Screamin’ for the Deacons

Sorry for the lack of posts during the Thanksgiving break. I guess I’m not a “real” blogger yet, since I wasn’t able to find the time or inspiration to write any posts while enjoying some time away from work.

Perhaps the reason I wasn’t able to post is because I was so busy taking in a cornucopia of sporting events – enough sports to make a pilgrim puke. Luckily, I’ve prepared myself over the years for this annual rite of autumn passage, and was able to enjoy the games immensely.

I was disappointed in Carolina’s loss to Gonzaga, but think it will be good for them in the long run. It’s hard to believe, but during the win vs. Tennessee, the Heels were up by 15 and I was seemingly as nervous as I would have been had the score been reversed. Nothing feels “easy” yet with this team – which I think will make things even sweeter if they’re able to come together during the season.

After watching a bit of the Dolphins giving the Lions their annual Turkey Day thrashing, I polished off two plates of food before logging in quickly to check my fantasy roster. In my salary cap league I had to get rid of Donovan McNabb, and I wanted to pick up a player or two in the late games to make them a little more interesting for me. I decided on Tony Romo, who proceeded to throw for 300+ yards and a Cowboy record 5 touchdowns. Best Fantasy Decision. Ever.

But the real story of the weekend, and the game that I found myself getting most wrapped up in (besides Heels basketball, of course) was the ACC Semifinal between Wake Forest and Maryland. Wake Forest is an enigma of sorts in the factious world that is ACC fandom. Nestled within shouting distance of the Triangle’s big 3, Wake has always found a way to be everyone’s “second favorite team”. Maybe it’s because they have the 3rd smallest undergraduate populations of any school playing Division I football. Maybe it’s because they’ve traditionally only challenged the powers in basketball and Olympic sports. Or because when they’ve had stars like Duncan or Paul, they’ve provided a spice to the ACC hierarchy but always have fizzled at tourney time. Whatever the reason, Wake Forest has always been the somewhat lovable, always ignorable little school from Winston-Salem; or as Mark Packer calls them – Switzerland.

However, Wake has hardly been ignorable this year on the gridiron, and on Saturday night I found that they were more than somewhat lovable. There was no neutrality on my part while watching – I was pulling for the Deacs with a gusto I normally reserve for teams with ‘Carolina’ in their name. But how can you not pull for this Wake Forest team? They lost their starting quarterback in the first game of the season. They replaced him with a redshirt frosh named Riley Skinner, who looks more like the frat guy who rolled in late to your Econ class than the quarterback of a 10-2 football team.

Surely, Jim Grobe’s plan was to play things close to the vest and run the ball through All-ACC back Micah Andrews all year. That would have been a perfect plan, had Andrews not suffered a season-ending injury only a few games into the season. Instead of giving up, Grobe has stuck to his guns and continues to run the ball every way he can – with reverses, counters, misdirection galore. Every play is an intricate display of teamwork and precision, with downfield blocking reigning supreme, and ol’ Riley leading the way. Then, just when you think that you should crowd the line and make the Deacs pay, they’ll pop one deep on you and all of a sudden your spirit is broken.

If that weren’t enough, the Wake defense is solid as well, with playmakers lining the corners and ball hawking at all times. John Abbate is the emotional leader of the defense (and team). As I heard the story again of how Abbate’s younger brother passed away in a car accident last Valentine’s Day and how Abbate wears #5 in remembrance of his fallen family – well, let’s just say – that story of passion and courage never gets old.

And so it was that I found myself pulling for a team that I’ve never really pulled for before. And when 4th and goal came in the 4th quarter with less than 4 minutes to play and the wonderfully personable Jim Grobe chose to go for it – I, along with the rest of Deacon and adopted Deacon nation out there, stared in disbelief at the screen wondering why you don’t take the points and sit on the lead.

Of course, Richard Belton found a way to sneak in the end zone, and the Deacons are now playing for the ACC Championship. How weird does that sound? Impossibly weird, for sure, but at the same time so sweet. Here’s to the Deacs, winners already in my book, but with tons of uncharted ground yet to cover. Make us proud, Switzerland. We’re counting on you.

I can’t write close to 600 words about Wake Forest and not mention the Butch Davis hiring yesterday for UNC. I heard Coach Davis on the radio after the official press conference and I have to say that I’m tickled to death with the choice that UNC made. During a ten minute interview, it was very apparent that Davis is smart, a visionary, and will bring a dynamic leadership style to Kenan Stadium. Some of his past players and colleagues have provided quotes to, with the cream of the crop being this one from former Miami star Edgerrin James.

“Coach Davis is really good with players. I think he will build a really nice program there.”

In other news, Edgerrin thinks that water is wet, the sun is warm, and that Peyton Manning is good at quarterback.


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