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Tag:Jim Grobe
Posted on: March 6, 2012 2:22 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Wake Forest



Posted by Chip Patterson


Spring football is in the air, and with our Spring Practice Primers the Eye On College Football Blog gets you up to speed on what to look for on campuses around the country this spring. Today we look at Wake Forest.

Spring Practice Starts: TBD (March 1 and March 3 practices were delayed, March 6 is the next scheduled practice) 

Spring Game: April 14

Three Things To Look For:

1. Tanner Price finding new favorite target. One of the things that made Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price so successful in 2011 was his ability to distribute the ball from the spread and allow the skill position players to make plays in the open field. No player did so more prolifically than wide receiver Chris Givens, who led the ACC with 1,330 yards and totaled nine touchdowns before deciding to leave a year early for the NFL. The Demon Deacons return junior wideout Michael Campanaro - who racked up 833 receiving yards of his own - but will be looking for another player to step up as that second option in the spread attack. Head coach Jim Grobe has already singled out Terence Davis, a redshirt senior who has battled through injury during his first season's at Wake Forest, as one player expected to step up this season.

2. Replacing four starters on the offensive line. Wake Forest's biggest offensive concern heading into the year lies along the offensive line. The Demon Deacons aren't just replacing four starters, but three redshirt seniors and All-ACC second team guard Joe Looney. Center Garrick Williams is the only returning starter, and the coaches will be looking for some players to step up this spring. Grobe believes this is a talented and athletic group, but nearly every other position will be up for grabs this spring. Redshirt junior Steven Chase is one player to keep an eye on this spring. The 6-foot-7, 305 pound left tackle will be an important piece in establishing the line and pass protecting for Tanner Price.

3. Breaking in new faces on the coaching staff. Head coach Jim Grobe is one of the most tenured coaches in the ACC at his current post, and staff shakeups have not been normal since his arrival in Winston-Salem over a decade ago. The Demon Deacons entire 2012 with a pair of new hires, and some slight rearranging of the duties on the coaching staff. Jonathan Himebauch, of the CFL's Toronto Argonauts, will coach the offensive line, allowing Steed Lebotzke to focus on his responsibilities as offensive coordinator. Derrick Jackson has also been brought on to assist with the outside linebackers, which should take some weight off of defensive coordinator Brian Knorr. Grobe feels confident these additions will be improvements, but spring practice will be crucial as the entire staff adjusts to the new responsibilities.  Steve Russ recently left Wake Forest to return to his alma mater Air Force, and the defensive back duties will reportedly be taken by soon-to-be hired Tim Duffie from Colorado State

Catch up on the rest of the ACC and BCS conferences at the Spring Practice Home

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Posted on: December 29, 2011 2:04 pm
Edited on: December 29, 2011 2:05 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Music City Bowl

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

WAKE FOREST WILL WIN IF: they can control the Mississippi State ground game. The Bulldogs have never been comfortable throwing the ball under Dan Mullen, and it showed again in 2011; in the six games in which State threw for 30 or more yards more than they gained on the ground, they finished 1-5, with the only win coming against hapless Kentucky. In the six outings in which they ran more yards than they threw or approached a 50-50 balance, they went 5-1. That might not be particularly good news for a Demon Deacon defense that ranked 70th in the country in stopping the run and finished the season giving up 175 rushing yards or more to six of their final seven opponents; the last of those was State's SEC colleagues from Vanderbilt, who racked up a whopping 297 yards on 5.4 a pop in their 41-7 win. But State's rush offense wasn't quite its usual dominant self in 2011, finishing 45th in the FBS, and in dynamic sophomore nose tackle Nikita Whitlock and senior linebacker Kyle Wilber, Wake has some of the pieces necessary to slow the Bulldogs down. If they don't, it's going to be as long an evening as it was for Wake vs. the Commodores.
  MISSISSIPPI STATE WILL WIN IF: their secondary does to quarterback Tanner Price and the Wake passing attack what it's capable of doing to it. Throwing the ball is the only thing the Demon Deacons do particularly well from a statistical standpoint -- between rush, pass and total offense and rush, pass, and total defense, their 37th-ranked pass offense is the only category in which they finished better than 70th in the FBS -- but unfortunately for Wake, stopping those throws is what the Bulldogs do best. Led by All-SEC-caliber corner* Johnthan Banks and a pair of sharp senior safeties in Charles Mitchell and Wade Bonner, the Bulldogs finished 23rd nationally in pass defense and held opponents to just 6.1 yards an attempt--the 11th-best mark in the FBS. If the Bulldog secondary lives up to those numbers and bottles up Price and Co., it's all-but-impossible to see the Demon Deacons putting up enough points to win.

THE X-FACTOR: Whether or not Mississippi State will be as focused as they could be. The Bulldogs came into 2011 with higher expectations than 6-6 and the Music City Bowl, and nothing they do against the Demon Deacons will keep their 2011 campaign from being a legitimate disappointment. Mullen almost certainly has a better, more talented team than Jim Grobe, but Grobe has pulled off plenty of upsets over better, more talented teams in his Wake career, and if State isn't ready to play there's no reason they can't be his latest victim.

*In most leagues, or maybe even most years in the SEC, Banks would have been all-conference. But this year he shared a league with Dre Kirkpatrick, Tyrann Mathieu, Morris Claiborne and Casey Hayward. So it goes.

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Posted on: November 27, 2011 2:16 am
Edited on: November 27, 2011 2:37 am
 

ACC Winners and Losers: Week 13



Posted by Chip Patterson


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: Virginia Tech

For the second year in a row, Virginia Tech has answered an embarrassing home loss with an impressive win streak and wound up in the ACC Championship Game. The Hokies' 23-3 loss to Clemson was not as embarrassing as James Madison in 2010, but the effect was the same in regards to the outlook on the season. Quarterback Logan Thomas struggled in that game, completing 15 of 27 passes for only 127 yards and an interception. But the bounce-back 38-35 win over Miami triggered the current ACC tear that has the Hokies back in Charlotte defending the title. Thomas bounced back completing 23 of 25 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns while adding two rushing touchdowns - including the game-winning score with 56 seconds remaining. Ever since then Virginia Tech has not been shaken from their path to the title game, including big road wins at Georgia Tech and Saturday against Virginia.

The 38-0 shutout felt like a "final product" for Virginia Tech's season. While not every conference win came easily, such as escaping from Duke with a 14-10 victory thanks to three missed Blue Devils' field goals, every win has highlighted at least one impressive strength of the 2011 Virginia Tech squad. Saturday's victory against the surging Cavaliers displayed a suffocating defense that held Virginia 30 yards rushing while forcing four turnovers. There was also David Wilson's 153 yards rushing, Thomas' three combined touchdowns, and enough "wow" plays from the Hokies wide receivers to keep any secondary honest against the run. With Clemson dropping three of their last four games in the regular season, it seems as though these teams are moving in opposite directions. How each team remembers their season will be decided when they face off for the ACC Championship under the lights next Saturday.

LOSER: The reeling Clemson Tigers

Since starting the season 8-0 and reaching the Top 5 in the BCS standings, things have slowly come undone for Clemson's dream season. Saturday's 34-13 loss against South Carolina exhibited more of the same problems from the recent weeks: inability to protect the quarterback, mental mistakes on defense, and costly turnovers. After lighting up the stat sheet and scoreboard for most of the season, the Tigers have just two touchdowns in their last two games combined. After the game head coach Dabo Swinney said this loss was "the lowest of the lows" and he never expected that kind of performance.

But the challenge for Swinney and his staff is to find a way to turn around the Tigers before Saturday's ACC Championship Game against Virginia Tech. Clemson has had the luxury of being able to lose three of their last four games while still giving themselves the opportunity to play for their first conference title since 1991. Virginia Tech has won seven straight games since losing to Clemson at home earlier in the season, and the Hokies will have revenge on their mind in Charlotte. Swinney's young team has proven to be incredibly dangerous when they are playing smart, and filled with liabilities with they are not. Now there is a big week of preparation ahead for Clemson after another head-scratching loss.

WINNER: The Cardiac Pack

After NC State's uninspired showing in a 14-10 loss at Boston College, things looked bleak for the Wolfpack's postseason hopes. Reaching bowl eligibility would require wins against Clemson and Maryland in the final two weeks of the season, with the Tigers leading the Atlantic Division and Maryland an annual thorn in NC State's side. They started the march by jumping out to a 24-3 lead against a stunned Clemson squad, using ferocious defensive pressure to force four turnovers and hang on for a 37-13 victory.

But the Top 10 upset would not be worth nothing without taking care of business against Maryland. Trailing 41-14 early in the third quarter, it looked as though Maryland would throw a wrench in NC State's postseason plans for the second year in a row. But the Wolfpack simply refused to end their season in that manner. The 42 unanswered points marked the biggest comeback in school history as Mike Glennon led the way with 306 yards passing and five touchdowns on the afternoon. Tom O'Brien has not taken NC State to consecutive postseasons since his arrival in Raleigh, and winning five of their final seven games has taken a lot of the heat off his seat.

LOSER: Randy Edsall

A mind-numbingly frustrating season filled with suspensions, transfers, and injuries ended in the worst way possible with NC State's 56-41 win over the Terps on Saturday. Maryland blowing a 41-14 third quarter lead to the Wolfpack left the first-year head coach shaking his head with few explanations after the game, even though there were plenty of questions.  The loss leaves Maryland with a 2-10 record, their second such finish in the last three years.

Reports have been flying for weeks that Edsall was losing (or had lost) the support of the locker room, and allowing the Wolfpack to mount their biggest comeback in school history showed very little fight left in the Terps. Edsall has the support of the administration, and acknowledges there have been some difficulties with the transition. But Saturday's embarrassment was the worst - although strangely appropriate - finish to a rocky 2011 season for Maryland.

WINNER: Al Golden

Al Golden has tackled, dodged, avoided, and yet also answered hundreds of questions regarding his future at Miami since August. It's not every day that a first-year coach gets asked so many questions about wanting to leave, but Golden's set of circumstances gave media members plenty of reasons to speculate. But despite an ongoing NCAA inquiry and a timely (or untimely) job opening at his alma mater, Al Golden is committed to Miami. Maybe more importantly - Miami is committed to Al Golden.

The school announced during Friday's 28-14 loss to Boston College that Golden had agreed to terms on a four-year contract extension that would keep him at Miami until 2020. Golden's comments in the official release were similar to his explanations from the entire season: his family loves South Florida, he is working on building a program, and he believes in the support from the administration. So now what? Now Golden can stop answering questions about Penn State and if he wants to leave after taking a job with no knowledge of NCAA issues. Now Golden can start the grind necessary to build the program he wants. Now, he hits the recruiting trail.

The first-year Hurricanes coach has made claims of signing "30 new kids" in the upcoming recruiting class. Such a splash would be huge for the program, particularly considering the NCAA issues likely to come. But while the school has self-imposed a ban on the 2011 postseason, Golden has been assured there will be no self-imposed scholarship penalty in the near future. Without a postseason to plan for, now Golden hits the road to get his "30 kids."

LOSER: Miami's 2008 recruiting class

Randy Shannon's 2008 recruiting class was considered one of the best in recent Hurricanes history. The class was ranked in the Top 5 nationally pretty much across the board, and highlighted by some of the top talent in the Miami area. On Saturday some of those players, including starting quarterback Jacory Harris and linebacker Sean Spence, played their final game in a Miami uniform. Because of the self-imposed postseason penalty, that group finishes with a 29-22 record with no bowl wins in their time as a Hurricane. The class was supposed to bring Shannon the success that Coral Gables had not seen since the move to the ACC. Four years later, the Hurricanes have still yet to finish better than tied for second place in the Coastal Division.

WINNERS: Florida State's pass coverage

The Florida State defense has received plenty of deserved praise for their dominating performances this season. But while the Seminoles entered the weekend ranked in the top ten nationally for total defense and scoring defense, they rank near the bottom of the ACC in interceptions gained. After picking off just nine passes in 11 games, Florida State picked off Florida four times in the 21-7 rivalry win. All three Seminole touchdowns came directly after Florida interceptions, with Terrance Parks 29 yard pick six sealing the win in Gainesville.

LOSER: Wake Forest's bowl stock

Jim Grobe deserves a lot of credit for turning around Wake Forest from a 1-7 team in conference play to ACC division contenders. The 6-6 finish is an improvement considering they were picked to finish last in the ACC again this year, but they did themselves no favors in the eyes of bowl committees with a 41-7 loss to Vanderbilt on Senior Day. Wake Forest turned in an unimpressive effort against their SEC rivals in front of a meager announced attendance of 28,020. But the letdown against the Commodores also hurt Wake Forest's momentum heading into the postseason.

When competing with other teams in the conference for preferable bowl bids, losing four of your final five games is a fast way to make your team appear less attractive. Hats off to the Demon Deacons on their first postseason appearance since 2008, but they did themselves no favor on location with their finish.

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Posted on: November 23, 2011 12:41 pm
Edited on: November 23, 2011 12:47 pm
 

ACC-SEC Grudge Week Preview



Posted by Jerry Hinnen and Chip Patterson


There's no formal conference-vs.-conference challenge in college football, but this week is as close as we're going to come: four contests matching up SEC and ACC opponents, all of them competitive matchups on paper. Here, our resident ACC and SEC bloggers break down why each team can (or should) expect to win and offer their predictions.

No. 13 Georgia at No. 23 Georgia Tech, 12 p.m. ET. TV: ESPN

THE CASE FOR GEORGIA: Regardless of motivation or prep time (neither of which favors the Bulldogs, admittedly), the antidote to Georgia Tech's triple-option is the same as it's always been: a powerful defensive line and a running game that keeps the Tech offense off the field. In immovable nose tackles John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers and whirling-dervish 3-4 outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, the Bulldogs can put a check mark by the former, and the combination of Crowell and a rapidly improving offensive line should be able to provide the latter. If the Dawgs are at all focused, they've got the better, more talented team. But are they at all focused?

THE CASE FOR GEORGIA TECH: While the in-state athletes have made a point to do their barking in the media, I'm not entirely sure the Bulldogs will have their total focus on Georgia Tech.  With the SEC Championship Game a week away, some have suggested that Mark Richt rest banged up players like star running back Isaiah Crowell to keep them fresh for the SEC West representative in Atlanta.  Georgia Tech is out of the ACC Championship Game hunt, and now has refocused on a goal of achieving a 10-win season.  With the game in Atlanta, it just seems like the Yellow Jackets have more to play for and less to lose.

Jerry's Pick: Georgia 28, Georgia Tech 27
Chip's Pick: Georgia 31, Georgia Tech 24

Vanderbilt at Wake Forest, 3:30 p.m. ET. TV: ESPNU

THE CASE FOR VANDERBILT: A 5-6 record is a fine, fine start for James Franklin, but even more impressive is that the 'Dores have arguably been even better than that record: their last four SEC losses have come by a total of 19 points. Jordan Rodgers has been a revelation since taking over as starting quarterback, and potential All-SEC corner Casey Hayward leads a top-notch secondary that will pose major matchup problems for the Deacon passing attack. That Vandy's been better at home than on the road (and that the same goes for Wake) could be troubling, but this Commodore team is easily good enough to be a bowl team, and they should be plenty fired up to prove it.

THE CASE FOR WAKE FOREST: Wake Forest can expect to get Vanderbilt's best shot, particularly with bowl eligibility on the line for James Franklin's squad.  Perhaps the best matchup for Wake Forest is neutralizing one of the Commodores' strengths.  Vanderbilt has an opportunistic defense that has forced 17 interceptions on the season (T-1 in the SEC), but Tanner Price has one of the best quarterbacks in the ACC at taking care of the ball.  Price has thrown for 19 touchdowns and just six interceptions, and has nearly doubled his 2010 output with 2,646 yards on the year.  Still, especially after last week's debacle against Tennessee you have think Vanderbilt will be an inspired team on Saturday.

Jerry's Pick: Vanderbilt 30, Wake Forest 27
Chip's Pick: Vanderbilt 34, Wake Forest 31

Florida State at Florida, 7:00 p.m. ET. TV: ESPN2

THE CASE FOR FLORIDA: The (surprisingly difficult) win over Furman got the Gators into a bowl, but the only way to genuinely salvage Will Muschamp's rocky debut season is to beat the 'Noles, and Muschamp's team knows it. Playing hated FSU at home should wake up the dormant Florida Field crowd, and it's not like the Gators don't have the talent to win this game: a healthy John Brantley at quarterback, the Chris Rainey/Jeff Demps tag team at tailback, Jelani Jenkins at linebacker. The Gators' top-20 defense should be plenty enough of a match for an FSU offense that's scored a total of 36 points the last two weeks. If the 'Noles can lose to Virginia at home, they're certainly vulnerable enough to lose to the motivated Gators in Gainesville.

THE CASE FOR FLORIDA STATE: Unlike the Gators, the Seminoles have shown the potential of a Top 10-caliber team when they are healthy and have all the pieces working together.  Unfortunately for Florida State, they are like Florida with their inconsistent performances throughout the season.  When EJ Manuel has time to throw and is able to get in rhythm, the Seminoles becomes dangerous and potent very quickly.  The Gators' defense presents arguably their toughest challenge on the schedule, but at least Florida State has played at an elite level at times this year.

Jerry's Pick: Florida 24, Florida State 21
Chip's Pick: Florida State 28, Florida 16

No. 17 Clemson at No. 12 South Carolina, 7:45 p.m. ET. TV: ESPN

THE CASE FOR SOUTH CAROLINA: The Gamecocks haven't seen many offenses like Clemson's, but the Tigers also haven't seen many defenses like Carolina's. Melvin Ingram has been one of the nation's best defensive ends, Jadeveon Clowney has lived up to the hype and more, and what was one of the FBS's most flammable secondaries in 2010 has turned into one of its stingiest in 2011. The buttoned-down Gamecock offense won't put a lot of points on the board, but they should put up some against the roller-coaster Tiger defense. They could easily be enough opposite that defense.

THE CASE FOR CLEMSON: Sammy. Watkins. When healthy, his presence on the field changes so many aspects of the game.  The superstar freshman has been cleared to play after sitting out last week with a shoulder injury, and if he is at full speed Steve Spurrier will have some difficult special teams decisions to make.  The Gamecocks' kick coverage has been less than stellar, so OBC will need to figure out whether he'd rather set up the potent Tigers offense with a short field or put the ball in the hands of arguably the most explosive player in the ACC.  He returns kicks, punts, and offensive coordinator Chad Morris moves him all around in the offense.  The Tigers' offense was missing a spark in the loss to NC State, but he'll be ready to go for this rivalry game.

Jerry's Pick: Clemson 27, South Carolina 21
Chip's Pick: Clemson 45, South Carolina 38


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Posted on: November 20, 2011 3:38 am
Edited on: November 20, 2011 3:48 am
 

ACC Winners and Losers: Week 12



Posted by Chip Patterson


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: NC State's defense

It seemed like an impossible task for NC State fans to comprehend following the 14-10 loss to Boston College. Beat Clemson and Maryland to reach bowl eligibility for the second straight season. The same Clemson that clinched the ACC Atlantic Division title three weeks before the end of the season and ranked in the Top 10 of the BCS standings. But the Tigers' mortality was exposed by Terrell Manning and the NC State defense in a 37-13 conference beatdown on Saturday. The Wolfpack took note of Wake Forest's gameplan to frustrate and confuse quarterback Tajh Boyd with multiple looks, and executed the plan to perfection while quarterback Mike Glennon took advantage of fantastic field position to put the game out of reach before halftime. The defensive unit was led by an unbelievable effort from linebacker Manning, who recorded eight tackles, forced a fumble, and recovered another in an omnipresent showing for the Wolfpack. It would not be a solid NC State defensive performance without a mention of cornerback David Amerson, who tied the ACC single-season record for interceptions with his 11th pick in the second half. All around dominant performance by NC State, and the defense was the primary benefactor.

LOSER: Clemson's BCS bowl probability

The Tigers could afford to lose to NC State and still accomplish all of their goals for the season. After the loss to Georgia Tech knocked them from the national championship discussion, head coach Dabo Swinney reminded media members the goals were to a) win the ACC Coastal b) Win the state championship and c) win the ACC championship. With the division title locked up and the annual showdown with South Carolina a week away, Clemson could afford to lose this game and still win an ACC Championship. But with a Top 10 BCS ranking and many of the top teams losing in Week 12, the Tigers could have been in a position to earn an at-large BCS bid in the event they lose the Championship Game on Dec. 3. But with the embarrassing loss to NC State, Clemson's only chance to reach a BCS bowl likely will be to beat either Virginia or Virginia Tech to claim the ACC's bid to the Orange Bowl.

WINNER: Virginia Tech's ACC Dominance

The Hokies survived a late push from North Carolina on Thursday night to remain undefeated against division opponents with the 24-21 win. Virginia Tech's sixth straight conference win sets up a showdown with in-state rival Virginia next Saturday with a bid to the ACC Championship Game on the line. If the Hokies can knock off the surging Cavs it would be the fifth Coastal Division title in seven years for Frank Beamer, now the nation's winningest active coach. A spot in the ACC title game would not only give the 10-1 Hokies an outside shot at an at-large BCS bid, but it would allow Virginia Tech to seek revenge for the 23-3 loss to Clemson in early October. The Tigers have been reeling since that battle in Blacksburg, and the Hokies have improved dramatically since the setback. Wake Forest and NC State have exposed Clemson's weaknesses offensively, and you can bet Bud Foster will take note of the adjustments should the two teams meet against in Charlotte with an Orange Bowl bid on the line. Since joining the ACC, no team has dominated the league quite like Virginia Tech. It only seems appropriate that Clemson and/or Virginia have to pass through Beamer to reach ACC supremacy.

LOSER: North Carolina's bowl stock

While North Carolina was one of the first teams in the ACC to reach bowl eligibility with a 6-3 start, their stock in the conference pecking order has been on a downward spiral for the last month. The Tar Heels have lost four of their last five, with two losses decided by six points or less. As coaching rumors light up the message boards and blogosphere, interim head coach Everett Withers and the staff is trying to make the most of 2011. The Tar Heels have suffered several unforeseen setbacks, but Gio Bernard's exit from Thursday night's Virginia Tech game was one of the most costly losses of the season. Bernard is already the first North Carolina running back to break the 1,000 yard mark since Jonathan Linton accomplished the feat in 1997, and his absence was felt in the fourth quarter of Thursday's 24-21 loss as the Tar Heels fought to get back into the game. The redshirt freshman has played through hip and ankle injuries this season, but the head/neck diagnosis after a hard helmet-to-helmet hit ended Bernard's night. The Tar Heels still have their annual rivalry with Duke left on the schedule, and Tar Heel fans are hoping Bernard will be cleared to play. After seeing Duke's effort in the 38-31 loss to Georgia Tech, you can bet the Blue Devils will bring their best shot to Chapel HIll in an attempt to re-paint the Victory Bell.

WINNER: Al Golden

It was an ugly game filled with punts and penalties, but after getting 41 yard attempt tipped earlier Jake Wieclaw drilled the 36 yard field goal to win the game and make Miami bowl eligible. For first-year head coach Al Golden, bowl eligibility is a great accomplishment considering the setbacks and off-field distractions tied to the Nevin Shapiro investigation. Golden has overcome suspensions to key players, questions about his commitment to the job, and wildly inconsistent play from his team to get the Hurricanes to six wins. The heralded recruiting class of 2008, led by Jacory Harris, Sean Spence, among others, will get one final opportunity to suit up in Sun Life Stadium when the Hurricanes wrap up the regular season against Boston College on Friday. If you want to know what kind of impact Golden has had on this team in just one year, pay attention to the emotions of the seniors next weekend. Golden has credited them as being the leaders to buy in from day one, and I expect they will play inspired in possibly their final game. With NCAA sanctions almost certainly coming as a result of the Nevin Shapiro investigation, some have suggested the Hurricanes self-impose a bowl ban starting this season. The next several weeks will be interesting in Coral Gables, seeing how the school handles bowl eligibility, but at least they are in the position to have that option.

LOSER: Florida State's clock management

The Seminoles play-calling and execution on the final drive nearly cost them the game twice before Dustin Hopkins missed the potential game-winning 43-yard field goal. Florida State started at their own 40 yard line with two timeouts, but bled the clock and burned timeouts by keeping the ball in the middle of the field without getting first downs. Head coach Jimbo Fisher was bailed out first by a face mask call on fourth down and then by the video review of Bert Reed's completion/incompletion to give Hopkins a shot to win the game. Even with multiple opportunities, the Seminoles couldn't get over their own mistakes in a sloppy loss to Mike London's Cavaliers. While the Seminoles' defense stepped up to the challenge of shutting down Virginia's rushing attack, execution on both sides of the ball fell apart in the final minutes of the game.


WINNERS: Chris Givens

Somewhere lost in the madness of the upsets in Week 12 was Wake Forest turning around a 1-7 conference record into 5-3 and becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2008. Head coach Jim Grobe returned 17 starters from last season's squad, but few have been more important to 2011's success than Chris Givens. The junior wide receiver recorded season-highs in catches (8) and yards (191) in the Demon Deacons' 31-10 win over Maryland to wrap up the ACC schedule. The big day helped him break a 22-year old single season receiving record, set by Ricky Proehl in 1989. Givens has recorded triple-digit receiving performances seven times this season, teaming with Michael Campanaro as one of the most dangerous duos in the ACC. Wake Forest wraps up the regular season next week at home against Vanderbilt, but their final 5-3 conference record is quite the achievement for a team predicted to finish at the bottom of the conference.

LOSER: Year One in Randy Edsall's "dream job"

Maryland was Randy Edsall's "dream job," but the nightmare continues for the Terps after suffering their seventh straight loss to Wake Forest. Maryland hung with the Demon Deacons for a half, before Tanner Price began to pick apart the Terps' defense on the way to 24 second half points. Price finished the day with 320 yards passing, three touchdowns, and no interceptions as Edsall was once again left with the difficult task of explaining what has happened to this team. The transition has been rocky, but I get the feeling we haven't seen the worst of it yet as reports of transfers and more locker room dissension continue to grow out of College Park.

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Posted on: November 13, 2011 2:01 am
Edited on: November 13, 2011 2:28 am
 

ACC Winners and Losers: Week 11



Posted by Chip Patterson


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: Virginia Tech's offensive backfield

The Hokies moved into control of the ACC Coastal Division thanks to another set of outstanding offensive performances from sophomore quarterback Logan Thomas and running back David Wilson. Wilson's gaudy numbers have become standard-issue for Virginia Tech, but Thursday night's 175 yard outing cemented his status as a contender for ACC Player of the Year. Thomas added 70 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, a nice compliment to his three touchdown passes. Between Wilson's elusiveness and Thomas' strength running the ball, they form a dangerous duo that any defense struggles to stop. Virginia Tech hasn't clinched their fifth division title in seven years yet, they still have North Carolina and in-state rival Virginia left on the schedule. But with the way Thomas and Wilson have been performing recently, I like their chances to be in Charlotte for a rematch with Clemson on Dec. 3.

LOSER: Georgia Tech LB Jeremiah Attaochu

With a 26-21 lead late in the third quarter, Attaochu appeared to have Logan Thomas stopped in his tracks on third down. The Hokies were deep in their own territory, and the punt would have given the Yellow Jackets the ball with great field position as the final period approached. But as the talented linebacker struggled to bring the 6-foot-6 250+ pound quarterback to the ground, Attaochu made a serious mistake throwing a punch.

"I just had an overdose of adrenalin," Attaochu explained after the game. "When I made contact with him, I was mad he wouldn't go down."

The personal foul penalty kept the Virginia Tech drive alive, and it ended with a 12-yard Logan Thomas touchdown run to give the Hokies a 27-26 lead heading into the fourth quarter. The penalty was undoubtedly the turning point of the second half, after the Yellow Jackets had put together two dominating touchdown drives. The loss knocked Georgia Tech out of contention for the ACC Championship Game, one of the primary goals for this team after last season's disappointing 6-7 finish.

WINNER: Chandler Catanzaro

Clemson's defense followed Tajh Boyd's game tying touchdown pass to Jaron Brown by forcing Wake Forest into a three and out. The field position was ideal, but Boyd was only able to drive the Tigers down to the 13 before Dabo Swinney tapped kicker Chandler Catanzaro to kick the potential game-winning field goal with less than 90 seconds remaining. Catanzaro has been streaky over the last two seasons, but from 30 yards the kick was expected to be a routine make for the sophomore from Greenville, S.C.. Catanzaro missed the kick, sending shock through Death Valley as Clemson fans saw their status as ACC Atlantic frontrunners shaken for the moment. But the Tigers' defense once again answered, giving Catanzaro another shot to win the game and lock up the Atlantic Division title. This time from 43-yards out, Catanzaro was iced twice by Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe before splitting the upright as time expired, booking Clemson's ticket to the ACC Championship Game on Dec. 3 in Charlotte.

LOSER: Jimmy Newman

Wake Forest had Death Valley silenced for a moment in the third quarter on Saturday, after the Demon Deacons scored 21 points in a five minute period to take a 28-14 lead on the ninth-ranked Tigers. But while Chandler Catanzaro got his shot at redemption and hit the game-winning field goal, Wake Forest kicker Jimmy Newman has to walk away from a three point loss after missing two field goals, including one from 32 yards in the fourth quarter. There were plenty of other breakdowns - like the defense allowing Tajh Boyd to pick apart the secondary with receivers NOT named Sammy Watkins, or the offenses sudden inability to control the Clemson pass rush - but games this close come down to execution in routine areas like special teams. While still not bowl eligible, Wake Forest was a field goal away from taking the inside track towards their second ACC Championship Game appearance. After failing to pull the upset on Saturday, the Demon Deacons head home needing a win against either Maryland or Vanderbilt to make the postseason.

WINNER: Luke Kuechly

The man they call "Superman" in Chestnut Hill was just that on Saturday in Boston College's 14-10 victory over NC State. While the Eagles were getting no help from their offense in the second half (-2 yards of total offense), the defense stepped up against a relentless Wolfpack squad led by the gunslinging Mike Glennon. All-American linebacker Luke Kuechly recorded 18 tackles int he victory, his 32nd straight game with double digits in tackles.

Not only was Kuechly all over the field making plays, but he was stepping up when his team needed stops the most. Nine of his 18 tackles were recorded in the final 13 minutes of play, as Boston College fought off NC State in a scoreless fourth quarter. Kuechly entered the game as the nation's leading tackler, and his current total of 168 already has him closing in on last season's nation-leading total of 183. Boston College has suffered setbacks in nearly every aspect of the roster, but Kuechly has been the one consistent piece of Frank Spaziani's 2011 unit. How much longer either will last in Chestnut Hill is still unclear, but coaches and fans alike will enjoy every down Kuechly has left this season.

LOSER: Tom O'Brien

After listing the NC State head coach as a winner in Week 10, TOB walks away from Week 11 as one of the losers. O'Brien had all the momentum after winning the on-field and off-field war with in-state rival North Carolina. But Saturday's loss to his former team, Boston College, gives O'Brien naysayers plenty of ammo for the "hot seat" discussion. Not only is O'Brien winless on the road against his former employer, but the Wolfpack have not won an Atlantic Division road game since his arrival in Raleigh.

O'Brien's squads have often been right on the verge of bowl eligibility, but only reaching the postseason twice. For NC State to be bowl eligible this season, they now need to defeat both Clemson and Maryland at home in the next two weeks. If the Wolfpack had been able to win in Chestnut Hill on Saturday, next week's matchup with No. 9 Clemson would not be a must-win. O'Brien's record at NC State is exactly .500 after the loss, and his record against conference opponents is l6-22. The Wolfpack fans love that TOB is undefeated against rival North Carolina, but those wanting to cause a job security stir will have a stronger argument if the Wolfpack miss the postseason for the third time in O'Brien's five years.


WINNERS: Streaky Florida State

The 23-19 win over in-state rival Miami signaled both the end and continuation of streaks for the Seminoles. For the first time since 2005 the home team in the Miami-Florida State rivalry won, with the Seminoles claiming the last home victory six years ago in Tallahassee. But while that streak came to a halt, Florida State extended their current win streak to five games.

Ever since EJ Manuel returned to the starting lineup after suffering a shoulder injury against Oklahoma, the Seminoles have been a completely different team offensively. In the five-game stretch, the 'Noles are averaging 35.4 points per game, and the rotating running back position seems to have settled on freshman Devonta Freeman as the primary back for the future. Unfortunately, the Clemson loss earlier in the season has the Seminoles out of the ACC Atlantic Division race. The work put in now helps improve their bowl bid possibilities and builds for another shot at the ACC with many of these same players in 2012.

LOSER: Maryland's locker room

Things have gone from bad to worse for Maryland, who picked up their sixth straight loss - their eighth in nine games - in the 45-21 loss to Notre Dame at FedEx Field. After a uninspiring effort in their home finale at Byrd Stadium, Maryland donned their "Maryland Pride" uniforms for Saturday's neutral field contest with the Fighting Irish in the home of the Washington Redskins. On Friday, reports of dissension within the Terrapins locker room was confirmed by players - including kicker Nick Ferrara.

"At this point, it's not like two sides of the cafeteria - this side is buying in, this side is not," Ferrara told The Washington Post. "People are keeping it to themselves. No one knows who is going to go [transfer], who is going to stay, who is feeling which way."

The Terrapins suffered yet another setback in the loss to the Irish, with sophomore quarterback Danny O'Brien breaking a bone in "his upper arm" during the third quarter. The 2010 ACC Rookie of the Year has already been ruled out for the final two games of the season. O'Brien's absence leaves sophomore C.J. Brown as the only available scholarship quarterback. The Terps travel to Winston-Salem next week to face Wake Forest before wrapping up the season at NC State at the end of the month.

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Posted on: November 12, 2011 3:44 pm
Edited on: November 12, 2011 3:46 pm
 

QUICK HITS: No. 9 Clemson 31, Wake Forest 28

Posted by Chip Patterson

CLEMSON WON. With the ACC Atlantic Division on the line, the Tigers overcame a 14 point third quarter deficit to knock Wake Forest off in the final seconds and win 31-28. After missing a 30-yard field goal earlier in the quarter, Clemson kicker Chandler Catanzaro lined up a 43-yard try and nailed it as time expired. The win clinched the ACC Atlantic Division title for Clemson, who will face the winner of the Coastal (either Virginia Tech or Virginia) in the ACC Championship Game on Dec. 3.

HOW CLEMSON WON: Wake Forest stunned the Tigers in the second half with three touchdowns in a five minute span, jumping out to a 28-14 lead. But Tajh Boyd and Andre Ellington overcame early turnovers to help lead the Tigers down the field and back into the game late. The Tigers were able to get the offense going despite losing Sammy Watkins to an "upper extremity injury" in the third quarter. Boyd finished the game with 343 yards passing, looking to receivers like Jaron Brown and Brandon Ford to step up in Watkins' absence. The depth of skill position players helped keep the Tigers' offense humming, and the defensive line picked the right time to get pressure on Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price.

WHEN CLEMSON WON: After trailing by two touchdowns, the Tigers didn't get to enjoy success until the clock hit zero as Catanzaro's kick sailed through the uprights. The comeback wasn't pretty, but credit Tajh Boyd and a gang of unheralded receivers for putting them in the position to win the game late.

WHAT CLEMSON WON: A trip to Charlotte to compete for the ACC Championship. The Tigers had their national championship hopes dashed by Georgia Tech two weeks ago, but they can still find their way to a BCS bowl with a conference title. Clemson's division title is their second in three years, as they strive to capture their first league championship since 1991.

WHAT WAKE FOREST LOST: The chance to steal the ACC Atlantic Division from Clemson. The Demon Deacons needed wins over Clemson and Maryland to claim the division, and with a 28-14 lead in the third quarter it looked likely. Wake Forest already stunned Florida State, and knocking off the Tigers would have added to a memorable season for a team picked to finish last in the ACC. The next goal for Jim Grobe's squad is bowl eligibility, as the Demon Deacons need one more win to make the postseason.

THAT WAS CRAZY: Freshman phenom Sammy Watkins has had a memorable first season with the Tigers, and Saturday he broke the 1,000-yard mark on the season. Watkins currently has 1,035 receiving yards, but his future may be in jeopardy after leaving the game with an "upper extremity injury." Watkins appeared to injure his shoulder/ribs, and did not return to the game. The true freshman has been electrifying this season, and a big part of the Tigers' success. If he's out, it is a huge blow to Clemson's offense.

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Posted on: October 30, 2011 4:28 am
 

ACC Winners and Losers: Week 9



Posted by Chip Patterson


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: Georgia Tech's ACC title hopes

"I know a lot of people are disappointed that wrote us off," head coach Paul Johnson said after the game. "Let us finish the season before you do our tombstone."

The Yellow Jackets were reeling. Their offense was sputtering, and pundits nationwide had hopped off the Yellow Jackets' bandwagon following their 3-2 start in ACC play. But head coach Paul Johnson and defensive coordinator Al Groh know all too well how fast things can change for the better - or for the worse. Georgia Tech dominated time of possession and their defense forced turnovers from a young and hasty Clemson offense that, for the first time in several games, showed their youth. With leading rusher Andre Ellington (ankle) sidelined, Georgia Tech's defense capitalized on fumbles from both D.J. Howard and Mike Bellamy to give the ball right back to Tevin Washington. Washington's 176 rushing yards (most ever by a Georgia Tech quarterback) displayed the preparation by Georgia Tech's staff and players. Just two weeks ago Maryland quarterback CJ Brown burned the Tigers' defense with his legs, forcing the 56-point performance to secure the win.

But this was not Maryland's defense, this was Al Groh's swarming and opportunistic unit. Credit the linebackers and secondary for manning up with Clemson's playmakers and taking advantage when Tajh Boyd began to force throws into coverage. As Clemson failed to chip into Georgia Tech's lead as the game extended, the urgency turned to recklessness for the Tigers. The Yellow Jackets smelled blood, and when it was time to deliver a play defensive back Jemea Thomas was in the end zone to snag the interception and seal the win.

Georgia Tech now gets a much-deserved week off before hosting Virginia Tech on a Thursday night in Bobby Dodd Stadium. Considering what we saw from the Yellow Jackets and the Hokies, it is fair to say the game could serve as an unofficial ACC Coastal Division title match. If Georgia Tech can win out in conference - including a defeat of No. 15 Virginia Tech - they win the division thanks to the head-to-head tiebreaker.

LOSER: Clemson's BCS title hopes

It's hard to say that "Clemson pulled a Clemson" with their 31-17 loss to Georgia Tech on Saturday night, because a ton of credit goes to Georgia Tech for their preparation and execution. But the loss does likely knock Clemson out of contention for a shot at the national championship. The Tigers will fall from their position in the Top 5 of the BCS and now refocus on winning the ACC Atlantic Division. With Wake Forest and NC State left on the conference schedule, the Tigers can win out and earn a bid back to the ACC Championship Game in December. Winning the title game will put the Tigers in their first-ever BCS bowl game. It won't be the title game in New Orleans, but it will be a big step for Dabo Swinney and this young Clemson squad.

WINNER: David Wilson

Virginia Tech did not do much to impress the voters with their 14-10 victory, but when it comes to the ACC standings the only thing that counts is wins. With the road in on Saturday, the Hokies improve to 8-1 and maintain their hold on first place in the ACC Coastal Division. Ugly wins have become of a reoccurring practice for Frank Beamer's squad in 2010, with the win over Duke looking eerily similar to East Carolina, Marshall, and Boston College. One similar aspect to those wins, and most of the Virginia Tech games this season has been the production of junior running back David Wilson. For the eighth time this season, Wilson led the way offensively for the Hokies with 120+ rushing yards. It has become Virginia Tech's M.O. in 2011: establish a lead, then let a Wilson-led ground attack eat up the clock while Bud Foster's defense creates turnovers and delivers stops. It's not pretty, but it has worked. Without Wilson, Virginia Tech is a .500 team. With Wilson, they are set to make a run at another ACC Coastal Division crown.

LOSER: Placekickers in the ACC

Week 9 featured some horrendous kicking performances in the ACC. In some cases, like Boston College's Nate Freese, missing on both of your field goal attempts wasn't that costly in the 28-17 victory over Maryland. Duke's Will Snyderwine, however, cost the Blue Devils dearly by missing three field goals in the 14-10 loss to No. 15 Virginia Tech. As a conference, the ACC's place kickers combined to hit only 9 of 23 field goal attempts this weekend. It wasn't as though weather was a factor to blame, there was just inaccuracy all across the board. Only Wake Forest's Jimmy Newman and Georgia Tech's Justin Moore were mistake-free, each connecting on 1 of 1 from inside 25 yards.

WINNER: Roland Finch

It has been a frustrating season for Boston College. Considered to be a possible ACC dark horse coming into the season, the Eagles have battled through injuries to key players and close losses in their disappointing first half of the 2011 season. But Boston College had something to celebrate on Saturday, thanks to the play of Roland Finch. The sophomore running back was listed behind star Montel Harris and Andre Williams when the season began, but injuries in the backfield have given Finch a chance to step up. He delivered against Maryland, torching the Terps' defensive for 243 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 39 carries. Williams added 16 carries for 72 yards and a touchdown as well in the Eagles' 28-17 win. Finch had never broken the 100-yard mark before, and he accomplished that feat before halftime.

LOSER: Miami's consistency 

Just when it seemed like Miami had turned things around, the Hurricanes suffer another close loss in part because of penalties and mental mistakes. All four of the Hurricanes' losses have come by eight points or less, with Miami's offense having a chance to take the lead or win the game in each failing effort. But Thursday's loss 28-24 loss to Virginia came with some embarrassment, losing at home in front of the 2001 National Championship team. That team, arguably one of the best championship teams of this decade, saw the Hurricanes have game-changing plays called back because of penalties, missed blocks, and giving up the big play. After the 24-7 victory against Geogia Tech, Miami submitted themselves as Coastal Division contenders. Their encore performance against Virginia just four days later retracted that application.

WINNER: Mike London

The second-year head coach has now led Virginia to victories over Georgia Tech and Miami, and positioned the Cavaliers for their first bowl appearance since 2007. Virginia needs just one more victory to reach six wins, and even if they fall to Maryland in College Park there is a winnable date with Duke the following Saturday. London was identified as a rising star in the coaching business, and his work on the recruiting trail is now complimented with some early success. After the loss to Southern Miss and narrow victories over Indiana and Idaho there was some doubt throughout the Cavaliers' fan base. But after the big division wins and a 5-3 start, the support for London has never been stronger in Charlottesville.

LOSER: Tom O'Brien

Hard to imagine that NC State head coach Tom O'Brien would be mentioned in the "hot seat" discussion, but the buzz began to grow after the Wolfpack were shut out 34-0 against Florida State in Tallahassee. Just 10 months ago, O'Brien was hoisting the Champs Sports Bowl trophy after the first 9-win season since Phillip Rivers was suiting up for the Pack.

O'Brien's teams at NC State have often been injury-plagued, and last season was arguably the healthiest roster he's had since arriving in Raleigh. But with two of NC State's four 2011 wins against FCS teams, and a 15-21 record against ACC competition, O'Brien will likely begin to face job security questions in the coming weeks. It is not normal to think a coach would be on the hot seat after a successful 2010, but when the ACC Coach of the Year can be dismissed in a matter of weeks (see: Ralph Friedgen) it seems as though few jobs are safe anymore in the ACC.

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