100% Cotten

Oct. 10, 2008

Had you told me in August that Wake Forest would score one touchdown and kick six field goals - total - against Florida State and Clemson, win both games and be one of two unbeaten ACC teams in mid-October I can almost assure you what my response would have been.

Yeah - right.

But that's exactly where the Demon Deacons stand heading to Maryland after the four-Swank job at Tallahassee and the reduction of Thunder and Lightning to an early autumn drizzle. As the offense tries to find itself, the Deacon defense is giving Wake a chance to win. Win. Now that has a nice ring to it.

This is a strong Wake Forest team. Give credit to Ethan Reeve and his team for that. The Deacs may not be the biggest, but they might just be the baddest. That may not be a real word - but sometimes being bad means being good.

And right now the Deacons are bad. They're bad because they can still win without scoring thirty points. Sometimes an even dozen will do. They're bad because future Hall of Famer Swank can sit, and Young Popham can get six points when he has to and punt to pin. That's real bad in a field position struggle. Wake is mostly bad because of what Jim Grobe credited his team with in the locker-room following the victory over Clemson.

Teamwork.

"I didn't see any finger pointing out there tonight," Grobe praised his team for after the win. "What I did see was some thumb pointing - guys saying that one's on me. I'll get it done next time."

Now that's bad. And it's good to see. Coaches always preach chemistry as the intangible that means the most. It many times can replace talent and coaching. It's hard to manufacture and takes time to develop. But it's beginning to reveal itself as the 2008 season wears on. This is a team that seems comfortable in its own skin. It took a step toward correcting itself against the Tigers, like water finding its own level. It just happens.

I could sense in the moments following the struggle with Clemson that the Deacons had left it out on the field. Riley Skinner, who came off his worst game as a Deacon two weeks prior against Navy, atoned for his humanity by taking what Clemson gave. He used his incredibly accurate arm and even his feet to help the Deacs find the track. And he was spent, slouching on a bench in a hallway outside his locker telling me how his team had found its way.

Aaron Curry was much the same. He sat, too, while I stood - drenched down to his sleeveless undershirt but with still enough in him to grin about what he and his teammates had just done.

"We fought out there tonight," smiled Curry, a young man seemingly put on this earth to play football. "Everbody did his job. We all worked together."

Indeed. There were a lot of moving parts to the win over the Tigers, a victory that somewhat erased the painful memories of the near miss in 2006 when Lightning sparked for a 72-yard touchdown run and Clemson won the fourth quarter and took the game. It was payback of sorts for the 2007 defeat at Death Valley. The score was not 44-10, but it might as well have been. The Tigers looked more defeated than the 12-7 score - other numbers will back me up.

So if the Deacs can continue to come together, continue the "thumb pointing" they just may have something.

Teamwork is a bad thing.

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