WINSTON SALEM — The hunt is on at Wake Forest for players who play with a chip on their shoulders.
“Our best teams have played with a chip on their shoulder,” coach Jim Grobe said earlier this week. “I’m not sure this team does.”
But there’s at least one player who fills the bill, especially in Saturday’s game against N.C. State. Senior safety A.J. Marshall insists he’ll have no trouble getting properly motivated to play the Wolfpack.
“I’m from Durham, so I always have a chip on my shoulder when I’m playing the Triangle teams,” Marshall said. “And my best friend plays at N.C. State, so he’s up 2-1 on the series with me right now.
“Tony Creecy is my best friend. And Rashard Smith, he’s one of my good friends as well. They’re up 2-1 on me right now so I’m trying to even up the series, being it’s my last year and my last opportunity to play against my best friend.”
Coming off last week’s 56-7 drubbing at Clemson that dropped Wake Forest to 2-3, the Deacons’ coaching staff has spent the days since looking for some way to light a spark on a team that has played surprisingly listless football this season. Grobe is hoping that the opportunity to play for bragging rights will do the trick.
Wake Forest will play Duke on Nov. 23. The Deacons do not play North Carolina, which is in the other division of the ACC.
“With North Carolina State, our North Carolina guys get pumped up because they either played against or played with those guys in high school – or some of them,’’ Grobe said. “And I think anytime you’ve got a division team that you play every year, it just naturally becomes a game you get ready for because you kind of get to know the team that you’re playing.
“Last year they whipped us (37-6) over in Raleigh, so that gives you a little bit of motivation I think when they come back to your place.”
N.C. State, in its first season with Dave Doeren as head coach, is 3-1 with victories over Louisiana Tech (40-14), Richmond (23-21) and Central Michigan (48-14) to offset a home loss to Clemson (26-14). The Wolfpack also has a new staff, new systems on offense and defense, and a new quarterback in Pete Thomas.
Thomas, a 6-foot-6, 236-pound junior transfer from Colorado State, has completed 74 of 114 passes for 906 yards and one touchdown, while throwing five interceptions.
The Wolfpack ranks ninth in the ACC with 31.2 points a game, and seventh by allowing 18.8 points a game.
Wake Forest, meanwhile, ranks last with 18.4 points a game and 10th by allowing 23.8 points a game.
The Winston-Salem Journal is a news partner of The News & Observer. For more Wake Forest coverage go to http://www.journalnow.com/sports/wfu/