Wake Forest (3-1, 1-1 ACC) enters Saturday's bout against Duke with more than a conference contest on the line, but a 12-game winning streak versus the in-state rival.
The Demon Deacons got a much-needed win under their belts Saturday, Sept. 22 with a 49-37 decision against Army (0-3).
Jim Grobe and select players discussed this week's challenges the Blue Devils bring and more.
Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe
You're defense will have a totally different look this week won't it? "Yeah, Coach [David] Cutcliffe and his offense are always tough to handle. They score lots of points and lots of yards, but just spending the whole week trying to stop the running game and then turn right around and go back to a really solid passing-attack."
"And I thought their running game was impressive against Memphis Saturday. They got that going a little better, so they'll be a challenge."
Look's like Nikita [Whitlock] is back. "That's the rumor on the street. I'll believe it when I see it. I think he's optimistic. The problem is he's been out two weeks and high-ankle sprains are hard to come back from."
"This is a very talented Duke offensive line, a really good center, a veteran center, a really good player, and I think it's hard from kids to come back from ankle sprains when they're skill guys, but when you're in the trenches and you're pushing on 300-pound guys it's not easy."
"We'll see. To be honest with you I've got my doubts. I do feel good about Tylor Harris right now. I think he's really starting to mature and play good for us, and we moved Hasan [Hazime] in and let him play nose guard against Army. I think he'll be more comfortable doing that, so we've got a little bit of flexibility now."
"I'm feeling better about that position, and if we can get Nikita back certainly we'll be happy. I'll be more positive if I see him practice a little bit."
Does the question become can you keep him off the field? "No, I think the question becomes 'Can you play good?' He had a couple pedestrian games. I think I had a little over a game and a half and had a handful of assists and a solo. He really didn't have much of an impact in the first two games."
"I think you kind of play into that position. You need reps, you need work, you need to get bounced around and start getting the flow of things. You don't really get that against each other in August, and you need the live competition, so the thing for was Nikita would have been on the field two weeks ago if the trainers would [have] let him."
"And so our key is not can you be by Saturday feeling good, but can you play good by Saturday?"
On Kris Redding: "He was hurting pretty good in that fourth quarter and kept playing. He was having problems with his Achilles [tendon], and got hurt early in the year. He's had a problem all year with it. They had to go out and take him off the field at one time, but he made some big-time plays."
"Even when he wasn't making plays he was harassing them a little bit. He's really been getting better every day, so I hope he's healthy. He showed me a lot of toughness. He went back, and he didn't have to and we needed him, because we were really thin."
"I was impressed. He showed me a lot Saturday. He showed me a lot of love for the game and toughness and all of the things you like to see. Now, I hope that continues, but on that day he stepped up."
As coaches do you and your staff try to downplay your success against Duke? "We tell our kids all the time and it's probably something I need to remind them of again we tell them a lot, 'If what you did yesterday looks good to you you haven't done anything today.' It's a line from a special coach, Coach [Fisher] Deberry used to say it all the time."
"It's really true. What you've done in the past doesn't matter going forward, and so we can put all of that stuff out of our mind just as a new Wake Forest team, a new Duke team. Quite frankly the reason that we've got a streak with these guys is we've been very lucky and had the ball bounce our ways a few times.
"Won late in a ton of these games, they've been shootouts, they've been low-scoring, about every type of football game you can imagine we've been in with these guys and as honestly as I can tell you a bunch of the wins that we've gotten we've been very fortunate to have it go our way right at the end."
Wake Forest nose guard Nikita Whitlock
How are you feeling these days? "I'm feeling pretty good. It takes more than two weeks to recover from the injury I sustained to recover from the injury I sustained, but I think I'm good enough to play for sure."
What all are you able to do right now? "They had run sprints and push sleds, just see how I can do on the ankle. I think it went pretty well. I still have a few little things, a few things that don't work the way they used to. It's to be expected, but a lot of things that are hard to do I don't do much at my position, so it'll be fine."
So are you able to run and cut? "Yeah, I can pretty good. They tape my ankle up like a baseball bat, and then they have this brace built into my cleat, so it's pretty sturdy. It's just kind of getting over the pain, because there's a little pain involved."
Ready to go Saturday though? "Definitely Saturday. I usually play 70, 80 reps, don't take any plays off, but two weeks off has killed my endurance, killed my strength. I don't expect to play every snap this week."
Wake Forest wide receiver Michael Campanaro
On the running game: "I think the offensive line has gotten better each week. We've seen strides out of those guys. It started up front with those guys. I think all day they did well protecting Tanner [Price] and then opening up those lanes for J-Rock [Harris] and DeAndre [Martin], so it was great to see the running game. I was happy for those guys to get things going."
What do you think of the streak? You guys have always seemed to find a way down the stretch to beat them. Where does that come from? "I don't know. I just heard about the streak, so I've been hearing a lot about it these last few days. We know that Duke's going to come out and just bring their A-game. They've been hearing about the streak also on the other side."
"They got a really good team this year. It's one of their best teams in the past few years. It's going to be a nail-biter. Since I've been at this school every game with Duke has come down to the wire, so we're excited. It's another in-state game, ACC game. We know how big this game is for us."
Wake Forest inside linebacker Riley Haynes
Well you have a little bit different type of offense this week to prepare for than you did last week don't you? "The Army triple-option was a lot different than anything you normally see, so it's kind of good to get back to more conventional ACC-type football."
"We got a big challenge ahead of us. They got a lot of good players on the offensive side of the ball that we're going to have to prepare as best we have this season for to slow them down."
How do you guys view the streak? When you look at last year Duke can make the case they should have won that game. There's several games back along the way Duke can make the case we should have won that game. They've all been close except for one. How do you guys view that? "I don't really think any of us weigh into that very much at all. It's year to year. They have a new team, we have a new team, so we really don't look too much into the streak, because we know once you start looking to that you might lose your edge, you might get beat, so we just go out there and treat it like a game, treat it like we know we have to go out there and play our best football to get a win, because we know we got a good team coming to town just like they have brought to our stadium in the past years."
"We don't really look at it too much honestly. We just try to go and play our best football, and let things play out."