Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe is looking forward to Saturday's regular season finale Saturday afternoon against Vanderbilt in Winston-Salem. The Demon Deacons qualified for a bowl last weekend with a win at home over Maryland, and now they're shooting for a winning record while improving the team's bowl situation.
Coach Grobe spoke this week in the final regular season Atlantic Coast Conference media teleconference, where he discussed this week's unique Thanksgiving schedule, and Saturday's matchup with the Commodores.
We had a good win this past weekend. I thought Coach (Randy) Edsall's (Maryland) team came in and played really, really hard. I thought they've had to overcome a lot of injuries. I think their kids are playing really good football right now and playing really, really hard. We were very happy to come away with a win.
Now we've got another big challenge in a Vanderbilt team coming to town that's also very talented and very well coached. So we've got our work cut out for us.
Would you have preferred that Vanderbilt win last week so that they won't be coming into your place in need of a victory to become bowl eligible?
Well, I think they'll obviously come in as a hungry football team and one that's very motivated. I really don't know what the best scenario would be, but you'd like to think that if they were already bowl eligible, they might not be as focused.
But I've got a feeling we're going, with them needing one more win to get to a bowl, I've got a feeling we'll get a pretty focused Vanderbilt football team.
As great as Chris Givens has been, Michael Campanaro, has been a nice complementary presence with 600 receiving yards and having missed a couple of games. Can you explain how the two of them feed off each other and play off one another and how their excellence benefits the other?
I think what's nice with those two is that they're not ego guys. I think Camp's fine with Chris catching the ball and vice versa. So I think you've got two kids that are just playing really good football right now.
Tanner (Price) has been doing a nice job at the quarterback position, distributing the ball to all of the different receivers. But I think the best thing about Mike and Chris is that they're good teammates, and they're just going out trying to help the team win. If one catches more balls than the other on a given Saturday, it's not a big deal to the other receiver.
As well as with Campanaro's thrown 3 for 4, teams have to be aware of that. Are you at the point where you've had such success that if you flip the ball back to him the teams might over-pursue him under the assumption that he's throwing and you would have then an option to take off and run? Is that part of the deal?
Yeah, I think his ability to run is good. So it gives you opportunity to run your reverses and your orbit sweeps and those kind of things with Camp. But he's also got a really nice arm, so it gives you the opportunity to run the reverse pass.
But I've got a feeling that every time he goes in motion, people are going to keep an eye on what's going on.
Does Vanderbilt, as close as they've come -- and they almost beat Arkansas and almost beat Tennessee -- a lucky break here and there and they've got eight or nine wins. Do they remind you where you were as a program where you had a couple of tough losses a few years ago, and then broke through? Any similarities there?
Yeah, I think the team stands out in that they've played some really good competition and just come up a little bit short in some of their games. Certainly they've won five. In some of those other games, they've been so close to getting the job done against some really quality football teams, and I think that's a very similar issue that we have at Wake Forest and had a couple of years ago. We were a pretty good football team, but didn't have as much to show for it as we should have, because the schedule was so tough.
Regarding Gelo Orange, just wonder what went into in recruiting him, taking a chance on a guy that only played for a couple of years because he was so new to football and just what he's been like to have in your program for five years?
Yeah, I think that was one of the things that intrigued us was we had a young guy that hadn't played much football. We saw a raw athlete. As you watched him on high school tape, he was not as good fundamentally as you might like because he was so young, but he was all over the field. He just had great energy, and you could tell he enjoyed playing.
We felt like he was a guy that could come in, and redshirt, and take our time with and develop him. He's turned out to be a really special player for us.
I'm glad he came back. I don't think he played as much last year as he wanted to. He had thoughts of graduating and moving on, but I was glad he decided to come back, and he's really helped us.
Have you talked to him at all or has he talked to you about -- I know back in April he became a U.S. citizen, and what that's meant to him? Do you have any sense of just what being in this country and then becoming a citizen has meant to him?
Well, it's hard for me to comment on that, Bill, but I will tell you that our players love this guy. I think he's one of the happier kids on our football team. I'm sure becoming a U.S. citizen has a lot to do with that.
I think he's very proud of what he's done here. He's going to leave Wake Forest with a degree. He's going to leave as a kid that got a lot better in his football career during the time that he was here. I think he's proud to be a U.S. citizen.
So I think if you just watch Gelo on a daily basis, on and off the field, you see a happy kid that feels good about himself right now.
Do you have any plans to celebrate Thanksgiving together as a team, or do you send the kids home when they can get there? What kind of thoughts do you have on that?
Well, what we do, we've got a lot of kids on our team that are able to jump in the car and drive home. We've got some kids that are close enough to do that with the game on Saturday, we've got to keep the varsity kids around for practice.
We used to do a team meal at lunch, and we'd practice in the morning and let the kids go home for Thanksgiving, and we did a team meal. But we had so many of the parents that actually had come to Winston-Salem and cook for the kids. So our attendance at our team meal and at the training table was not very good.
So what we've started doing is just trying to make sure all the kids have a place to go eat. It's almost become a tradition for us that the parents of the kids that are going to be playing in the game on Saturday against Vanderbilt, they all come up here and have Thanksgiving dinner here with the kids.
Have any of them that are going to be cooking for you?
No, unfortunately. I think I'm going to be on my own. I think they're around me too much at practice the way it is, so they probably -- their Thanksgiving dinner will probably digest a little bit better without Grobe around.
What does Jim Grobe have to be thankful for this year?
I'm thankful for so many things. I'm just blessed. But I think more than anything else, I'm so blessed with the people that I'm around, the people at Wake Forest, and especially the kids on our football team.
Of all the years that I've coached, I think this has been as enjoyable a year just because of the type kids we've got. You're always thankful for health and family and those things, but I've just been blessed to have a chance to coach this football team this year.
What concerns you the most when you look at Vanderbilt on film?
I think they're talented. You can start with that. But I think defensively they're maybe as sound defensively as anybody we've played against. They always seem to be in their gaps and in the right zones. You can tell really a well-coached team fundamentally.
Then offensively they give us some of the same concerns that Maryland did. They like to run the option with their quarterback so that makes you be really diligent trying to be in the right place on the dive and the quarterback, and possibly a pitch. Then they do a nice job throwing the football.
I think scheme-wise they give you some issues. But I think the thing that jumps out at you the most is they're just a very well-coached football team that's going to be around in the fourth quarter.
To be 6-5 and finish with a winning record in the ACC, did you see this coming? Did you think back in August, no one's picking us, but it looks like this is going to be a successful team?
You know what, I did think we were going to be a lot better. I knew our schedule was going to be really tough with three BCS teams, non-conference, and then the really good teams we were playing in the ACC. I was afraid we were going to be a pretty good football team, but I didn't know if we'd have much to show for it.
I'm just really proud of our kids to become bowl eligible with a pretty young football team. We've got a great group of seniors and young guys contributing right now. I think going into the year, I thought we were going to be a good football team, and a much improved football team over last year. But to go to a bowl game this year was something that I worried about because our schedule was so tough.