Tigers 'A-Wake' for Deacons

by - Correspondent -

Special to TigerNet from the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger

CLEMSON -- Leroy Hill and the rest of the linebackers were all smiles as they entered the film room with linebackers coach David Blackwell on the first day of spring practice.

Still basking in the glow of their 27-14 Peach Bowl win over No. 6 Tennessee three months earlier and smarting a four-game win streak to close the 2003 season, Hill thought Blackwell was showing them a video of the Peach Bowl victory or the Florida State win from last November.
What the All-ACC linebacker saw was not what he expected.

“It was the Wake Forest game,” said Hill. “I saw three mistakes I made on the first drive. We only watched the first quarter, but that was all we needed to see.” Hill said seeing last year’s Wake Forest game was all he and the rest of the defense needed to be reminded of to bring them back down to earth.

What happened on that cold November day has been documented many times. The Deacons ran over the Clemson defense to the point of embarrassment. Wake Forest totaled 406 yards (rushing 60 times for 321 of those yards) on its way to a 45-0 lead by the end of the third quarter.

Luckily, the Tigers scored 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to make the score a more respectable 45-17 final.

“They whipped our (behind) last year,” said Hill. “Wake Forest is a hard team to prepare for. I would rather prepare for Florida State any day than Wake Forest.” The Tigers have used much of the spring and parts of fall camp getting prepared for a Wake Forest team that feels it is still the underdog as it enters this Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. kickoff at Death Valley.

“It is weird people think we might be a marked team,” said Wake Forest cornerback Eric King. “We know it is going to be a tough challenge to go to their place in front of 80,000 people and try to get a win.
“We know they and their fans will be up for us.” But will the Tiger defense be prepared?

Since Jim Grobe’s arrival in 2001, the Wake Forest offense has caused the Tiger defense nothing put problems. Clemson narrowly escaped Grooves Stadium in 2001 with a 21-14 win, while it took a Brian Mance strip of running back Chris Barclay to salvage a 31-23 victory at Death Valley two years ago.

“A lot of people will talk about what happened last year and that Clemson wants revenge because we were the last team to beat them,” said wide receiver Jason Anderson. “But we remember what happened the last time we went down there. They stole that game from us. We feel like we should have won that game so we’re remembering what happened the last time we came there.

“We’re going to have some thing to prove too.” So, who has the most to prove?

Is it a Clemson team that ended last year on such a high with lofty expectations set for itself and its fans? Or is it a Wake Forest team that lost its last three games to close out last season?
Is it a Clemson team that has to prove last year’s win streak is the norm and not a fluke?

Is it a Wake Forest team, which believes it should have won the last three meetings between the two?

Who knows?

One thing is certain, however, with both teams trying to prove so much, it should lead to one whale of a ball game.

Will Vandervort is the Sports Editor for the Seneca Daily Journal/Clemson Messenger.

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