100% Cotten

Sept. 22, 2008

by Stan Cotten

(This report filed at approximately 30,000 feet somewhere in United States air space between Tallahassee and Greensboro - 1:00 am Eastern time, Sunday, September 21, 2008.)

The ride is, for the most part, quiet - not as celebratory as one might expect. But it's late, it's been a full day, and the Deacs have been here before. Just two and a half hours ago, Wake Forest put the finishing touches on its third consecutive win over Florida State and second straight win over the Seminoles at Doak Campbell Stadium. Had it not been for a lone Seminole field goal in the third quarter from recovering senior Graham Gano, the Deacs would have fashioned their second shutout over the Seminoles in as many trips to Tallahassee.

Now that would have been fodder for a column.

Wake's 30-0 blistering of FSU in 2006 on the way to the ACC title and berth in the Orange Bowl was and is the only shutout ever suffered by the `Noles in Tallahassee in Bobby Bowden's thirty plus seasons patrolling the sidelines for the Garnet and Gold. Had the Deacs pulled it off again in 2008 it would be a feat likely not ever duplicated. You simply don't do those types of things to Florida State in Tallahassee. History says so. Especially if you're Wake Forest.

But that's ancient history. Before Jim Grobe came to Winston-Salem, the Deacons had only beaten the Seminoles twice in a series that dates back to the mid-50's and that was rejuvenated when FSU joined the ACC. The Deacs have beaten FSU now just a total of five times, but three of the victories have come on Grobe's watch. And it's worth mentioning - again - that the three have come in successive seasons.

"Biggest game of the season." I heard it more than once inside the press box prior to kickoff. This was going to be the game that helped Florida State turn the corner on its way back to prominence. Relevance. It was a matchup of two Top 25 teams - played under the lights and on a national television stage.

But it was just as big for the Deacons. A road win at Florida State - not that many teams have them - is always a huge feather in the cap. The winner would remain undefeated and continue a move up in the rankings. And it was an ACC Atlantic Division matchup. So both teams had their sights set on this one, and the Deacon defense turned in a performance for the ages forcing the Seminoles into seven turnovers and keeping the vaunted FSU offensive attack in check.

Sam Swank booted the Deacs to the win, banging through four field goals in a school record seven attempts. His three misses were jaw-dropping simply because he rarely misses. He missed as many kicks against the Seminoles as he did in all of 2007, but there was no doubt that, with time winding down and Wake needing a field goal to put the game away, Jim Grobe would give the Jacksonville native another chance. His fourth three-pointer, the 69th of his career and tops in the nation among active kickers, made it a two-possession game with too little time for the `Noles to pull it out.

During my trek to the locker room following the game I was mistaken by more than one Seminole fan for a Wake Forest coach. I must admit I looked the part. I had on all of my New Balance gear with Wake Forest logos. To a person they were kind and very complimentary of how well-coached the Deacs were. I thanked them with as much humility as I could. I didn't really have time to explain. I could have tried to pass myself off as secondary coach Tim Billings - I'm as salt and peppered (?) as he is. But I just kept walking. It felt pretty good to be a Wake coach for ten minutes. I've never been as popular.

And now it's time to look ahead to the next hurdle. The Navy jet flyover before the game foreshadowed what's ahead: the Mids and What's His Name at quarterback. Hopefully in that one Sam Swank gets a chance to continue his perfect PAT string. I've seen enough field goals for a while.

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