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Wake Forest kicks off the 2005 season at Groves Stadium against Vanderbilt

Posted Friday, August 26, 2005

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Winston-Salem, NC - On the opening night of major college football around the nation, in front of a national audience, Wake Forest kicks off the 2005 season at Groves Stadium against Vanderbilt. The game is set for Thursday, September 1 at 7:00 p.m. on ESPNU, the first Division I football game to air on the infant network.

Wake Forest is a perfect 4-0 in home openers under Jim Grobe. Thursday’s game also marks the first season opener that doubles as a home opener for the Demon Deacons under Jim Grobe’s watch. Wake Forest has started each of the last four seasons on the road, posting a 2-2 record. All of those games were decided by seven points or less and both of Wake Forest’s losses were in overtime.

The Vanderbilt game will be just the second time the Deacons have started their season at home since 1998. Wake Forest is 65-34-
3 all-time in home openers, including eight wins in the last 10 years.

Wake Forest returns 16 starters from last year and played close games week-in and week-out. The Deacons were leading or tied in the fourth quarter in nine of their 11 games, but finished 4-7.

Wake Forest brings back four players who earned mention on last year’s postseason All-ACC teams. Senior punter Ryan Plackemeier is among the frontrunners for the Ray Guy Award, junior offensive tackle Steve Vallos is on the Lombardi Award Watch List and sophomore middle linebacker Jon Abbate is one of the top young linebackers in the nation.

Against Vanderbilt, Wake Forest will be without two-time All-ACC running back Chris Barclay and Riley Swanson, the Deacons’ most experienced cornerback. Both are serving one-week suspensions for a violation of team policy.

Vanderbilt leads the all-time series six games to three. However, this will be the first meeting between the schools since 2000 when the Commodores left Groves Stadium with a 20-10 victory.

The Benjamin Mauk Era Begins
Redshirt sophomore Benjamin Mauk, who set national passing records at Kenton High School in Ohio, has been named the starting quarterback.

Mauk originally came to Wake Forest with quite a bit of fanfare and notoriety. In high school, he operated in a no-back, five-wide, no-huddle offense. He totaled 6,540 passing yards and 76 touchdowns in his senior season, en route to a second straight state championship and Mr. Football in Ohio honors.

Last year, Mauk rotated with the veteran Cory Randolph, who has 20 career starts under his belt. When a toe injury sidelined Randolph against Duke last October, Mauk capitalized on the opportunity. He led the Deacons to victory that day and started the season’s final three games against North Carolina, Miami and Maryland.

In part-time duty, Mauk completed 52.1 percent of his passes for 572 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. His 295 rushing yards ranked second on the team. But it was his fearless, hardnosed style that endeared himself to Wake Forest teammates, coaches and fans. Mauk bowled over a would-be tackler against Duke last season. After the game, he told reporters that “if I wanted to slide I'd play baseball. Football is all about hitting.”

The sophomore performed well enough in the spring and in the preseason to supplant Randolph for the starting position. In the team’s final scrimmage, he led the Deacons on three scoring drives and capped one with a rushing touchdown.

From The Training Room...
The injury report for Thursday’s game:
Out: None. Doubtful: None. Questionable: None. Probable: Jon Abbate (hamstring), Pierre Easley (eye), Johnny Edwards (ankle), Willie Idlette (shoulder), Zac Selmon (ankle).

Who’s This Guy?
With Chris Barclay and Riley Swanson on the sidelines against Vanderbilt, the Deacons will ask a handful of young players to fill some big shoes.

Barclay, of course, is a two-time 1,000-yard rusher, the only one in Wake Forest history. But the coaching staff feels very confident with sophomore back-ups Micah Andrews and De’Angelo Bryant. Both have experienced ACC competition.

So as good as Barclay is, the bigger loss might be Swanson. That’s because the cornerback position was already the least experienced position for Wake Forest.

Without Swanson, the Deacons will be forced to utilize a number of young cornerbacks who have never played a down of college football.

That will be a stark contrast to the end of the 2004 season when the Deacons had future NFL draft pick Eric King (42 career starts) and Marcus McGruder (35) as the starting cornerbacks.

Still, defensive coordinator/secondary coach Dean Hood is comfortable with his situation. “I would say top to bottom - if you put all the
corners we had last year and then all the corners we have this year, and shook them up - top to bottom I think we're more talented,” Hood said. “It's just a matter of game experience.”

Seniors Are Few And Far Between
Despite returning 16 starters, Wake Forest will once again field one of the youngest teams in the nation. Using the depth chart as a guide, only five seniors are expected to start, including offensive tackle Wesley Bryant, receiver Chris Davis, linebacker Jason Pratt, punter Ryan Plackemeier and defensive tackle Goryal Scales.

Fewest Senior Starters In The Country
1. Rice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3
2. Cincinnati . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5
Illinois . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5
Kansas State . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5
UCF . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5
WAKE FOREST . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5

A Win This Week Would...
... make Wake Forest a perfect 5-0 in home openers during the Jim Grobe era.
... give Wake Forest nine wins in its last 10 home openers.
... give Wake Forest a victory in the season opener for the third time in five years under Grobe.
... be Wake Forest’s first win over Vanderbilt since the 1992 Independence Bowl season.
... narrow the all-time series record to 6-4 in favor of Vanderbilt, breaking its three-game winning streak.
... give Wake Forest its first home win against Vandy since 1965, after losses in the last three meetings at Wake Forest.
... mark Wake Forest’s second win on national television in as many seasons.
... improve Wake Forest’s all-time record on national television to 7-11.
... improve Grobe’s record at Wake Forest 23-25 in five seasons and his all-time record to 56-58-1 in 11 seasons.
... improve Grobe’s Wake Forest record to 12-12 in home games.
... improve Grobe’s Wake Forest record to 13-3 in non-conference games.
... improve Grobe’s Wake Forest record to 10-7 in September games.
... improve Grobe’s Wake Forest record to 9-7 in night games.
... improve Wake Forest’s all-time record to 379-574-33.

A Loss This Week Would...
... give Wake Forest a loss in its home opener for the first time in the Jim Grobe era, the first time since 2000.
... make Wake Forest 2-3 in season openers in the last five years.
... give Vanderbilt a 7-3 lead in the all-time series, including a four-game winning streak.
... be Wake Forest’s fourth straight home loss to Vanderbilt.
... drop Wake Forest’s record on national television to 6-12.
... drop Grobe’s record at Wake Forest 22-26 in five seasons and his all-time record to 55-59-1 in 11 seasons.
... drop Grobe’s Wake Forest record to 11-13 in home games.
... drop Grobe’s Wake Forest record to 12-4 in non-conference games.
... drop Grobe’s Wake Forest record to 9-8 in September games.
... drop Grobe’s Wake Forest record to 8-8 in night games.
... drop Wake Forest’s all-time record to 378-575-33.

Nailbiters are the norm
In the four seasons since Jim Grobe arrived at Wake Forest, the Deacons have played 47 games. Of those, 26 contests have been decided by seven points or less and three have gone to overtime. Last year, eight of the team’s games were decided by a touchdown or less and two went into overtime.

Much has been made of Wake Forest’s close losses last year -- six losses by a total of 36 points. It seemed that every close game went against the Deacons in 2004.

But it might surprise some to note that Wake Forest has almost broken even in games decided by a touchdown or less under Grobe. The Deacons are 12-14 in those contests.

Grobe: Best First Four Years
With 22 victories at Wake Forest, Jim Grobe has more wins in his first four years than any other coach in Wake Forest history. Not Al Groh (17), not Bill Dooley (18) and not even the legendary D.C. “Peahead” Walker (21) had this much success this early in their tenure.
Grobe, the program’s 32nd coach, already ranks fifth all-time in career wins.

The Deacons have a chance to propel Grobe even higher up that chart. He stands four wins behind Jim Caldwell and Groh. Grobe needs seven wins to catch Bill Dooley.

Walker won 77 games with the Deacons in his 14-year stint as head coach.

Vallos Named To Lombardi List
Wake Forest junior offensive tackle Steve Vallos is on the Rotary Lombardi Award Watch List, the Rotary Club of Houston announced in the preseason. The Rotary Lombardi Award has been given to college football's top lineman since 1970. Vallos, a native of Boardman, Ohio, has been chosen a first team preseason All-ACC selection by the Atlantic Coast Conference Sports Media Association and by Lindy's Magazine.

As a sophomore last year, Vallos was selected to the ACC's second team by the Atlantic Coast Conference Sports Media Association and to the first team All-ACC by Rivals. He started all 11 games for the Deacons, one of only three offensive players to do so.

Vallos bounced around the offensive line based on need and injury situations, playing every line position except center. Vallos graded out at a team-best 87 percent for the year and led the Deacons with an overwhelming 144 knockdown blocks, 43 more than any other Deacon lineman. He played 766 snaps with only 11 missed assignments.

Back In Plack
Wake Forest has the luxury of having perhaps the best punter in the nation. Senior Ryan Plackemeier owns every punting record at Wake Forest and is the leading punter in the history of the ACC.

A two-time first team All-ACC selection, Plackemeier has a career average of 44.7 yards per punt and has ranked among the nation’s leaders in that category as a sophomore and a junior.

The native of Bonsall, Calif., has an amazingly strong leg. He has 45 punt in his career of 50-plus yards and eight 60-plus yard punts. In the season finale last year at Maryland, he banged a 69-yarder with no return.

She’s a brick house
Groves Stadium, the home of Wake Forest football since 1968, received a facelift this summer. The facades along the sidelines and south endzone were re-faced with approximately 89,000 bricks, specifically created for this project by Pine Hall Brick Company.

The bricks are in the same style of those that adorn the buildings on Wake Forest’s Reynolda campus, less than a mile away. Work began April 11, two days after the Spring Game, and was completed in late July.

Do Not Adjust Your Television
In recent years, Wake’s home black jerseys featured the names in white and the numbers and WF logo in white with an Old Gold shadow. In 2005, Old Gold replaces white as the dominant contrasting color. The names are Old Gold and the numbers and WF logo are Old Gold with a white shadow. The neck and sleeves are still outlined in Old Gold. Another minor change to the uniform, both home and away, is on the helmets. In previous years, the nameplate over the facemask read “DEACS.” Now, all 12 schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference will have “ACC” on that plate.

Classroom Excellence
Wake Forest and Vanderbilt were both recognized once again this year by the American Football Coaches Association for posting graduation rates that ranked in the top 25 nationally.

In the NCAA’s new Academic Progress Rate scores, WFU is tied for third among BCS schools with Boston College, Stanford and Notre Dame and behind Duke and Northwestern.

Key Individuals On Offense
QB Benjamin Mauk R-So. Started last three games in ‘04; TSN All-Freshman ACC
TB Chris Barclay Sr. Suspended 9/1; needs 907 yards for WF rushing record
TB Micah Andrews R-So. Averaged 6.1 yards per carry on 43 carries with 6 TDs
TB De’Angelo Bryant R-So. “The Bus” redshirted last season with a knee injury
FB Richard Belton R-Fr. Excellent all-around ability; good receiving threat
FB Damon McWhite R-Fr. Devastating blocker missed nine games in ‘04 (knee)
WR Willie Idlette R-Jr. Explosive speedster looks to overcome sophomore jinx
WR Nate Morton R-Jr. Led the Deacons with 26 catches last season for 391 yds
WR Chris Davis Sr. Enjoyed the best off-season of his career
TE John Tereshinski R-So. Grandfather, father and brother all played at Georgia
LT Wesley Bryant R-Sr. Expected to be one of two senior starters on offense
LG Arby Jones R-Jr. Had arguably the best spring of any lineman
C Steve Justice R-So. Leads a close competition with veteran Greg Adkins
RG Matthew Brim R-So. Started 10 games at tackle last year; has moved inside
RT Steve Vallos R-Jr. 2nd team All-ACC lineman played four positions last year
PK Sam Swank R-Fr. Inexperienced and unproven, but possesses a strong leg

Key Individuals On Defense
DE Jeremy Thompson So. Only scholarship freshman to see game action in ‘04
DE Matt Robinson R-So. Led the Deacons with 10 TFL as a rookie last season
DT Goryal Scales R-Sr. Has 17 career starts, the most of any returner on defense
DT Jyles Tucker Jr. Moved from DE; called the “surprise of the fall” by Grobe
DT Zach Stukes R-So. Very promising youngster played in 11 games as a frosh
OLB Pierre Easley R-Jr. Moves outside after starting 7 games in middle in ‘04
OLB Eric Berry R-Fr. Rookie has potential to be an immediate impact player
OLB Jason Pratt R-Sr. Incredible all-around athlete hopes to breakout in 2005
MLB Jon Abbate R-So. Leader of the defense recorded 101 tackles as a frosh
CB Riley Swanson R-Jr. Suspended 9/1; saw action as the nickel corner in ‘04
CB Alphonso Smith R-Fr. Talented rookie specializes in man-to-man coverage
CB Kevin Patterson R-Fr. Had a sensational spring game to impress staff
SS Aaron Mason R-So. Penciled in for his first career start at strong safety
FS Patrick Ghee R-Jr. Team will rely on his experience (11 career starts)
DB Josh Gattis R-Jr. Started at FS last year, might be forced into action at CB
P Ryan Plackemeier Sr. All-America candidate is a two-time first team All-ACC’er

When & Where:
At 7:00 PM on September 1 at Groves Stadium (31,500) in Winston-Salem, N.C.

ESPNU. Mike Gleason (play-by-play) and Charles Arbuckle (analysis) call the action. Mike Roth is the producer.

Wake Forest/ISP Radio Network and XM Radio. Stan Cotten (play-by-play) and Bill Urbanik (analysis) call the action.

Vanderbilt leads, 6-3. The teams haven’t met since the 2000 season when the Commodores defeated Wake Forest 17-10 at Groves Stadium.

Neither team is ranked.

Jim Grobe begins his fifth season at Wake Forest with a 22-25 record. Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson enters his fourth year with the Commodores. He owns a record of 6-29.

Schedule & Results:
S1 Vanderbilt ESPNU 7:00
S10 at Nebraska TBS 6:00 (c)
S17 East Carolina 6:30
S24 Maryland TBA
O1 Clemson TBA
O8 at Florida State TBA
O15 at Boston College TBA
O22 NC State TBA
O29 at Duke TBA
N5 at Georgia Tech TBA
N17 Miami ESPN 7:30

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Wake Forest kicks off the 2005 season at Groves Stadium against Vanderbilt
Redshirt sophomore Benjamin Mauk has been named the starting quarterback.
photo by Gene Galin
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