Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson has a history with Boston College defensive coordinator Don Brown that goes back to their days as head coaches in the Colonial Athletic Conference.
"There's been a lot of back and forth,'' Clawson said. Clawson's Fordham team took a 29-24 victory over Brown's Northeastern squad in the 2002 FCS Playoffs, and his Richmond team scored a 24-14 triumph over Brown's UMass team in 2004. Brown's only triumph came in 2005 when UMass defeated Richmond, 19-6.
"I think Donnie Brown is one of the best defensive coordinators in the country,'' Clawson said, lauding Brown for his cutting edge approach to blitz concepts and coverages during the ACC coaches' teleconference Wednesday. "He coaches defense almost like an offensive coach . . . I just have a tremendous amount of respect for him.''
Clawson's Demon Deacons (2-3 overall, 0-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) visit Chestnut Hill in search of their first conference win of the season against the Eagles (3-2, 0-2) Saturday at 3 p.m.
Clawson was not certain how much his familiarity with BC's defensive guru would help in the preparation of a game plan for Brown's Maroon Marauders, ranked No. 1 in the nation in total defense (140.0 yards per game), rushing defense (43.4 ypg), passing yards allowed (96.6 ypg), and team passing efficiency defense (76.09).
"Sometimes ignorance is bliss,'' said Clawson, whose team ranks 55th in the country in total offense (414.0 ypg), and 27th in passing (283.0 ypg), and 107th in rushing (131.0 ypg). "When you don't know as much about a person you don't worry about as many things. But, heck, Donnie, he'll blitz the waterboy if he can.''
When apprised of Clawson's remark, Brown nodded and smiled. "We'll try to get [the waterboy] in as the 12th guy, we'll try to get that done,'' he joked.
Brown said his defense was more than likely to throw a few new wrinkles at Clawson's offense.
"We're going to go into this game with several new things that we didn't play last week,'' Brown said. "That's just the way we roll, because that's who we are. That's our M.O. We want those guys to defend not only the known, but the unknown.''
That certainly gave Clawson pause for concern.
"Again, he's extremely aggressive and there's a lot on film and there's also a lot of things he's capable of running that he hasn't showed yet and that's always the challenge,'' Clawson said. "Again, I can't say how much respect I have for him. When you're coaching a football game, there are a lot of other people you'd rather have [to face] on the other sideline than Donnie Brown.''
"Dave and I go back a long way, we have a lot of CAA roots, and we've had a lot of tussles over the years," Brown said. "I'm proud of what he's done and he's a tremendous man and tremendous family guy, so those friendships are fairly deep."
It's like when I've got to play the Whipster [UMass coach Mark Whipple] every once in a while, this is not one of the ones you look forward to but, hey, all I know is we're dialing it up and we're getting ready to rock and roll.''
Secondary is strong
As impressive as BC's front seven has been this season, Clawson was equally impressed with the Eagles' secondary, backstopped by senior free safety Justin Simmons, who made a game-saving interception of then freshman QB John Wolford in last year's 23-17 win in Winston-Salem, N.C., and junior strong safety John Johnson.
"I think the front seven gets a lot of credit because of how good they are,'' Clawson said. "But part of the reason that front seven is so effective is we think they're excellent in the secondary.
"Simmons can do it all. He's a good hitter, he can play man coverage on the slot. He's an excellent, excellent safety, I think one of the very best in the conference. Johnson is certainly coming on as well. Those two are excellent football players.
"We think both corners are good. [Kamrin] Moore is a very underrated player, if somebody can be underrated. I mean, he is excellent. He is, in our opinion, one of the best corners we'll face this year. And on the other side, [Isaac] Yiadom is an excellent press corner. He's very long, he's 6-1 and 185 pounds and he presses people and gets his hands on them and he disrupts routes.
``So, in our opinion, the secondary is just as strong as the front seven.''
Miami-Florida State and Georgia Tech-Clemson will headline a huge rivalry weekend that will see the conference's only two unbeaten teams, both from the Atlantic Division, host their staunchest league rivals.
After absorbing a 34-23 loss at Cincinnati last Thursday night, the Hurricanes (3-1, 0-0) travel to Tallahassee, Fla., for a huge Saturday night showdown against their Sunshine State rivals, the 12th-ranked Seminoles (4-0, 2-0), who extended their conference winning streak to 26 consecutive games with a 24-16 victory at Wake Forest last Saturday.
"It's one of the great rivalries in all of college football, Florida State-Miami,'' said FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, who may be without sophomore running back Dalvin Cook, who pulled up with a hamstring against the Demon Deacons. "The last 30 years probably no game has ever had more implications on national championships, more great players, more of everything probably than any rivalry in college football as much as any [other]. I can say it's one of the reasons you come to Florida State, to be able to play in that game.''
Meanwhile, sixth-ranked Clemson (4-0, 1-0) will host the Yellow Jackets (2-3, 0-2), a 38-31 loser to North Carolina last week, in an attempt to maintain the momentum it generated with its rousing 24-22 victory against then-No. 6 Notre Dame last Saturday night in a soggy Death Valley. Despite the foul weather caused by Hurricane Joaquin, the No. 12 Tigers thwarted No. 6 Notre Dame from converting a tying 2-point conversion that would have sent it into overtime.
``We're excited to be back home again this week at 3:30 [p.m.],'' said Clemson coach Dabo Swinney. ``Clemson-Georgia Tech is, again, kind of a season of its own for us. I mean, it's a great game each and every year and has been for a long, long time.''
Allen earns award
BC freshman defensive end Zach Allen was recognized Wednesday as one of five student-athletes to earn the National Football Foundation High School Scholar-Athlete Award. The New Canaan, Conn., native was chosen by the organization as the Northeast Region recipient from more than 1.1 million high school football players across the country. He will travel to New York City Dec. 8 to be honored at the NFF Luncheon at the Waldorf Astoria.
Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com