A member of the Wake Forest Board of Vistors tells a story about the 1974 Wake Forest-Oklahoma game.
"One of the linemen said after the game that he was incredibly psyched up, ready to play. He had heard a whole week of 'They put their pants on one leg at a time' speeches. He believed them.
"On the first play from scrimmage he timed his move perfectly and hit opponent harder than he had ever hit anyone in his life, he said.
"He ended up flat on his back."
Oklahoma won, 63-0.
It has been that way for eight years at Winston-Salem, N.C. The Demon Deacons have consistently made everyone's bottom 10. The season they played Oklahoma they faced Penn State and Maryland the next two weeks. The 47-0 loss to Maryland was considered a moral victory.
In 1976 when the Deacs won five games the ACC was stunned. But not for long; Wake returned to normalcy in 1977 and 1978 with 1-10 seasons.
But last Saturday Wake Forest, after upsetting Appalachian State in the opener, beat 12th-ranked Georgia -- AT GEORGIA, 22-21. Wake rolled up 507 yards in offense so it was no fluke. That's yards, not feet. Quarterback Jay Venuto remembers the final seconds of the stunning upset this way:
"When their last field goal attempt (from 59 yards) was in the air, to be honest, I thought it was good. But when it fell short I felt completely overwhelmed.
"I didn't really feel like celebrating. I was in shock. There were tears in my eyes. I just couldn't believe it. I kept thinking, 'We actually beat Georgia.'"
If Venuto was shocked, the rest of the collegiate football world was stunned, amazed and open-mouthed, to put it mildly. Beating Wake Forest in football has become a tradition in recent years for football factories like Georgia, matched in the fall only by things like leaves falling off the trees.
"I can remember," said safety Mark Lancaster, a graduate of West Springfield High School, "hearing it said that any team that loses to Wake Forest gets its coach fired. Maybe it's time we change that."
Certainly, second-year Coach John Mackovic would like to change that. Mackovic was enraged when his team arrived in Athens, Ga., last weekend and discovered his players being referred to in local newspapers as Mackovic's Meatballs."
True, Mackovic admits, the Deacons have not had a lot to brag about in the 1970s. Since their last winning season -- 6-5 in 1971 -- the Dacons had a seven-year record of 14-62-1, including three 10-loss and two nine-loss seasons. During one five-game stretch in 1974 they were outscored, 210-0.
But now the Deacons are 2-0 and daring anyone to put them dow. "Reading that stuff, expecially that garbage down in Georgia, really bugged me," Mackovic said yesterday. "I don't care what they write about me. I'm a professional.
"But these are kids, trying to go to college and doing the best they can on the football field. They're still young. You don't call an 18-year-old a meatball. After the game one guy in Georgia wrote that Wake played great but Mackovic's still a meatball. That's fine. The other stuff was a pain in the neck. I had to do something to stop the pain."
Mackovic blasted the Georgia press after the game and said he would have done the same thing if Georgia had won the game, 59-0.
"It's like if you had one daughter and every week you were reading in the newspapers or in magazines that she was ugly. Well, maybe she isn't Miss America but that doesn't mean you don't think she's special in a lot of ways. You certainly would get tired of hearing everyone say she was ugly."
No one is calling Mackovic's team ugly these days. In fact, since they returned to campus Saturday night the Deacons have been besieged with requests from the press and adulation from those on campus. Now there is talk that if Wake beats East Carolina at home this week, their Atlantic Coast Conference opener with North Carolina State in two weeks might be on regional television.
"It's an unbelievable feeling," said Lancaster, who spent a year at North Carolina as a walk-on before transferring to Wake. "When our plane got in Saturday night, there must have been 1,000 people at the airport. The campus was going crazy. None of us had ever seen that before.
"It was," said nose guard James Parker, "a feeling you can't describe. You have to feel it."
Now, the Deacons are trying to bring themselves down from Cloud 9 and prepare for East Carolina. For, as Lancaster points out, "If we lose the next nine, people aren't going to remember that we beat Georgia. We have to use this as a springboard for the rest of the season."
Or, as Parker pointed out: "The effort we used to beat Georgia isn't going to help us against East Carolina. The confidence we gained will."
If Venuto continues to throw the way he did Saturday -- hitting on 20 of 34 passes for 283 yards -- and James McDougald continues to run as he did -- 189 yards, 300 for the season -- Wake should be able to compete with the rest of the ACC, something it has not done (except for '76) since it won the title in 1971.
"What's been said in the past hurt us," said McDougald, already the school's all-time leading rusher. "It's important to the seniors that we have a good year to prove something. We're off to the right start."