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September 16, 2011
10 keys: Wake Forest vs. Gardner-Webb
Gardner-Webb at Wake Forest
Location: Winston-Salem, NC
Stadium: BB&T Field
Kickoff: 6:30 PM ET
Wake Forest: 1-1, 1-0 ACC (Beat N.C. State 34-27)
Gardner-Webb: 1-1, 0-0 Big South (Lost to Ohio 30-3)
Series record: First ever meeting
Quotes of the week
"As we go into this week playing a great school out of the ACC in Wake Forest we want to continue to find who we are as a team. I think we're getting a lot closer to that. We've got to continue to play hard. Thank God we came out of the Ohio game injury free besides some regular football injuries. We're going into this game knowing that for us it's an instate rival. I told our guys that this is a great opportunity. It's a great stadium. You're playing a program that is known nationwide. We've just got to go up there, and give our best. Our guys are excited about it, and that's what we plan on doing. Wake Forest is coming off of a big win in conference. Going into the Ohio game we were able to watch the first half of that on our bus, and we kind of got ahead on that, but we're excited. Going into this game Wake Forest did some things against Syracuse, Wake Forest did some things against N.C. State that we're going to try in what we do keep them in our scheme of things. On offense we're going to try to do the same things, move the ball around the field, run the ball and be successful." - Gardner-Webb head coach Ron Dickers, Jr.
"I think most people view these games as the big guys overlooking the little guys. At one point in everyone's life we were all little guys, and we've been overlooked as human beings. I think something everyone's got to do is remember that moment when they were overlooked, and take that into consideration when we're preparing for Gardner-Webb." - Wake Forest free safety Josh Bush
"There's really no sense of overlooking anybody. Ohio was a bowl-team last year. They played them tough. I know that had to be a tough trip, because they had to go to Athens, OH. Good players and well-coached, that's what you see. No doubt they're well-coached. They have a veteran coaching staff. Their guys are coached to play hard, and they're really good fundamentally technique-wise, just a good-looking football team, so I don't think we're going to have any trouble getting our guys ready to play, because it's not a matter of overlooking an FCS team. It's a matter of playing a team that's got talent, and is very well-coached." - Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe
10 keys to the game
1) Establishing a rushing attack
In two games Wake Forest has only averaged 90.5 yards rushing. Gardner-Webb's defense on average allows 239 yards rushing per game. The Runnin' Bulldogs gave up 245 yards on the ground versus Brevard College in their season opener.
In last week's win over N.C. State Josh Harris carried 23 times for 96 yards. He ran for a career high of 241 yards in a losing effort at Virginia Tech in 2010. To put it politely this Gardner-Webb defense cannot even hold a candle to the Hokies when it comes to defending the run.
Tomorrow the Demon Deacons must remember how to run the football. It is 200 yards or bust.
"The RB's, we need to make our cuts better," Harris said. "We need to make sure we're not getting tackled by just one guy. We're not getting brought down with arm tackles. Also it's on the O-line to make sure they hold their blocks, and to make sure they're going to the right person."
2) Going back to the fundamentals up front
Finish plays. Stay in front of the opposing defense. Drive the other team back. Those are just a few things Wake's offensive line is working to improve on. It is a matter of cultivating a balanced attack, and it all starts up front.
Tanner Price is throwing the ball well, but the running game has been anemic, which is largely due to the dirt movers getting stalled in the trenches.
"This week we're really focusing on getting back to fundamentals, because a lot of the run game issues were just little lapses, little things we can do technique-wise, or just finishing blocks," Wake Forest right guard Michael Hoag said. "There were a couple of runs I know I was on the losing end of a couple of blocks. I had my guy tied up. At the last second he fell off, and made the tackle. We gained five yards when we should have gained 10 to 15, so little things like that really can go a long way. That's all technique, and really focusing on finishing to the whistle."
If the Deacs do not improve in this area gloom and doom await them with more challenging defenses left to face in the meat of their schedule.
3) Building depth
It is of the utmost importance Wake Forest jumps on Gardner-Webb right away, not letting it hang around to make it a close game. With a bye week following Saturday's game it would be ideal to give backups significant reps.
Sure Grobe and his staff want to keep the starters in game-shape, and used to getting the lion's share of plays, but at the same time Ted Stachitas needs to get on the field in another game situation. Young receivers like Matt James and Brandon Terry need to get in the mix more, and it is imperative the Demon Deacons begin to build some depth in the trenches on both sides of the ball.
As they get deeper into the season the Deacs are going to need all of the able bodies they have, and getting the backups experience will only help. Look for Grobe and his assistants to sub liberally, especially if they can build up a big lead early.
4) Avoiding a letdown
After defeating its instate rival the Wolfpack, snapping a four-game losing streak, and being on the cusp of a bye week before it enters murderer's row Wake Forest's greatest challenge in facing the Runnin' Bulldogs is to not overlook them.
"We've got to look at it like another conference game that we're playing," Wake Forest cornerback Merrill Noel said. "We're trying to keep this thing rolling, and have a great season this year, because last year no one wants to experience that again. We want to make our fans happy, and plus our family. We're just going to take it one team at a time, and look at all of the teams as a conference game."
Noel is right. The Demon Deacons should approach this game the same way they do an ACC matchup, especially with a trip to Chestnut Hill, Mass. looming in Oct. 1.
It is about building momentum and confidence, which are two things Wake is in great need of. A strong win against G-W would go a long way in adding this piece to the puzzle.
5) Not letting themselves get spread too thin
Noel said the Runnin' Bulldogs empty the backfield, spreading defenses out. That did not prove to be much of a problem for Ohio last week. The Bobcats held Gardner-Webb quarterback [Chandler Browning to completing 4-18 passes for 19 yards, no touchdowns, and intercepted him three times.
The key is to not leave the middle open, which is easy to do when trying to defend a spread offense. Wake Forest should not be surprised by anything, since it saw similar looks from Syracuse and N.C. State.
"If they're going empty then as a defensive back that's what I want," Bush said. "I want them to throw it. That should be everyone's mindset. As a receiver on their point they want to throw it, because they want to get catches, so we're just going out there and playing a football game."
6) Pressuring the quarterback
In two games the Demon Deacons have only mustered two sacks on defense. Last week Mike Glennon usually only took a three-step drop before throwing the football, making it difficult to get to him in time.
This is not hard to figure out. Gardner-Webb's offensive line is inferior to anything Wake's front seven has seen or will see this season. The Deacs need to get penetration into the backfield, which means more players than just Nikita Whitlock putting pressure on Browning.
7) Make it two in a row Danny
Can Danny Dembry string two strong performances in a row together? The Demon Deacons sure need him to.
After recording only 10 receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown his whole collegiate career prior to this season Dembry nearly made up for all of that last week, pulling in six catches for 96 yards, a touchdown, while also running 10 yards on a reverse for another touchdown.
Grobe expects big things from his veteran receiver, especially now that the 6-foot-2 and 185 pound senior has proven he can make plays consistently in a game situation.
8) No room for Little
G-W has a bruiser at running back in Kenny Little. The 5-foot-11 and 215-pound junior from New Jersey has carried 52 times for 226 yards and three touchdowns in two games.
Stopping the run has been the strength of Wake's defense early this season, as it only gives up 115 yards per game on the ground.
"On offense we're going to try to do the same things, move the ball around the field, run the ball and be successful," Dickerson said.
It is safe to say Gardner-Webb's offensive line does not have near the caliber of talent Syracuse and N.C. State brought to the table, so there is no valid reason for the Deacs to allow the Runnin' Bulldogs to run for more than a 100 yards Saturday.
9) Keep it nice and neat
Wake Forest did a masterful job of cleaning up its mistakes after committing 10 penalties for 94 in its season opener, drawing only four flags for 42 yards against the Pack.
The Demon Deacons have evaded the turnover bug too, giving the ball away just twice this season.
It is imperative the Deacs continue their positive play in these important areas, especially against a weaker team where the tendency can be to play down to their competition. Wake must fight that spirit of complacency, because it does not want to spend that extra week of practice going over how to hold onto the football, reminding players not to give the ball to the other team, or on lectures about not getting foolish penalties.
Not to anger Wake's coaching staff, but this game is a glorified practice, and as the saying goes, "A team plays like it practices." Two weeks from now when the Deacs get back into conference play they are going to want to have brushed up on its fundamentals and be running like a well-oiled machine without any glitches holding them back.
10) Keeping the Price right
Obviously the goal of this game for the offense is to establish the run, but make no mistake offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke wants to keep Tanner Price in rhythm. In just two games the Texas native has completed 40-66 passes for 586 yards, four touchdowns, only throwing one interception.
So do not be surprised to see Price air it out a couple of times, but mostly just trying to maintain a balanced attack offensively, which is what the Deacs have wanted all along, but have been unable to establish.