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Uncharacteristic mistakes hinder Wake Forest

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe gave his players two "academic days" this week to catch up on their class work before returning to practice Wednesday following their stunning 24-17 loss to Navy on Saturday.

It was a loss in which veteran players made uncharacteristic mistakes, including offensive lineman Joe Birdsong, who was ejected from the game in the first half for striking a Navy player on his helmet.

"I'll get to know Joe Birdsong a little bit better today," Grobe quipped.

Grobe and his staff have earned a reputation for getting the most out of their players every Saturday, and for having them prepared, but in the past two weeks, the Demon Deacons have struggled to play complete games, particularly on offense. Against Navy, they finally got a taste of their own medicine -- turnovers.

While Wake Forest is still as much in the race for the ACC title as just about anyone, the Deacs know they've got to cut down on the mistakes before Clemson visits on Oct. 9.

Wake Forest was leading the ACC with a turnover margin of plus-10. In their win against Florida State, the Demon Deacons forced seven turnovers. In their loss to Navy, Wake Forest turned the ball over a season-high six times, and the Midshipmen converted them into 24 points.

"You never really can put a finger on performance from week to week," Grobe said. "Certainly that's our challenge as coaches, we've got to do a good job trying to have our kids ready to play every Saturday and there's no science to it. It's a tough task to get the same level of effort week in and week out."

Quarterback Riley Skinner entered Saturday's game with a streak of 131 passes without an interception. He threw four against the Midshipmen, who entered the game 104th in the nation in pass defense.

"Obviously we didn't feel like Riley played very good, but we felt he had a lot of company," Grobe said. "He wasn't the only guy. That's kind of the way we approach it. I don't think we can single Riley out as the reason we lost the football game. He certainly knows he didn't play very well, but I thought we had a lot of supporting cast guys that didn't play very well either."

Both Wake Forest and Clemson have a bye this week to correct mistakes before facing each other at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 9 in Winston-Salem, N.C. It will be a key game for the Atlantic Division standings. The Demon Deacons are 1-0 in the conference and Clemson is 1-1 after its loss to Maryland.

"You always want to win your next game, especially when you lost your last one," Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said. "... As far as the importance of it, a must-win, they [the players] want to win them all, and their attitude seems to be the same every week."