WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Jim Grobe wants his Wake Forest team to get back to playing sound, solid football.
Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson knows how he feels.
Both teams will look to snap out of their recent funks Saturday night when Grobe's Demon Deacons play host to the Yellow Jackets.
Neither team has played as well as its coach would like lately.
Georgia Tech (2-2, 1-1 ACC) has dropped two of three, prompting Johnson to urge his team to play "like we're upset at somebody," while Wake Forest (2-2, 1-1) has lost two in a row at Stanford and Florida State by a combined score of 99-24.
"There are not a lot of good things that come from losing. Period," Grobe said. "Whether you're young or old, whether you've got an old, veteran team or a lot of young guys. ... I think we've got to improve quite a bit to get a win. We have not been a very good football team the last couple of weeks."
The schedule-makers might share a slice of the blame for both teams' struggles.
Defending ACC champ Georgia Tech last week ran into the league's hottest team — unbeaten North Carolina State — while the Demon Deacons will face their third straight star quarterback in Joshua Nesbitt. He surely will look to carve up their leaky defense on the ground just as Stanford's Andrew Luck and Florida State's Christian Ponder did through the air.
"I think we have a great quarterback coming in this week, but you don't compare him to the other two simply because of the style of (Tech's ground-based) offense," Grobe said. "It's murderer's row for us because of the quarterback deal. ... You feel like you're not a very good team, but then you've kind of got to check yourself and remember who you've been playing."
Wake Forest enters with the ACC's worst total defense, allowing an average of 467 yards, and teams are scoring 40 points per game against them. That's better than only Duke in the league.
Luck and Ponder may have combined to make Wake Forest the ACC's worst defense against the pass, but Johnson and the Yellow Jackets — who are averaging a league-best 320 yards on the ground — instead will test a run defense that ranks in the middle of the ACC pack.
Georgia Tech's run-heavy offense is designed to control the ball and produce time-consuming drives, and it's more effective when the Yellow Jackets have the lead and the pressure is on the opponent. That didn't happen last week — Georgia Tech never led the Wolfpack.
"There's a lot of things we're doing right, but even more we're doing wrong," Nesbitt said. "It's kind of been disappointing because we know we're a lot better than that."
The Yellow Jackets will look to prove that and avoid their first losing streak under Johnson, who wants his team to avoid the mental lapses that sometimes come when new faces are inserted into the lineup.
"For us to be successful, we have to play really, really hard. We're not overly talented. I mean, we have talent — we have some talented kids but we don't have droves of them. ... Nobody is going to ooh and aah when we trot on the field," Johnson said. "And the trademark of the things that we have done, I think, is we played hard and really competed. And physically we played fairly hard. I don't think it was a case of physical — it's just mental, being into the game."