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Thursday, October 23, 2008
Wake's woes on offense start up front, run deep

By Heather Dinich
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Wake Forest offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke is exhausted. He was reading his five-year-old daughter, Capri, a bed time story this week and he was the one who fell asleep during it.

With key starters injured and just one touchdown in the past three ACC games, Lobotzke has been under a wee bit of pressure this week to find something that just might not be there.

The entire staff is well-aware something needs to change quickly if Wake Forest (4-2, 2-1 ACC) is going to remain in contention to win the Atlantic Division.

The problem is, they're running out of options and straight into a stingy Miami defense on Saturday.

"I'm hopeful that our offense can get better," coach Jim Grobe said. "We need to. If we don't get better offensively, we can't play the teams that are on our schedule and have a chance to win just by hoping we can play great defense."

Some of the pieces are there. The Demon Deacons have an accurate quarterback in Riley Skinner, one of the best in the league. They have the 2007 Rookie of the Year in running back Josh Adams. And they have a capable receiver in D.J. Boldin, who has been good, but inconsistent.

What they don't have is a dependable offensive line. It was a concern in the preseason, having lost four starters from a year ago, and has proven to be the root of their problems this season. Now, with center Trey Bailey out for the season with a broken ankle, help doesn't appear to be coming anytime soon.

"What we need to do is just keep working hard on the offensive line and get better at our run blocking and pass blocking ever week, and you forget how much a tight end and a fullback matter in the run game sometimes, too," Lobotzke said. "We're working with those guys."

Heading into the season, Wake Forest had lost its top two tight ends to graduation. Now, starter Ben Wooster is out for about a month with a hamstring injury. And has any team ever missed its kicker more? Sam Swank, one of the best in the country, is still questionable for Saturday with a strained quadriceps.

"It definitely made this hill a little steeper, trying to get this offense back in high gear," Lobotzke said. "But we're working hard at it and we're looking real critically at everything. We're looking at the schemes we're using offensively and the plays that I'm calling. That's definitely not perfect right now."

Lobotzke wanted to implement a spread offense catered to Skinner this season, and the Demon Deacons lead the ACC in pass offense with 217.7 yards per game. But they've got only seven touchdowns to show for it because the protection hasn't always been there and the receivers have dropped far too many would-be first-down passes for the Big 12 look Lobotzke envisioned. Miami, on the other hand, has less passing yardage and nearly twice as many touchdowns (13) in the air.

Wake is averaging just 18.7 points, while the young Hurricanes are scoring an average of 32.6. Wake is also averaging just 94.7 rushing yards, 11th in the league.

When they do move the ball, like they did against Clemson, the Demon Deacons have been haunted by their tendency to stall in the red zone, getting inside the 20-yard line 23 times this season and coming out with just nine touchdowns. It was something they didn't have to worry about in last week's 26-0 loss at Maryland. They never even entered the red zone. It was one of the few games in which their turnover-happy defense couldn't save them.

"The problem is, when your offense is not playing well, and your defense is not playing very well, it snowballs," Grobe said. "We gave up too many points and certainly our offense understands that if you don't score points, it's going to be hard to win."