Tech Derails Wolfpack Express
NC State was on its way to a special season. There was no other way to look at it. The team had a 4–0 record, a 17–0 lead over Virginia Tech at home and winnable games against Boston College and East Carolina upcoming. The Wolfpack were going to be 7–0 heading into their Thursday night showdown with Atlantic Division rival Florida State on Oct. 28.
It all sounded good in theory to many in the crowd of 58,083, the third-largest gathering in the history of Carter-Finley Stadium. But Virginia Tech ruined the dream scenario, rallying for a 41–30 victory to register the biggest comeback win in Frank Beamer’s 24 seasons as head coach of the Hokies.
“It was very impressive,” Beamer said. “I’ve had a lot of great moments, proud moments and great players. I don’t know if there is ever a time I’m any more proud of our players than tonight in this dressing room. With the way we started out, we hung in there and battled, we kept believing and never gave up.”
Virginia Tech (3–2, 2–0 ACC) had plenty of chances to quit early in this game — and early in this season. After all, this was the team that started the year 0–2 with a heartbreaking loss to Boise State and a head-scratching defeat at home to Football Championship Subdivision member James Madison. But the Hokies kept chipping away at NC State’s lead until they took the first lead of their own at 28–27 early in the fourth quarter.
NC State’s Russell Wilson and Virginia Tech’s Tyrod Taylor each made plenty of big plays in a matchup of two of the ACC’s best quarterbacks; Wilson passed for 362 yards and three touchdowns while Taylor rushed for 121 yards and passed for three scores. But it was Wilson, the closest thing the ACC had to a Heisman Trophy contender, who made more mistakes. Cornerback Jayron Hosley intercepted three passes from Wilson, including one in the final two minutes that set up Virginia Tech’s clinching score.
“Hopefully we can learn from this and get back on track next Saturday,” NC State coach Tom O’Brien said. “We’re 4–1. We’ve got to pick up our heads. Our goal now is to play these guys again.”
For that to happen in the ACC championship game, NC State (4–1, 1–1) must do what Virginia Tech already has done: Get back on track after an extremely difficult defeat. The Hokies have no chance at the national championship — the first two weeks dashed those hopes. But they served notice to the Wolfpack — and the rest of the ACC — that they are very much alive in the race for the league title.
Florida State 34, Virginia 14
Miami 30, Clemson 21
North Carolina 42, East Carolina 17
Virginia Tech 41, N.C. State 30
Maryland 21, Duke 16
Georgia Tech 24, Wake Forest 20
Notre Dame 31, Boston College 13
Hurricanes get big win
Virginia Tech-N.C. State was a big game in terms of early positioning in the ACC standings, but Miami-Clemson was just as important. The victory for the Hurricanes (3–1, 1–0) left them and Virginia Tech as the only undefeated teams in conference play in the Coastal Division. The Tigers (2–2, 0–1), meanwhile, now have less margin for error in their upcoming Atlantic Division matchups.
Miami quarterback Jacory Harris threw four touchdown passes in the first half — three of them to wide receiver Leonard Hankerson — but the difference in the game was the Hurricanes’ defense. Miami forced Clemson, which had turned over the ball just twice in its first three games combined, into six turnovers. The Tigers couldn’t overcome those miscues despite limiting Miami to just three points and 96 total yards in the second half.
Florida State has bounced back in fine fashion from its 47–17 loss at Oklahoma on Sept. 11. The Seminoles, who extended their winning streak to three games with a convincing victory at Virginia, have been solid on both sides of the ball.
Florida State was supposed to be explosive on offense this season, but credit goes to first-year defensive coordinator Mark Stoops for how that unit has performed in the aftermath of the Oklahoma embarrassment. The Seminoles (4–1, 2–0) entered the weekend with an NCAA-best 19 sacks, and they added six more to their total while shutting down Virginia.
Florida State was especially dominant in the first half, outgaining the Cavaliers 294-42 en route to building a 27–0 lead. Virginia ended up with 304 total yards, but just 25 of those yards came on the ground.
On the flip side, Florida State has run the ball so effectively with tailbacks Jermaine Thomas, Chris Thompson and Ty Jones that quarterback Christian Ponder hasn’t had to shoulder the burden. The Seminoles churned out 256 rushing yards against Virginia, rushing for at least 200 yards in three consecutive games for the first time since 2000. That production helped them reach the 30-point plateau for the third consecutive game — something they hadn’t accomplished since 2004.
Florida State’s ability to run the ball also has helped its defense — the Seminoles have possessed the ball more than 20 minutes longer than their opponents over the last three weeks.
“The offense ate the ball and kept them off the field,” Fisher said. “The defense got some three-and-outs. They played together. That’s what we keep saying: offense, defense. Here’s what you’ve got to understand. Defense is getting three-and-outs, and offense is taking six-minute drives, which keeps an offense out of whack for the other team.”
Eagles, Deacs still struggling with QB situations
Injuries and ineffectiveness at quarterback continue to plague Boston College and Wake Forest.
The Eagles started true freshman Chase Rettig under center against Notre Dame in place of struggling sophomore Dave Shinskie, and they were down 21–0 before they knew it. Rettig went three-and-out on the first three series of his career before offering some hope with a 58-yard touchdown strike to fellow freshman Bobby Swigert late in the first quarter.
The problem is that once Rettig got going, he had to leave. He suffered a sprain to his left ankle early in the second quarter — x-rays were negative — and spent the rest of the game standing on the sideline with his foot in a protective boot. Rettig completed 5-of-10 throws for 72 yards and the touchdown before giving way to Mike Marscovetra, who was 22 of 37 for 193 yards and two interceptions the rest of the way.
“(Rettig) looked like the guy we thought he was,” BC coach Frank Spaziani said. “He did some good things and made some freshman mistakes. Once again, I know we all want to talk about who the quarterback is and what the situation is, but there were other problems that were not the quarterback.”
The Eagles (2–2, 0–1) must begin fixing those problems, one of which was blocking for tailback Montel Harris in the running game. Harris managed just 28 yards on 15 carries against the Fighting Irish, almost 75 yards below his season average entering the game. With Rettig’s status in doubt and trips to Atlantic Division rivals NC State and Florida State on tap for the next two weeks, the Eagles need to give their quarterback position all the help they can.
The same is true in Winston-Salem, where Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe has been playing musical chairs at quarterback most of the season.
True freshman starter Tanner Price missed the Georgia Tech game Saturday because of a concussion he suffered the week before against Florida State. His backup, sophomore Ted Stachitas, started against the Yellow Jackets before departing in the second quarter with a back injury. The No. 3 QB, redshirt freshman Brendan Cross, left the game and didn’t return after injuring his non-throwing shoulder on a scramble. And the fourth quarterback, former wide receiver Skylar Jones, had to gut his way through a sore foot because the team had nowhere else to turn.
“I don’t know what it’s going to take to find someone that’s durable enough to make it through a football game,” Grobe said. “We went through three of them tonight. It’s hard to go through a week giving a third of the reps to each quarterback, hoping that one of them will come through and stay healthy.”
Jones completed 9-of-20 passes for 105 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions against the Yellow Jackets, avoiding the big mistake and giving the Demon Deacons (2–3, 1–2) a chance to win. But Georgia Tech’s Joshua Nesbitt made plays that Jones didn’t, throwing a pair of touchdown passes as the Yellow Jackets outscored Wake Forest 18–3 in the fourth quarter.
Tar Heels hit stride in running game
North Carolina’s first possession against East Carolina was nothing short of bizarre. After an incomplete pass on first down and a 3-yard run on second down, the Tar Heels acted out of character. Quarterback T.J. Yates turned and handed the ball off to tailback Shaun Draughn, who ran straight up the middle. On third and 7.
Draughn gained just 2 yards, and the Tar Heels had to punt. But they had established their offensive mindset for the rest of the day, and the plan paid off in a big way. UNC rushed for 263 yards on 46 attempts against East Carolina after totaling 258 rushing yards on 95 attempts in its first three games combined.
Senior Johnny White rushed for a career-high 140 yards on 16 carries, and Draughn tallied 137 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries. It was the second time in the last 16 seasons — and the first time since 2004 — that two UNC players rushed for 100 yards in the same game. The Tar Heels were especially strong in the second half, with White rushing for 102 yards in the third quarter and Draughn rushing for 98 yards in the fourth.
“At halftime we said we were going to stick to the game plan, and our game plan was to come in here and run the ball on them a whole lot,” Yates said. “We just knew that could be a big strength for us coming into this game.”
• Atlantic Division teams had performed better than their Coastal Division counterparts through the first month of the season, but that wasn’t the case this weekend. The Coastal went 3–2 against the Atlantic in five interdivisional matchups.
• Clemson tailback Andre Ellington turned in another strong performance against Miami, rushing for 107 yards and a career-high three touchdowns on 17 carries. Ellington, who also caught three passes for 39 yards, now has 380 rushing yards this season. For the sake of comparison: C.J. Spiller, the 2009 Heisman Trophy contender whom Ellington has replaced as Clemson’s top offensive threat, had 288 rushing yards through four games last season.
• Georgia Tech overcame an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat Wake Forest, its first victory since 1998 when trailing by that many points in the fourth quarter. The Yellow Jackets improved to 11-2 under Paul Johnson in games decided by five points or fewer.
• Maryland improved to 4–1 heading into its bye week, doubling its win total from last season while picking up its 200th victory at Byrd Stadium. The Terrapins have been outgained by their opponent in four of five games this season, including Saturday against Duke, but they have a sparkling record thanks in part to their plus-8 turnover margin and two punt-return touchdowns by Tony Logan.
• Miami kicker Matt Bosher saw his streak of 105 consecutive extra points, the second-longest streak in school history, end in the second quarter against Clemson. Defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins blocked Bosher’s kick after Mike James’ 18-yard touchdown catch.
• How much has North Carolina missed the players who have been held out as a result of the NCAA investigation into the program? Senior safety Da’Norris Searcy, who was cleared to play after missing three games, provided a quick answer against East Carolina. With his team trailing 14–7 in the second quarter, Searcy intercepted a pass and returned it 46 yards for a touchdown to ignite a 35–3 scoring surge for the Tar Heels. More good news for UNC: The team’s other starting safety, senior Deunta Williams, will be back this week against Clemson after completing his four-game suspension for accepting improper benefits.
• Wide receiver Kris Burd has caught a touchdown pass in each of Virginia’s first four games, becoming the first Cavalier to accomplish that feat since Heath Miller had a touchdown catch in the first five games of the 2002 season. Burd, who had four receptions for 118 yards against Florida State, became the first Virginia player with back-to-back 100-yard receiving games since Miller in 2003.