Dave Clawson still remembers last season’s heartbreaking loss to Clemson. In fact, he won’t ever forget it.
The Demon Deacons (3-1, 0-1) lost at home 51-45 in double overtime in what was one of the most entertaining games of the season. However, being on the losing end still doesn’t sit well with Clawson and he is hopeful that his players will feel the same way as they get set to head to Clemson (3-2, 1-2) for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff at Death Valley on Saturday.
“There are certain games in your career you never, ever get over. That’s one of them,” Clawson said. “When I’m on my deathbed, that game will still bother me. Hopefully, our players feel the same way.”
Although, despite the success that Wake Forest has experienced under Clawson, the veteran head coach is fully aware of the talent gap that still exists between the two programs. That means the margin for error is extremely thin.
“Duke played really well against them game one and Clemson self-destructed. That Florida State game could’ve gone either way,” Clawson said. “This is still, there’s not one guy on their roster who wanted to come to Wake Forest. We wanted all those guys. There are even guys on there that we offered and they committed to us but the second Clemson offered, they left. This is our challenge when we play these guys every year.”
“They’ve been at the top of the recruiting charts every year. Xavier Thomas, Tyler Davis, Barrett Carter, these guys are pros. They’re a really talented team. Every time we play these guys, the whole has got to be bigger than the sum of theirs. And that’s the challenge. These are the games that force you to be better and there’s a very small margin of error. Last year we were right on that line. We didn’t get it done. This year is a new opportunity. It’s not because they’ve dipped, we have to execute and play better.”
Clawson knows if they are to have any shot, it starts with playing smart. They can’t have a repeat performance of what happened last time out when the Deacs committed five turnovers in a 30-16 loss to Georgia Tech.
Wake Forest is coming off a bye week, though, giving the Demon Deacons an extra week to prepare for one of the biggest challenges they will face this season.
“We’ve got to go down there and focus on us and go down there and play our best game,” Clawson said. “We’ve got to focus on us. If we play our best game and that’s not good enough, we can live with that. What we can’t do is go down there and turn the ball over four times and have a punt blocked and have missed assignments on defense and make it easy on a very talented football team. The more talented of a team you play, the margin of error there is less. With Clemson, there’s always going to be a small margin of error. When you play Florida State, there’s a small margin of error. When you play Louisville, when you play anyone in the ACC. We’ve certainly shown we’re capable of being at that level, it’s our job as coaches to get that performance out of our team. It’s there, we just haven’t gotten it yet.”
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