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ACC NOTEBOOK: Wake's seniors try to go out in style

Photo by Scott Chancey

Photo by Scott Chancey

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Wake Forest's 22 seniors figured it was only a matter of time before they took their place as the winningest class in school history.

Turns out, it's taken much longer than they thought -- and now they're down to their last chance to get it done.

The Demon Deacons' seniors have been chasing that elusive 33rd career win for 11/2 months, and they enter their finale against Duke on a five-game losing streak.

That slide has erased all hope of making it to one last bowl game for the seniors, who were freshmen on the 2006 team that won an unlikely ACC championship and claimed a spot in the Orange Bowl. That was the first of three straight postseason appearances that revived the dormant program.

"Time and time again, you get asked about the disappointments of the season, and really it is, and it isn't," defensive lineman John Russell said. "It's one of those things, those bittersweet moments that you look back and think about all the times you had, all the good things that came out of it. It really overshadows some of the disappointments of this year. ... (Beating Duke) will kind of help soften the blow."

If nothing else, those seniors can say they've matched the mark set by last year's bunch, led by future pros Aaron Curry and Alphonso Smith. They won 32 games from 2005-08 -- and that number was matched by this year's group in mid-October.

THE BOOK OF DABO: When Jacoby Ford arrived at Clemson three years ago, he couldn't believe the words that came out of the mouth of his receiver coach.

So Ford and fellow wideout Aaron Kelly started writing them down. The result? The book of Dabo Swinney.

"We had pages of stuff," Ford, a senior, joked this week.

The 40-year-old Swinney has made a name for himself during his short time at Clemson for his snappy slogans like "all in" or "playing with your hair on fire." It was the same way at practice when Swinney was the Tigers receivers coach from 2003 through the middle of 2008. Ford said he'd be continually amazed at all the catchy phrased Swinney let out.

Clemson fans are finding that out, too. Swinney has a gift for gab that's endeared him to many Tiger supporters. And if you wait long enough, you're sure to hear it all.

"As long as he talks in interviews, you might've heard them all," Ford said.

Tiger star C.J. Spiller has a favorite. "All in, because that's a way to live life," he said.

Clemson offensive line coach Brad Scott chuckled when asked about Swinney's phraseology. "He's got them all and he's pretty genuine," Scott said. "I don't think he sits up and thinks of them. They just flow."

HOMETOWN HAT TRICKS: Once North Carolina cornerback Kendric Burney managed three interceptions against Miami, safety Deunta Williams knew he had to do something to keep up.

Both players grew up in Jacksonville in the eastern half of the state and have been competing against each other since they were 8-year-olds in youth football. That's why Williams took particular pleasure in picking off three passes a week later at Boston College.

"We've always had it going against each other," Williams said. "I told him I couldn't go back to Jacksonville if I didn't get three this year."

TACKLING THE JOB: Maryland has the worst record in the ACC and one of the best tacklers in the country.

Junior Alex Wujciak has 119 tackles this season, second-most in the conference and 10th nationally. He has reached double figures in tackles in eight games, including five of the last six.

But the Terps are 2-9, including 1-6 in the ACC.

"Obviously my personal statistics haven't led to our team doing well, so I guess I have to take it with a grain of salt," he said. "If we were having a better year, it would feel better."

Wujciak missed the entire 2007 season with a knee injury, but over the past two seasons he's averaged 10.5 tackles in 24 games. The 6-foot-3, 255-pounder has also picked off two passes this year, returning one for a 70-yard touchdown and the other 82 yards to set up a TD.

RENFREE'S RECOVERY: Heading into his final game with Thaddeus Lewis at quarterback, Duke coach David Cutcliffe also is focused on the health of Sean Renfree -- Lewis' heir apparent next season.

Cutcliffe said the redshirt freshman had successful surgery Monday to repair a torn right anterior cruciate ligament suffered against Georgia Tech two weeks ago. Cutcliffe said he expects Renfree will be ready for his sophomore season.

"I'm looking at adjusting some spring practice circumstances based on the information I get about him," Cutcliffe said. "I know we won't have him full speed at spring. Whether we can get anything out of him remains to be seen.

"This is one tough son-of-a-gun. He'll handle it well."