With his Demon Deacons (3-1, 2-0 ACC) getting ready for a huge ACC Atlantic tilt Saturday against Florida State at BB&T Field, Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe spoke in the ACC's weekly media teleconference.
Below is the transcribed Q and A of the questions the media asked Grobe, followed by his commentary.
COACH GROBE: We had a good win up at Boston College this past weekend. Good for us to not only get a win against a good program that's had our number the past few years but also to get a win on the road. So it's going to be good to be back home.
But our biggest challenge to date is coming to town Saturday in Florida State, and we're going to have to play a little bit above our head, I think, to get this one. But I think our players are looking forward to it. Hopefully we can put a plan together and go out and play hard against the Noles.
Q. Are you surprised by the good start to your season, or did you see this coming?
COACH GROBE: Well, I said back at the ACC kickoff, I thought we were a much better football team than last year, so I really didn't have any thoughts about where we might be at this point. I felt like we were going to have a chance to win games this fall.
But we're 3-1, and that's a good thing for us right now. I would feel much better at 4-0. I wish we could have held on to the lead against Syracuse in the opener. But I think the main thing I'm happy about is our kids are playing hard right now. They're having fun and they're playing hard.
We're getting about what we can out of these guys right now. I think, as a coach, that's what you look for.
Q. What is your assessment of your pass defense right now with Florida State looming?
COACH GROBE: It's an issue. These guys are so good. They've got such good skill kids, and Jimbo does such a good job coaching these guys. They've got two quarterbacks that are both very capable of beating anybody. So we've got our work cut out for us.
I think we've got to be smart and mix our coverages a little bit and try to at least keep them thinking a little bit when they're out there. But this is Florida State offense. Throwing the football is pretty impressive.
Q. In baseball they always say your momentum is today's starting pitcher. Do you have momentum right now? Is there momentum in football?
COACH GROBE: I don't think there's any question. I think probably momentum and confidence goes hand in hand. If you win, it makes everything better. Practice is easier and food tastes better, everything's better when you're winning.
I think we've got a little bit of momentum right now without question we've got our biggest challenge coming to town.
Q. Is confidence and experience the difference between the struggles you've had last year and what you've been able to accomplish so far this year?
COACH GROBE: Yeah, I think so. I think last year we got to the point where things had gone so badly that kids almost expect bad things to happen. When you're winning, you expect the opposite. You're going to make the plays and do things you need to do to win the game. That's kind of where we are right now.
We just made some plays to win some games that we didn't make last year. But, again, our players and coaches understand that we've got a fantastic football team coming to town in Florida State this weekend. So the challenge will be a lot greater.
Q. I know you've been high on Tanner Price. But are you even a little taken aback at how much he's progressed and grown since his freshman season?
COACH GROBE: Yeah, I have been a little bit shocked at how much he's matured. I think he got beat up so badly last year that we really saw some growth in him, but it was just so hard to determine because his supporting cast was not playing very well.
Of course, being a true freshman and getting thrown in the fire against nine bowl teams that we played last year, it's just really hard on him. Thought he went through the season really great because he didn't point any fingers. He took all the responsibility, and as much as he was being criticized, he never took the time to criticize any of his teammates.
Then we felt like he had a pretty good spring. Went into August and felt pretty good about him. But until you go against outside competition, you're never sure. Just the way he's handled himself he's spending a lot of time studying in the film room and being prepared for Saturday.
Then on Saturday to see the growth that he's made, especially from the standpoint of managing the game and being calmer. Just seems like the game has really slowed down. I know you hear that a lot, but it does seem like he's very comfortable back there right now. And probably getting slapped around as much as he did last year has helped him as much as anything.
Q. I know you're a guy that likes the power game and the ground game, but given what you've had with Riley Skinner and Tanner Price, do you think you'll become like a June Jones?
COACH GROBE: I don't know about that. I will tell you that Riley threw our whole plan upside down. We've always been a run-first, throw-second team. We flipped that now. We did it with Riley, and I didn't know that we'd ever find one that could throw it like Riley. I'm not saying Tanner's there yet.
But right now what's been best for us in the first four games is throwing the football. We'd like to run it better, but every Saturday when we go out, we go out with the idea to run and throw but if the throw game is what's been best for us, then that's what we're going to hang our hat on. I think that's the kind of team we've got coming in in Florida State.
I know (FSU head coach) Jimbo (Fisher) would like to run the football against us and we're no different. But if the throwing game is what's clicking, that's what you're going to hang your hat on.
Q. You mentioned Syracuse. I imagine that could have gone one of two ways. I imagine that could be difficult for the players' confidence. How were you able to bounce back from that game as well as you have? What was said in the locker room to make sure you put that out of your minds and moved forward?
COACH GROBE: We had a couple of those last year that kind of put our season in a tailspin. We had very close losses to Navy and to Georgia Tech last year, and our kids did not handle that very well. Of course, we were playing great teams every week, but we kind of spiraled down and kind of regrouped at the end of the year with the win over Vanderbilt.
But I think in the locker room after the Syracuse game there wasn't any panic going on. There wasn't a lot of yelling and screaming going on. We just pointed out the things that we were disappointed in.
We're very disappointed that our defense didn't continue to play. We really didn't need any offensive production when Tanner Price got hurt with 11 minutes to go in the fourth quarter, all we needed to do is play good defense and we win the game. So it was just a kind of a team fold at the end of the game. We just didn't handle adversity very well. But that's all we talked to the kids about.
Then they bounced back the next week, and got a good win against N.C. State after. We did that by making plays in the fourth quarter, which we didn't make at Syracuse. So I think probably as much as anything it was just maturity. Our kids are a year older and just a little more mature and realize that losing a game wasn't the end of the world. We just needed to bounce back.
Q. What adjustments, if any, do you have to make if you have a left-handed quarterback? Are there any advances to having a left-handed quarterback?
COACH GROBE: Well, I don't know that there are any adjustments that we had. I think the biggest problem we had is Tanner throws the ball with some velocity. Our receivers last year were whining because they thought the spin of the laces was different and was causing them problems catching the football. But I had to laugh. I think the biggest problem is he just brings some heat when he throws the football, and you've got to get used to that.
Our kids aren't complaining right now. They're not complaining about the spin. They've just gotten used to knowing that the ball's going to be there in a hurry. They've got to focus and catch it.
But I don't think that we've done anything different with Tanner than we would with a right-handed quarterback. It's just that it's a little new. I think one of the things that happens with the strong arm that he's got is that once in a while when he decides to go back to his right throwing the football the kids don't get to see the ball as well as they do from a right-handed quarterback.
That would be the opposite problem of the kids on the left side with Riley, when he comes back to them, the ball's going to be on you pretty quick. So I think that was probably a little bit of a new thing for our kids. But I think we haven't game planned differently because Tanner's left-handed.