After a 28-21 loss to Duke on Saturday Wake's bowl chances are finished. The Deacs are currently sitting at 4-7 with one game left in Nashville with no shot to reach the required six wins to play in the postseason. The season started with pretty high expectations and for the most part the football team hit, well, none of them. I said that I believed a team with the amount of talent and experience which Wake had returning for the 2013 season should go 7-5 with an outside shot at 8-4.
There were many reasons that the team failed to meet these expectations, or even reach the .500 record required for a bowl game, and I believe that we will be breaking these down here at Blogger So Dear following the Vanderbilt finale, but I feel like I need to get some thoughts off my chest about the program and this has been my outlet to do so all season.
First and foremost the game plan entering the season placed the team behind the eight ball. There's nearly no way around this observation in my opinion. With an experienced team coming into the year, one would expect the coaching staff to have a pretty good feeling about what would or wouldn't work with the offense. With a fourth year starter in Tanner Price, we had a solid idea of what his skill set was. He has shown flashes throughout his career of being able to tuck the ball under and escape the pocket (and did so several times against Duke) yet his decision making in the option attack and ability to turn the corner against defensive ends were clearly sub-par.
Instead of playing to Wake's strengths - Campanaro out of the slot, a running game through the tackles, and an experienced leader in Price - the coaching staff spent the entire off season piecing together an option attack with no chance to succeed. To their credit they switched things up after four games when it was clear the offense wasn't clicking, but the damage was done and Wake had lost a critical home game against ULM while being almost non-competitive in a toss-up road conference game against Boston College.
It's the coaching staff's job to put the players in a position where they can succeed with proper execution. The option attack failed to do this, and the decision to not utilize the spread offensive line was a critical mistake in judgment. Against N.C. State and Maryland the offense was clicking. A healthy Campanaro and an offensive game plan suited to Wake's personnel allowed the team to win back-to-back games ACC games by double digits for the first time in ten-plus years. When Camp went down against Syracuse the season was over. Wake was entirely one-dimensional at this point and was unable to generate a third offensive plan of the season to switch things up. It showed as the Deacs scored three total points over eight quarters against the Orange and the Seminoles, thus draining any confidence and positive momentum the team had garnered over the previous two games.
Then came the Duke game this week. Duke's defense has certainly been vulnerable at times this season as seen by the moderate success a variety of teams have had against it. This was not a game that Wake was expected to win, but it was a game that I believe Grobe needed to win to have any chance of retaining the trust of the Wake fan base. As expected by most Wake fans - pessimistic by nature given the long spells of grasping defeat from the jaws of victory - the Deacs fell short despite jumping out to a fast 14-0 start in the first quarter.
The offense ultimately gained under 250 yards, dropping the offensive rankings even further in the overall statistics. In three of the four major offensive categories Wake ranks in the bottom ten in the nation (scoring offense, rushing offense, total offense). For the third time in four years the Deacs will finish in triple digits in the nation in total offense and the team has been relatively pitiful on offense for almost the entirety of the Lobotzke era.
As I said there will be more analysis forthcoming over the next few weeks on what happened this season in football, as well as what the future holds for Wake football but it's a depressing scene. This was supposed to be the culmination of a class of experienced veterans who put Wake back into a bowl game with a winning record. The defense has shown to be more than capable, ranking in the top fifty in the nation in each of the four major defensive categories. For as incompetent as the offense has been, the defense put us in position to win games and we simply failed to convert our opportunities to do so. It's the same story that Wake has seen since Grobe got here in that the defense battled hard game in and game out. It has been fun to watch Nikita plow through double teams and reap the praise of national commentators. He will likely finish the season on a multitude of All-American teams and our offense was not even able to provide him with a bowl game to cap off his illustrious Wake Forest career.
There are a lot of ifs, ands, or buts out there regarding what might have happened if Campanaro didn't get injured, but the bottom line is we shouldn't have been sitting at 4-4 entering the Syracuse game needing to win two of the last four games to limp into the postseason. Everybody knew the first four games of the season were the bulk of the schedule, particularly when the goal is to get to six wins. There was absolutely no excuse for coming out so flat in a huge game against BC in week two and somehow the coaching staff failed to get the team up for it, highlighted by a tactical decision so pitiful it made Napoleon's Russian campaign look like the D-Day invasion.
For this week there is no Lobo's Headset, there is no Golden Boot, and there is no specific concentration on the Duke game. There is only frustration. This coaching staff has given a lot to Wake Forest over the past decade and Jim Grobe will always have a special place in the heart of Wake Forest fans' - and for good reason. However it is painfully obvious that the time is far past due to move in a different direction with the football program.
Grobe did not make the staff shakeups that were necessary to keep fresh blood on the coaching regime and the moves he did make were not enough to get the job done. He has had the opportunity to replace the obvious problems (Lobotzke) and chose not to and therefore his decision should be made for him: it is time for him to go. I love Grobe, but he should not be the head coach of the Wake football team next year. Wake fans will undoubtedly laud him as one of, if not the, greatest coaches in the program's history. We won an ACC Championship which was simply inconceivable, and played in three consecutive bowl games. He tied Peahead Walker for the most wins in school history, and barring a large upset on Saturday will remain there at the end of the year. He has accomplished far more than anybody expected him to and he has done it with integrity and class. He has been a phenomenal spokesperson for the school and elevated Wake Forest into the national media for a relatively lengthy span for accomplishments on the gridiron. Removing Grobe from his position is not an indictment of him as a person, but is merely what must be done in the business world that is Division I college football.
It is disappointing to have to make these remarks because I personally have nothing but respect for Coach Grobe, but it is a sad day indeed where he is no longer what Wake Forest needs to oversee the football program and guide the team to success.
Moving on to a slightly more interesting, but not really positive, note is this week's Kinal Kount. Kinal boomed seven more punts against Duke as the offense failed to get much going all day and actually is now back in a tie for the national lead in punts for the 2013 season with Iowa State's Kirby Van Der Camp. If Kinal can out punt Van Der Camp in each team's final game, he will lead the nation in punts for the second consecutive year which is a pretty remarkable accomplishment given the number of punters in the country.
So barring any extremely unfortunate circumstances, Kinal will not match his 95 punts from last year (since he only has 80 right now and one game remaining). On the other hand, he is more than halfway to the NCAA record and is not yet halfway through his career. He is on pace to shatter Harris' record and is on pace for 365 punts in his career. As I've stressed a lot he is just so far ahead of anybody else in NCAA history that it's almost comical. He is going to increase the record by roughly 10% if he stays on pace and stays in school. That's just sad.
I also want to give a shoutout to the men's soccer team who pulled out a 2-1 home victory over Navy in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. They will take on Notre Dame next week in South Bend for a spot in the Elite 8. The Irish beat the Deacs 3-1 earlier this season in Winston-Salem, but it was a highly competitive game. The game will likely be aired on WakeForestSports.com and I strongly encourage any Wake fans who can to watch this team play.
The women's team fell short in their bid to reach the college cup when they lost to Virginia on Sunday, but they had a remarkable season despite the injuries to two of their better players. These young women should be extremely proud of what they accomplished over the season and over their careers and I fully expect the team to come back strong next year to make it back to the tournament. The Deacs are one of only eight teams in women's soccer to make the second round of the NCAA Tournament in seven consecutive years.
The final football game of the year kicks of at 12:21 on Saturday in Nashville and let's see if the Deacs can't finish the season off strong. As always, go Deacs.