40 YARDS DOWNFIELD FOR THE EIGHTIETH TIME TONIGHT. I think this was the most frustrating part of the game, at least to me. Our cornerbacks were supposed to be our strength - and to be fair, we took DeAndre Hopkins largely out of the game. But Sammeh Watkins lit us up, then doused us so he could light us up again, and their secondary receivers had a field day. I don't know if communication was an issue between the corners and safeties or what, but jeebus that was bad. I think it's likely that our linebackers - although good against the run - bear some of the blame for the tertiary receivers running so free.

5) Good to see Campanero back. He looked pretty much like himself. Definitely a promising sign for our attempts at bowl eligibility.

6) All of this leads to the resounding conclusion: this is one of the least "Jim Grobe" teams that Grobe's had here. On paper, it seems right - bland offense, stronger defense - but we're missing the key ingredients: outstanding special teams and decent amounts of forced turnovers. Without them, Grobe's overall strategy goes from brilliant to maddening, the defensive strategy goes from bend-don't-break to bend-and-bend-and-bend-and-crap-they-just-scored, and Tanner Price is gonna have really strong legs from all the scrambling and prying himself off the turf that he has to do.

In conclusion, it's definitely an overall positive sign that Wake can still qualify for a bowl game despite having, comparatively, a rather poor season. That fact alone speaks progress about where Grobe has brought the program in his tenure. Still, a little more adjustment on his part would be nice, particularly if it means not punting the damn ball on 4th and 2 when we're on their 40 yard line.

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