|by David Hood|
Two years ago, Chandler Catanzaro kicked a 43-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Tigers to the 31-28 win over Wake Forest, a win that clinched Clemson’s second ACC Atlantic Division title in three seasons. Last season in Winston-Salem, however, the Tigers jumped out to an early lead and never looked back in a 42-13 win on a Thursday night.
"I hate to say it, but I'm kind of tired of hearing about that game. It was a heartbreaker that we could have won, should have won, but that was then and this is now,” Whitlock said. “We're a different team, we have different players, and I think we're a better team than we were then. I think that they're doing great this year, so I think that we have a great opportunity to go down there and win.
“That was two years ago. I mean it's hard to look at film from two years ago and get a read on what a team is doing. If anything you look at last year, and last year we weren't even close. You just have to look at it like that - last year we weren't even close so this year we really have to step it up. Two years ago is too long to really reminisce and look back."
Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe told the media that Clemson has as much talent as any team in the country.
“We had a chance a couple years ago and didn’t get it done. I think we know going down there is tough. Since I’ve been here we haven’t beat Clemson in Death Valley,” Grobe said. “This is probably a year that is as tough a year to beat them as any year I’ve been here. They’re as talented as possibly any team in the country and very well coached. It will take a great effort on our part. We’ve had some great games down there, and they’ve worn us out a couple times. We really have to go down there focused. We have to play for four quarters at a high level to have a chance. This is probably the best Clemson team we’ve played since I’ve been here.”
Grobe said that the Tigers can do multiple things offensively, making them hard to prepare for.
“They can go out and run it all day and beat you, and they can go out and pass it all day and beat you,” Grobe said. “But, they can do a great job mixing up.”
Wake Forest hasn’t beaten Clemson in Death Valley since 1998 – three years before Grobe became head coach – and Wake hasn’t beaten Clemson since 2008 in what turned out to be Tommy Bowden’s last game at Clemson.
Whitlock told the media that if the Demon Deacons are to pull off the upset, they will have to put pressure on quarterback Tajh Boyd.
“State did a great job pressuring Tajh,” Whitlock said. “You give him time and he’ll throw it one of those freaks and that’s all she wrote. One of the keys for our defensive front and even the outside linebackers is getting pressure and not give him to get it to Sammy and those other cats. You let them get in the hands of those guys too many times and you’re asking for trouble.”
Whitlock then said that the Demon Deacons may have to blitz off the edges to make that happen.
“They mass protect a lot,” Whitlock said. “They leave six or seven in. To get to him, we’re going to have to bring more than our front three, We may have to rush four or five. From watching film, it looks like their coaches believe that if they give Tajh enough time, he’ll be fine, so why do they need four or five receivers, they just send three. Sometimes, they use seven (for pass protection). That makes it hard for us. So in addition to pressure, we’re going to need great coverage in the secondary.”
Senior wide receiver Michael Campanaro said he thinks his team will still be in the game late in the fourth quarter, just like two years ago.
"It's definitely a huge challenge, but in-house, we believe," Campanaro said. "Nobody's really giving us a chance outside of our locker room, but we've got an older group of guys which will help in a game like this. We think we'll be hanging around in the fourth quarter.”
Linebacker Justin Jackson
On how the team feels about playing Clemson
"We feel good about ourselves going into this week because we got a little momentum coming off of last week. Defensively, we played really well. Anytime you hold an option team to 11 points, you're playing pretty good. We feel good about that. Playing a Top 5 team is always a good opportunity to show your talents and show what you can do because it's going to be on a big stage and everyone is going to be looking at you."
On the game two years ago
"We've been talking about it. One of the things the coaches said is that we had a lot of tipped balls that game, and we had our hands on like six or seven balls but we only came up with like three of them. If we can make sure we get those opportunities and take the ball back, then that will help us as a defense."
Linebacker Hunter Williams
On Clemson’s offense
"They're going to try to get the ball in space and be really fast. We're going to have to be great tacklers in space and make a lot of plays. We can't let them run all over us."
Making Tajh Boyd uncomfortable
"Definitely we're going to have to pressure him and mix up our coverages. We want to keep pressure but not let him get out of the pocket and run all over us, because we know he's very capable."
David Hood can be reached at email@example.com