Press Conference Notes: Lea talks Elon win, previews Wake Forest’s unique offense

Clark Lea addressed the media on Tuesday afternoon ahead of his team’s upcoming matchup against Wake Forest.


Vanderbilt Athletics

Will Sheppard ahead of Vanderbilt’s contest against Elon (Vanderbilt Athletics).

Brett Needelman, Staff Writer

Football head coach Clark Lea spoke to the media for the first time following the Commodores’ 42-31 victory over Elon. The final score, however, was a bit misleading in terms of gauging coach and team sentiment regarding the game.

Lea stated that there are many improvements to be made heading into this weekend’s matchup against No. 23 Wake Forest. 

“This program at its highest level puts enough space between us and the competition that we eliminate the possibility of a comeback,” Lea said on Tuesday. “I think that is a result of us letting off the gas, not playing to our identity like we had against Hawaii. The scoreboard lies to you; it is human nature to soften once you feel like you built a lead, but elite teams do not do that” 

While Lea was clearly not satisfied with the team’s performance, it is imperative that Vanderbilt moves forward to prepare for the unique, slow mesh offense of Wake Forest. Lea, though, does have experience calling plays against this atypical type of offense as he has been on two different coaching staffs with Warren Ruggiero, the Demon Deacons’ offensive coordinator. 

“Warren and I go way back. It took me some time to realize his genius in play design. So, being a part of the staff at Bowling Green and Wake Forest, I kind of learned about the style of offense from within the team,” Lea explained. “But, in those roles, it was more about complaining about having to face it every day because you don’t see anything like that out there.”

While Lea is certainly familiar with the offense, the second-year head coach still discussed what adjustments and changes need to occur to succeed against the Wake Forest offense. 

“[On] Saturday, there’s going to inevitably be some adjusting and adapting that goes on,” Lea said “I think patience is a huge part, having called plays against this offense. With these guys, you have to understand that every time they snap the ball and they are not in the end zone, you’re forcing them to tighten their opportunity for scoring.”

A lot of attention ahead of Saturday’s matchup will be focused on the high-octane Wake Forest offense—and how Vanderbilt will attempt to stop it. On the other side of the football, Lea does not plan on changing his offense’s approach in response and will focus on maintaining their team’s identity. 

“We want to play to our identity, and our identity has been kind of, first of all, establishing a run game. I think that can help you in this situation. We have to maintain possession of the ball, game control. If you look at defending an offense that scores 41 points per game, you’re looking at the longer that offense is on the sideline, the fewer opportunities they have to score. Again, game-control drives are important,” Lea said. “To sustain drives and finish with touchdowns, that’s going to be the goal. The more effectively we do that, the more competitive this game is going to be and the more exciting it’s going to be late.”

In terms of injury updates, Lea provided an update on the status of a number of Commodores. Notably, backup running back Patrick Smith and backup cornerback Trudell Berry will remain sidelined for the third straight game this week.