|Demon Deacons see themselves as more than just longshots|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 06 November 2007 22:50|
``We're still not giving up hope,'' the fullback said Tuesday. ``It's not out of reach.''
Maybe not, but after a defeat at Virginia left Wake Forest with two losses in Atlantic Coast Conference play, the Demon Deacons can't be considered anything but longshots to claim a second straight Atlantic Division title. Still, the players' we're-still-in-this attitude says plenty about how success has changed the atmosphere here.
At any other time in school history, six victories and the chance to reach a bowl game might be cause for celebration and maybe even a good reason to roll the campus quad.
But not this year, not with those lingering memories of last season's league championship, lofty national ranking and spot in the Orange Bowl. So while these Demon Deacons (6-3, 4-2) are poised to claim an unprecedented second straight bowl berth and post back-to-back winning seasons for just the third time since 1972, it's clear they view themselves as more than just spoilers entering this week's visit to No. 20 Clemson.
Rather, they believe that with some help from other teams, and some more of the plucky play they enjoyed during their recently snapped six-game winning streak, they can vault back into the divisional chase.
``Our eyes are still on the prize,'' Bryant said. ``Last weekend's game was a very good learning experience. ... We realized that now we can't just play three to four quarters. We have to play every game down to the wire. There's a possibility of every game going down to a field goal, to one or two points, but it's the little things that we need to take care of so we won't be in the position that we were in this past Saturday, kicking a field goal in the fourth quarter with two seconds to go.''
Virginia beat Wake Forest 17-16 when all-ACC kicker Sam Swank's 47-yard field goal missed wide right in the final seconds. That defeat became tougher to take when division-leading Boston College was upset by Florida State later that night.
The loss to the Cavaliers leaves the Demon Deacons little margin for error the rest of the way, and would lose the tiebreaker with the Eagles because of their opening-week loss in suburban Boston. They must close the ACC schedule by beating Clemson and N.C. State, then hope BC loses twice more during its three-game stretch against Maryland, Clemson and Miami.
``When you don't have (a clear-cut scenario), like we did last year, where we knew exactly what we had to do, now you've got to get some help from other people, it kind of makes you focus on the next game,'' coach Jim Grobe said. ``You don't worry too much about the other stuff.''
Another victory would ensure a second straight better-than-.500 regular season - the first since they were 6-5 in 2001 and 7-6 in '02, Grobe's first two years here - and would bolster their chances for a bowl invitation. But clearly, these Demon Deacons are out for much more than that.
``Our deal really is, more than anything else, to get our kids to just understand, 'Guys, we've got a lot of football left to play,''' Grobe said. ``Don't be too down over the loss to Virginia, but don't get too excited about that bowl-eligible stuff, because that's a trap. 'Bowl-eligible' means very little. Six wins don't mean a lot. ... We've got 11 teams (in the ACC) that have a chance to reach six or more wins.''