Al Groh talks about Saturday's game against Wake Forest
Head coach Al Groh held his weekly press conference Tuesday and talked about Saturday’s game against No. 21 Wake Forest.
Q: How much better is Wake Forest QB Riley Skinner from early on until now?
A: He was pretty good right away. He did a remarkable job of stepping up there. He, obviously, is having a remarkable career for them. You had to be impressed with what he did last year just as a casual observer, but with the opportunity to study tapes and many games, he is a very impressive player. Last year he completed 67 percent of his passes, this year he’s completing 72 percent of his passes. Those are awesome numbers in any system. Basically call a pass almost anytime that you want and it’s going to be completed. That’s a pretty nice feeling to have when you are calling those pass plays.
(Skinner) clearly is a player that the other players draw from. What we see, what we hear that his presence (and) the confidence that he brings in being to pull the team through whatever type of circumstance they might face, gives everybody a lot of confidence. He is really the catalyst of a lot of things.
Q: The first couple of times you played Wake Forest they ran a lot of misdirections and it seemed pretty confusing and that was always an issue for you. Do they run as much misdirection now?
A: I’ve gone back and looked at all of our previous games (and) the running game certainly much more closely resembles the running game of the past than the passing game does. The significant difference in the running game is (that) they have two very functional fullbacks…It’s apparent in watching a lot of games that the roots of the running game go all the way back to Jim (Grobe’s) time at the Air Force Academy with Fisher DeBerry and that style of offense and then as it traveled with him and as they’ve evolved with different personnel, you can still see the core roots of it.
Q: Considering how much the team has rebounded after the loss to Wyoming and then the seven-game winning streak, do you not even have to worry about how they will rebound from this since you know that they can put it behind them?
A: We thought the team would rebound after the first game of the season, that resiliency and that determination and sense of purpose is pretty well set as the personality of this team. Now does that mean that we’re going to win by 10 or lose by four? Whatever the result is will have no bearing on how the players rebounded, (but) it will indicate what the performance was on Saturday. Everybody in the organizationthe players and the coachesare rebounded, if bouncing back means rebounded.’ We lost the (NC State) game (and we’re) very disappointed in losing the game, but we understand why we lost the game. It wasn’t as if the score was 50 to 10 and you’re like, what in the world just happened?’ A few of those plays tipped the scales in our balance in previous games. For example we beat Middle Tennessee (23-21). During the course of that game, Chris Long blocks a field goal and it’s three points that the other team doesn’t get. Last Saturday, Chris Long blocks a field goal, but it finds its way over the upright. (It was the) same effort (and) basically the same performance by Chris Long, (but) the other team gets three more points than what happened the previous time. Those are the things that when the game was over and previous games we had a surplus of to our opponent. (In) this particular game, we got some of them like we have in the past, but we had a deficit to our opponents, so the opponent ended up with five points. We had a chance to tackle a player in the end zone for a safety; he’s in the end zone (and if) we tackle there’s two more points. Now there’s a five-point swing. Now you can say it’s even steven in terms of numbers. That’s what the game was. It doesn’t make the outcome any easier to deal with, but when you deal with psychology of results, it’s a lot different psychology than just, did you win or lose?’ Those are the important things that we look at with the team. Human beings, and therefore a collection of human beings on a team, are directly influenced by the psychology of results and how those results come about have a lot to do with your response to it, not just what the result is.
Q: Wake Forest seems to be a well-rounded team in pretty much everything. Can you talk about how well rounded they are?
A: This will be…one of the fastest teams that we play this year. If Kenny Moore and wide receiver/kick return guy Kevin Marion (and) Alfonso Smith all lined up together you can probably find any one of a lot of people to make a fourth and you’d have a real good 4×100 team. Those guys can get all get up and go. Marion’s numbers are incredible. He was a 25-5 high school long jumper (and was) the national title holder in high school. He clocked 10.2 in the 100 meters. Who in college football runs that? The kick off return that he had last week was over and done before it got started,
They’ve got a lot of speed, they’ve got a good balance of that, they’re a very athletic team and all three of their units are very proficient. Obviously, their special teams are been excellent. Their defense is scoring a lot of points, they’ve scored nine non-offensive touchdowns this year and 12 in the last two years.
They’re the defending ACC champions and as such present to us certainly our most challenging task of the year. They’re the defending champions, we don’t have a lot of background with them and they do quite a few things that there is no carry over from any other previous games to get prepared for these systems. They’re very well coached (and) they don’t beat themselves. There is a specific way they want to play and that’s how they are going to play. Nothing’s going to change it. There’s a way they want to play and they are very comfortable playing that way; the players clearly understand it and they’re (11-3) in the last two years in the ACC. Nobody else can say that; nobody else is close to being able to say that. Clearly they have established that they’re the team to beat and until somebody does so, they are the champions. We like the challenge but we certainly see this as a significant challenge.
Q: What do you see from some distance the reason for their turnaround?
A: One (is) team maturity and the player development that goes with it. They’ll have 15 fourth- or fifth-year starters this year. That’s a lot of guys who just had plenty of time to get itget their assignments, get their techniques, understand how the style in which their team is put together to play, play together. The phase of player development (is) a significant thing on any team. I think it’s significant that the two oldest teams in the conferenceBoston College and Wake Forestare doing what they are doing.
Then they have had two seasons of similar type of games and results of which we had seven. They’ve had a large number of those kind of games (and) they’ve been in the forefront of those teams that the issue isn’t whether they prove superiority in every phase of the game or not, it’s do you end up with one more point or four more points than the other guys do. They have been consistently good at ending up with more points than the other team.
Q: What is it about Wake Forest’s running game that’s made them so successful? Jim Grobe says he’s kind of gotten away from the pure option stuff. Are they more veer or more Wing T or what?
A: There are very few options in there now, but that appears to be based on who the quarterback is. He’s real good in the pocket and it’s more of a pocket passing game than it was in the past. The predecessors at that position were more get out of the pocket’ throwers (and) that type of player is also often an option-type player, so that was compatible. In watching (our game against them in) ’03 this morning, there was an awful lot of out-of-the-pocket passing and some option plays. Now those things have been replaced by the pocket passing of Skinner, at which he’s very good. He’s got multiple field options now as opposed to half the field when you’re sprinting out. He knows where all the guys are so (the ball’s) gone. It would really probably inhibit some of the things that Riley Skinner does real well to not let him have full-field vision by getting him out. The option has not been there as it has been in the past nor is a lot of the out-of-the-pocket passing, but (there’s been) more drop back passing than what there’s been in the past, which is a real good example of just adapting to the personnel on hand, which they’ve done a good job with him. (In) the running game you can see the elements of the blending different styles as it’s come together, some Wing T elements, some Power I running elements, without the actual pitch and hand offs still some option style looking plays. All of those things have kind of blended togetherthe Air Force style that Jim was part of when he was then and has brought with him.
Q: This is the 10th Saturday in a row you’ve played. When you look at the team on film has it looked at all like a tired team or has it looked like every Saturday you’ve been able to get to that same level?
A: We’ve been pretty ready to go every Saturday. We’ve tried to with certain individualsthrough the course of the week or particular daytried to pay attention to those guys we think might need it in terms of a little bit more rest or certain days backing off with a few things. We try to make it a point to make sure that we’re ready and to take their input. You want to take input and input comes in two ways. Input comes in watching and they tell us a whole lot by how they look, and then input also comes just by asking: How do you feel?, do you need a little rest?’ No, I’m ready to go’ or yes, I could use a few plays (off).’ We’ve tried to take that as a principal thing the last three or four weeks.
Q: Is P/PK Sam Swank as good as anybody you’ve seen on the college level?
A: He’s awesome. He had five (field goals) over 50 (yards) last year. It’s just another way that we’ve spoken in the past that it adds up to points. He had three over 50 in one game? That turns the balance of the game. You do that enough times, then that’s how you end up with a championship season.