Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich
Around this time last year, Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe was scheming to surprise Miami. He caught coach Randy Shannon off-guard by switching from a spread offense to an I-formation and running the ball a season-high 52 times.
It didn’t work, as Miami won 16-10.
“My wife Holly reminded me this week when I was coming in on Monday morning to not lose my mind,” Grobe said with a chuckle. “She didn’t really like my plan to run the football last year.”
Wake Forest’s offense has looked different this year, with a more concentrated effort to be balanced, and Grobe said he has no plans to change that in preparation for Miami’s visit on Saturday. What he would like to change, though, is Wake’s offensive production, which has seen a significant drop-off in the past two weeks. After scoring a combined 72 points in wins over NC State and Maryland, the Deacs mustered only 13 in back-to-back losses to Clemson and Wake Forest.
Part of that can be attributed to Clemson’s talent on defense -- the Tigers are the real deal, and their secondary, led by DeAndre McDaniel, won the battle against veteran quarterback Riley Skinner. The fearsome front four’s pass rush, combined with Clemson’s lock-down man coverage, made it nearly impossible for Skinner to get open quick enough to throw the ball. At Navy, where there was a pouring rain, Grobe said it was the worst weather he’s ever coached in since he’s been at Wake Forest. It was the kind of weather that doesn’t bode well for a team that relies on a passing quarterback, and favors a run-based option offense like the Mids have.
“Navy was a monsoon,” said offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke. “It was literally some of the worst weather conditions I’ve ever seen a football game played in.”
And then, of course, there’s always the bottom line reason:
“Regardless, we need to score more points,” Grobe said. “There’s not really any excuses. We just for the past couple of games have not played well enough offensively to win.”
Miami will present a man-coverage on Saturday similar to what Clemson did, so Lobotzke has spent this week trying to come up with some route concepts they can get into quickly without getting sacked. He’s looking for some protection schemes that will help keep Skinner on his feet long enough to look downfield.
In games against Boston College, Elon, Maryland and NC State, Skinner threw for over 300 yards every time out, but the difference was that he was throwing into overall zone coverage and against pass rushes that weren’t nearly as ferocious as Clemson’s, said Lobotzke.
Part of the problem the past few weeks has been the running game, and it could be as simple as the Deacs just aren’t powerful enough to line up in the I-formation and hammer opponents with the run. It hasn’t helped that starting running back Kevin Harris has been hurt since the Elon game, and their tight ends, including senior starter Ben Wooster, have been injured, too. And while the offensive line is another year older, it hasn’t necessarily shown that it’s another year better.
“A lot of it is on the schemes I’m using,” Lobotzke said. “Am I using the right schemes to beat the defenses we’re facing? We’re just trying to look at everything week to week. We’re not afraid to change. We’ll do whatever we have to do to try to win a football game. Clemson last year, we put the running back at quarterback for half the game. We changed from a spread team to an I-team last year against Miami. We’re looking hard. We’re trying. Sometimes there’s only so many tricks you can pull.”