CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -When Wake Forest started preseason camp, coach Jim Grobe was worried about his quarterback.
A year after Riley Skinner led the Demon Deacons to an improbable Atlantic Coast Conference title, Grobe thought the sophomore was putting too much pressure on himself.
``We tried to calm him down before the Boston College game, but the problem was he had such a good freshman year, typically your thoughts are, 'I'm going to be a lot better as a sophomore,''' Grobe said Wednesday. ``He really doesn't need to be a whole lot better. He just needs to help us take care of the football.''
Skinner didn't. In a disastrous opener, Skinner threw three interceptions - and dislocated his right shoulder - in a 38-28 loss at Boston College. Then, he missed the next two games waiting for his shoulder to heal, only to come back and throw three more interceptions before rallying to beat Maryland.
``I felt like I needed to put more on my shoulders and try to make plays,'' Skinner said. ``That's not all the time what you need to do. Unfortunately I learned that the hard way.''
Skinner then started to trust his teammates more and didn't force the ball into bad spots. It paid off.
Skinner holds the nation's second-best completion rate of 71.9 and Wake Forest (8-4) has won eight of 10 games heading into Saturday's matchup with Connecticut (9-3) in the Meineke Bowl.
``You want a kid to accept responsibility. You want them to feel that they need to be the difference, if that's what it takes,'' Grobe said. ``But if that gets to the point where you're forcing things too much, then you make a lot of mistakes. I think that was evident early in the year.
``After we got past the Maryland game, I think he calmed back down and became the quarterback we expected him to be.''
Over the past five games, Skinner has thrown only three interceptions and five touchdown passes. Using a rejuvenated running game behind freshman Josh Adams, Wake Forest scored 38 and 31 points in beating North Carolina State and Vanderbilt to close the regular season.
``When you've got a guy that's completing 70 percent of his throws, he's obviously making a lot of good decisions,'' Grobe said. ``I think we're getting everything we can out of Riley. Our big deal right now with Riley Skinner is the supporting cast. If the other 10 guys are pretty good, Riley will get it done.''
Skinner's easygoing demeanor was on display Wednesday, when the Demon Deacons held their first practice in Charlotte. A day after spending Christmas with his family in Florida, Skinner showed up like he was still at home, underdressed in a short-sleeve jersey in cold, rainy conditions.
Yet Skinner seemed unfazed, joking around as he warmed up before practice. He trusts his teammates and they clearly respect him.
``He had a rough start, obviously, with the injury,'' said Kenneth Moore, Skinner's top target with 87 catches and five touchdowns. ``That says a lot about him. He's done a great job for this team. He's been a leader in and out of the huddle.''
And because of fewer mistakes from the quarterback, Wake Forest is preparing to play in consecutive bowl games for the first time in school history.
``In Riley's case, I think he's grown up a lot and he's learned that for the most part you don't have to be the guy,'' Grobe said. ``You've just go to make sure you don't get us beat.''

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