Fresh off one of the worst weekends in its football history, the ACC received some opportunities for redemption in Week 3. For the most part, the conference failed to capitalize on those chances.
The ACC dropped to 0–9 in games against The Associated Press Top 25 this season, losing four such contests Saturday. Alabama-Duke and Stanford-Wake Forest were disasters for the league — even more lopsided than expected — and West Virginia-Maryland was headed that way before the Terrapins made the final score somewhat respectable despite being dominated statistically.
Clemson was the only ACC team that managed to be competitive against a ranked foe. Led by a gritty effort from quarterback Kyle Parker, who stayed in the game after taking a vicious hit in the back in the third quarter, the Tigers fell in overtime at Auburn after blowing a 17–0 lead.
Not all was lost, though. Virginia Tech finally picked up its first victory of the season, rallying from a 10–0 deficit at home to rout East Carolina. Florida State and Georgia Tech also bounced back from disappointing results in Week 2, with the Seminoles knocking off Brigham Young and the Yellow Jackets defeating North Carolina in the conference opener for both teams.
Then there’s NC State, which is starting to look like a sleeper team in the wide-open Atlantic Division. The Wolfpack picked up a convincing win over Cincinnati to improve to 3–0 for the first time since Philip Rivers engineered a school-record 9–0 start in 2002. NC State and Boston College, which had an open date in Week 3, are the only remaining undefeated teams in the conference.
NC State 30, Cincinnati 19 (Thurs.)
Georgia Tech 30, North Carolina 24
West Virginia 31, Maryland 17
Virginia Tech 49, East Carolina 27
Alabama 62, Duke 13
Florida State 34, Brigham Young 10
Auburn 27, Clemson 24, OT
Stanford 68, Wake Forest 24
Hokies showcase tailback depth
David Wilson made some headlines last week after expressing disappointment with his role in Virginia Tech’s offense. Wilson had planned to redshirt this season because the Hokies already were loaded at tailback with Ryan Williams and Darren Evans, but he was so impressive during training camp that coaches talked him into playing. When two games went by without Wilson making an impact — he had just four carries — he wondered aloud whether he made a mistake in burning a year of eligibility.
A few days later, he got his answer. Williams went down with an injury to his right hamstring in the second quarter against East Carolina, and Wilson responded with 89 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries. Evans chipped in 91 yards and one touchdown on 10 attempts, and the Hokies ran away with their first win of 2010.
Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer says trainers have told him that Williams’ injury is not serious, but the Hokies might be wise to rest the 2009 ACC Rookie of the Year. They still have two exceptional tailbacks who can fill in until Williams returns to 100 percent health.
That said, Virginia Tech must be concerned with Evans’ recent fumbling woes. Evans showed sure hands while rushing for 1,265 yards in 2008, but he has mishandled the ball in all three games this season after returning from knee surgery. Evans nearly fumbled on one occasion against Boise State, maintaining possession despite holding the ball too far away from his body, and he lost a fumble against James Madison and East Carolina.
Tar Heels still waiting
North Carolina welcomed back tailback Shaun Draughn to game action against Georgia Tech, but 12 other players who sat out UNC’s season-opening loss to LSU remained sidelined as the NCAA continues its investigation. The NCAA is looking into possible improper conduct with agents by some UNC players as well as possible academic misconduct involving a tutor.
The Tar Heels took on the Yellow Jackets without 10 defensive players, including six starters. That wasn’t a good formula against a Georgia Tech offense that pounds opponents into submission with running play after running play. The Yellow Jackets rushed for 372 yards and finished the game with a 10-minute advantage in time of possession after controlling the ball for 57 of 69 plays during one span.
“Depth becomes a major factor in a game like this,” UNC coach Butch Davis said.
The Tar Heels left Kenan Stadium as the only team in the ACC without a victory this season. They also remained unsure of when — or if, in some cases — their sidelined teammates would rejoin them.
“I think Coach Davis does a great job of not letting it be a distraction,” linebacker Bruce Carter said. “We've just got to be focused and tuned in on what we can do. That stuff is out of our hands, so we have to move forward.”
For better or worse?
No one outside of Duke’s locker room gave the Blue Devils a chance to defeat top-ranked Alabama. But the players and coaches actually believed they had a chance to win. At the minimum, they thought they would give the Crimson Tide a good game.
That obviously didn’t happen, and the result was so lopsided that it has the potential to undo a lot of the progress that Duke has made under head coach David Cutcliffe. The Blue Devils have made big strides in the last two-plus seasons — improving from one win in 2007 before Cutcliffe’s arrival to four wins in 2008 and five wins last season — and hosting an elite program such as Alabama appeared to be another step in the right direction.
Duke brought in 3,904 temporary seats to make room for a crowd of 39,042, the largest at Wallace Wade Stadium since 1994, and filled its stadium for the second consecutive home game after failing to do so even once from 2002-09. The problem is that the people who attended the game — and those who watched on TV — had no reason to think anything other than “same old Duke” after watching Alabama dominate from the opening kickoff.
“When you play a team like that, I think our kids understand what you have to do to do things like tackle and make plays,” Cutcliffe said. “And we didn’t pass the test, plain and simple. You don’t just say you put that one behind you. Yeah, you put the results of it behind you, but you don’t put what caused the results behind you. We have to address everything we're doing poorly. At this point, we’re doing so many things poorly we have to prioritize.”
• A scary scene for Clemson might have turned out better than originally feared. Left guard David Smith, who was carted off the field in the fourth quarter of the Tigers’ loss at Auburn, has been diagnosed with a high ankle sprain rather than a broken bone. Smith likely will miss the Miami game Oct. 2 after an open date next week, but Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said Smith could return sometime later in the month.
• Maryland quarterback Jamarr Robinson delivered the two longest pass plays of his career in the second half against West Virginia, hooking up with Torrey Smith on touchdown passes of 60 yards and 80 yards.
• The Terrapins could be facing some shuffling along their offensive line. Left tackle Justin Gilbert suffered cartilage damage in his left leg, the extent of which still needs to be determined, against the Mountaineers.
• North Carolina has lost by the same score (30–24) in back-to-back games for the first time in school history. Before this season, its 120th of football, UNC never had lost a game 30–24.
• UNC wide receiver Jheranie Boyd entered Week 3 as the nation’s leading receiver after setting an ACC record for receiving yards (221) in a season-opening game, but he did not catch a pass against Georgia Tech. How did the Yellow Jackets shut him out? “We didn’t,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. “They did. They just didn’t throw it to him.”
• NC State true freshman tailback Mustafa Greene rushed for 84 yards on 16 carries and added 54 yards on five catches against Cincinnati. Greene has rushed for a touchdown in each of the first three games, becoming the first NC State freshman to accomplish that feat since Joe McIntosh in 1981.
• NC State senior Josh Czajkowski missed an extra-point try against Cincinnati, snapping his school-record steak of 83 successful extra points in a row.
• Virginia Tech senior Tyrod Taylor rushed for 32 yards against East Carolina, becoming the school’s all-time leader in rushing yards by a quarterback. Taylor has rushed for 1,728 yards in his career, surpassing the old record of 1,723 yards set by Bob Schweickert from 1962-64.
• Wake Forest needs to find some answers on defense — and fast. A week after allowing Duke to pile up 48 points and 487 total yards, the Demon Deacons were even worse at Stanford. The Cardinal scored a touchdown on each of its first eight possessions and rolled up 535 yards as Wake Forest surrendered its highest point total since 1995.