Florida State Seminoles: Phillip Rivers

ACC weekend rewind: Week 12

November, 18, 2013
11/18/13
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Just two more weeks left in the regular season. But before looking ahead, let's take one last look back at the week that was in the ACC.

[+] EnlargeJames Wilder Jr.
Melina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsTailback James Wilder Jr. rushed for two touchdowns on just three carries in Florida State's romp of Syracuse.
The good: There's not a whole lot not to like about another brilliant Florida State performance, as the Seminoles rolled to a 59-3 win over Syracuse to clinch a perfect ACC season. Jameis Winston (19-of-21 passing) was only needed for a half, and he got plenty of help from his supporting cast, with Karlos Williams making the most of his four carries (78 yards), Kenny Shaw adding 99 receiving yards on seven catches and the defense holding the Orange to 68 first-half yards on 30 plays. Those poor souls from Idaho entering Tallahassee this coming weekend for Senior Day ...

The bad: What happened to you, Miami? Just three weeks ago you entered a prime-time showdown at rival FSU riding high, undefeated, free of the NCAA cloud and ranked No. 7 in the BCS standings. You've lost three games since, the latest a 48-30 contest at Duke, which wrestled away control of the Coastal Division from you. You gave up 358 rushing yards to a team that entered averaging just 165.9 per contest. Fortunately, you have Virginia on deck this weekend for Senior Day.

The ugly: Speaking of Virginia, the Cavaliers have some company in the cellar of the ACC, as NC State lost again, this time a 38-21 contest at Boston College. The Wolfpack fell to 0-7 in ACC play for the first time in program history, and they are now guaranteed to miss a bowl game in Year 1 under Dave Doeren. Andre Williams did a lot of this to them, too.

The history: Williams keeps finding records to chase. This time the Eagles senior rushed for an ACC single-game record of 339 yards, giving him an ACC single-season record of 1,810 rushing yards on the season. The previous ACC single-game record was 329 by Wake Forest's John Leach in 1993 versus Maryland, according to ESPN Stats & Info. And the previous league single-season record was 1,798 by Virginia's Thomas Jones in 1999. Williams' 339 yards Saturday were the most by an FBS player in a game this season, though it was not the most across college football Saturday: That would belong to Cartel Brooks and his 465 yards for Div. III Heidelberg, a new NCAA record.

More history: Tajh Boyd broke Phillip Rivers' ACC record for career touchdown passes, as he now has 97. And the Clemson quarterback had 340 passing yards in Thursday's win over Georgia Tech, leaving him one 300-yard game shy of Rivers' ACC record of 18.

(We want) more history: OK, fine. Duke quarterback Brandon Connette rushed for four touchdowns, giving him 29 rushing touchdowns for his career, breaking the previous school record of 28, set by Tom Davis from 1941-44.

The fun and games: Hey, who doesn't like a game of Hangman? It's not like the end of the Florida State-Syracuse game featured anything more dramatic, anyway.

The consistently inconsistent: Pitt was thisclose to keeping Notre Dame out of the national title game last season. It then followed things up by laying an egg at UConn. The Panthers finally took down the Irish this year, so how did they respond? Naturally, by falling behind by 24 points in the second half in an eventual 34-27 home loss to red-hot North Carolina. Give credit to Pitt for mounting a furious comeback to tie the game, and to Tom Savage and Devin Street for playing hurt, but surrendering a pair of punt return touchdowns to Ryan Switzer did not help matters. The Panthers remain at five wins, with a game this weekend at the always-tricky Carrier Dome on deck before the season finale against Miami.

The celebration: Did you see how happy Randy Edsall was? Maryland finally got to bowl eligibility under the third-year coach, snapping a three-game losing streak by pulling off the overtime upset at Virginia Tech. This was a big deal for Edsall & Co., as evidenced by his oh-so-happy postgame demeanor.

What we learned in the ACC: Week 12

November, 17, 2013
11/17/13
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Here is what we make of this past weekend in the ACC:

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
AP Photo/Phil SearsQuarterback Jameis Winston had another huge day in Florida State's win over Syracuse. He completed 19 of 21 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns.
1. Noles keep rolling. No. 2 Florida State's 59-3 win over Syracuse gave the Seminoles their eighth perfect ACC season. But how about some of these nuggets, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info: FSU is the first team to score 59 or more points and hold an opponent to three or fewer points in consecutive games since 1988, when FSU did it then, too. The Seminoles became the first team to rush for 200-plus yards on 20 rushes or fewer since Hawaii did it against Purdue in 2006. They became the first team to run the ACC table by winning each game by 10 or more points since FSU did it in 1994. And the Noles are the first team in the last 10 seasons with three conference wins by 55-plus points. They have scored at least 40 points in all 10 games, too, one shy of Texas' 11 games with 40 or more points in 2005.

2. Duke is for real, folks. Make that six in a row for the Blue Devils, now 4-2 in the ACC and in sole possession of first place of the Coastal Division. They ran over, around and through Miami in delivering the Hurricanes their third straight loss, as they reached the eight-win mark for the first time since 1994 and beat Miami for the first time since 1976, and just the second time ever. Duke has won consecutive games against ranked opponents for the first time since 1989. Hats off to David Cutcliffe & Co., who close at Wake Forest and at North Carolina, and may just be ranked when the polls are released later today.

3. BC, Maryland going bowling. Give credit to both schools for big performances Saturday. Andre Williams was his ridiculous self again, setting the ACC single-game and single-season rushing record as he went for 339 yards (1,810 on the season) as the Eagles closed out Senior Day with a 38-21 win over NC State. C.J. Brown, meanwhile, rushed for 122 yards and two scores, including the game-winning 3-yard rush as Maryland upset Virginia Tech in overtime. North Carolina edged a step closer to the postseason with a win over Pitt. The Panthers, meanwhile, play fellow five-win team Syracuse this Saturday, meaning at least one will become bowl eligible as well. NC State's postseason hopes, meanwhile, are officially over with its loss at BC.

4. UNC keeps rolling. Speaking of North Carolina ... what a turnaround for the folks in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels have won four in a row after racing out to a 27-3 lead versus Pittsburgh, blowing it, then hanging on for dear life as Ryan Switzer clinched the win with a 61-yard punt return for a score in the fourth quarter. Marquise Williams continued to impress stepping in for the injured Bryn Renner, as he completed 15 of 27 passes for 173 yards and added 79 rushing yards and two scores on 15 carries. The defense sacked Tom Savage seven times, and now all UNC needs to do is beat Old Dominion at home Saturday to clinch bowl eligibility.

5. Remember Clemson? BCS bowl executives probably should. The Tigers became the forgotten team after getting routed at home by Florida State. And they will probably need to win at rival South Carolina in the regular-season finale. But they are looking pretty good right now at 9-1, impressively routing Georgia Tech 55-31 on Thursday night behind Tajh Boyd's 340 passing yards, 43 rushing yards and five total touchdowns. Boyd broke Philip Rivers' ACC record for career touchdown passes (he now has 97) and is one 300-yard game shy of Rivers' ACC record (18) in that category, too.

ACC weekend rewind: Week 10

November, 4, 2013
11/04/13
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Florida State once again made its case as a national title contender. North Carolina showed that its postseason hopes are still very much alive. And we likely said some unfortunate goodbyes to a couple of the ACC's biggest playmakers Saturday, as they went down with tough injuries. Here is one last look back at the week that was in the conference:

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
AP Photo/Phil SearsJameis Winston helped Florida State win and stay in the national title conversation.
The good: The ACC's biggest claim toward national respectability remains alive, as Florida State again looked like a national title contender in its 41-14 win over Miami. The Seminoles are up to No. 2 in the BCS standings after passing their biggest remaining regular-season test with flying colors. If Jameis Winston's night -- 21-of-29 passing for 325 yards, a touchdown and two picks -- is to be considered an "off" one, then we should all pity the remaining defenses on FSU's schedule once he gets his act together.

The bad: What's gotten into Virginia Tech? The Hokies had looked like a squad with a legitimate shot at being the second-best team in the conference, but have lost two in a row to Duke and Boston College as they enter a must-win game at division rival Miami. Logan Thomas turned the ball over four times, including a costly pick-six in the fourth quarter that gave the Eagles a lead they would never relinquish. The defense struggled to contain Andre Williams and the BC rushing attack, which gained 196 yards.

The ugly: Duke Johnson's season is over after the Miami running back went down with a broken right ankle on a fourth-down play late in the third quarter of the Hurricanes' loss at Florida State. Michael Campanaro broke his collarbone in Wake Forest's 13-0 loss at Syracuse and is out four to six weeks. Given that timetable, and the possibility that the Demon Deacons may not make a bowl game, there is a chance we may have seen the last of the fifth-year senior in a Wake Forest uniform, which would be an unfortunate ending for a guy who became the school's all-time receptions leader just two weeks earlier.

The turnaround: Boston College has already doubled its win total from last season under new coach Steve Addazio, who just keeps pushing after his team gave Florida State and Clemson all it could handle earlier in the season. It all came together in Saturday's win over Virginia Tech, with the defense making plays, Chase Rettig effectively managing the offense and Andre Williams being Andre Williams. A 34-27 win has the Eagles at 4-4 and in striking distance of bowl eligibility with four games left to play.

The awakening: North Carolina won at rival NC State 27-19 for its second straight win after a 1-5 start. While the Wolfpack are searching for answers at 0-5 in ACC play, the Tar Heels find themselves with new life as they enter a stretch of games against Virginia, Pitt, Old Dominion and Duke. It has been said in this space before but it is worth repeating: A 3-1 stretch in those games is very possible, which would be a remarkable turnaround for a team that seemingly could not do anything right through the season's first half.

The history: Tajh Boyd had a pretty nice day at the office at Virginia, completing 24 of 29 passes for 377 yards with three passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown and one interception through one half and one series played. He also improved to 4-0 in games against teams from his home state. The 59-10 Tigers win marked the Cavaliers' second defeat by that score this season (Oregon). Boyd became the ACC's career leader in touchdowns accounted for, as his 33-yard touchdown pass to Sammy Watkins less than 90 seconds into the game broke a tie at 112 touchdowns with Philip Rivers. Boyd had a 96-yard touchdown strike to Watkins early in the third quarter, the longest pass of his career.

The postseason-bound: Georgia Tech's 21-10 win over Pitt gave it a third straight win after a three-game losing streak. The Yellow Jackets clinched bowl eligibility for the 17th straight season, becoming the sixth ACC team to win six games so far this season. Syracuse's win over Wake Forest, meanwhile, has the Orange at 4-4 and making a late push for the postseason, and only Virginia has been eliminated after suffering its seventh loss Saturday. There will be plenty of postseason implications throughout most of the ACC's remaining games.

The freak: His team fell to 4-4 after losing its second straight game, but we must recognize Aaron Donald for his ridiculous stat line in Pitt's loss at Georgia Tech. The defensive tackle had 11 total tackles (all solo), two forced fumbles, one sack and an outstanding six tackles for loss, the most by an FBS player this season. To put that into perspective, the Yellow Jackets ran 63 offensive plays Saturday. As my dear friend Jerry DiPaola notes, that meant nearly 10 percent of its snaps ended in a Donald tackle behind the line of scrimmage.

ACC weekend rewind: Week 6

October, 7, 2013
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There were plenty of fireworks across the ACC this past weekend. There is now one fewer undefeated team, too. Here's a look back at the weekend that was in the conference as some teams reach the halfway point of their seasons.

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
Melina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsJameis Winston was unstoppable yet again, as the redshirt freshman is moving up Heisman watch lists.
The good: Jameis Winston and Tajh Boyd further solidified their standings among early-season Heisman Trophy contenders, and their teams now look destined for a collision course Oct. 19. Winston completed 23 of 32 passes for career-bests of 393 yards and five touchdowns, respectively. He also added 24 rushing yards in Florida State's 63-0 rout of Maryland. Meanwhile, Boyd completed 20 of 27 passes for 455 yards with touchdowns and two interceptions. The national spotlight will be on Death Valley once again in two weeks, as the game between the Seminoles and Tigers will have large implications in both the awards race and the national title race.

The bad: Virginia accounted for the ACC's lone nonconference loss Saturday, falling 48-27 to Ball State at home and again making its Week 1 win over BYU look more and more like a mirage. The Cavaliers were outscored 24-3 in the game's final 16 minutes as they fell below .500. Their normally stout defense surrendered 506 total yards of offense, a far cry from its stingy performance a week earlier in a 14-3 loss at Pitt. The Cavaliers remain just 0-1 in ACC play, but need answers fast if they hope to finish the season at .500 and go bowling.

The ugly: For as much credit as FSU deserves for its 63-0 rout of Maryland ... this game said plenty about the Terrapins, too. For one, they were ranked No. 25 coming in, and were 4-0. Secondly, they made all kinds of bad history. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Maryland was on the losing end of what is now tied for the largest margin of victory over a ranked team since the AP poll began in 1936. (UCLA beat No. 11 Texas 66-3 in 1997.) This was also the largest margin of defeat for any team in an ACC game in league play. Maryland entered the game No. 6 nationally in total defense and No. 3 in scoring defense. The Terps dropped to 22nd and 33rd, respectively.

The resurgence: Logan Thomas is beginning to look more and more like the Logan Thomas everyone expected from the Virginia Tech quarterback two years ago. And, more important, he has the Hokies looking like a viable Coastal Division contender. Thomas completed 19 of 28 throws for 293 yards against North Carolina, matching a career high with three touchdown passes in a 27-17 win to get to 2-0 in conference play. Thomas, who had miserable start to the season (48.5 percent completion rate, four touchdowns, six interceptions), has now churned out consecutive strong performances to open conference play, as he was coming off a win at Georgia Tech in which he started the game 9-for-9 and finished 19 of 25 for 221 yards and a touchdown.

The workhorse (again): Andre Williams just keeps going and going, and going some more. The senior helped Boston College eclipse last season's win total, as a 48-27 win over Army got the Eagles to 3-2 under first-year coach Steve Addazio. Williams carried the ball 30 times for career-bests of 263 yards and five touchdowns. The five scores tied Montel Harris' single-game school record. The 263 yards were one shy of Harris' single-game BC record, although Williams actually held the record for a very brief moment before losing a yard on his final carry of the game. Williams has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in four of five games this season, and he now leads the nation in rushing yards per game (153.6) and total carries (133) while ranking third in rushing yards (768).

The in-state stand: Few would have argued entering Saturday that Wake Forest was the worst team in the ACC. But the Demon Deacons reversed course against NC State, getting a huge lift from Tanner Price and Michael Campanaro to pull off the 28-13 upset. Surprisingly enough, it was Wake's sixth straight home win against the Wolfpack, who have not won in Winston-Salem, N.C., since 2001, when Philip Rivers was their quarterback. NC State looked to have a favorable road ahead of it after a 3-1 start (and close loss to Clemson), but the Pack now find themselves in an 0-2 hole in conference play. The imminent return of quarterback Brandon Mitchell should provide a boost.

The slide …: When will it end for North Carolina? The Tar Heels have now lost three in a row, and their next game is next Thursday at undefeated Miami. Marquise Williams got the surprise start at quarterback in place of Bryn Renner (foot) and was stellar, but he and the Tar Heels offense turned it over to Virginia Tech three times while generating zero takeaways, erasing what was the best offensive output against the Hokies this season (376 total yards). A block-in-the-back penalty on what would have been an 82-yard Ryan Switzer punt return marked the third straight week UNC had a touchdown revoked because of a penalty.

… and the surge: Miami is up to No. 13 in the country after improving to 5-0 with a 45-30 win over Georgia Tech, placing themselves in the driver's seat, along with Virginia Tech, of the Coastal Division. What was impressive this time around was the way the Hurricanes recovered when down 17-7, as they went on a 38-6 run over a 37-minute stretch -- against a very good Yellow Jackets defense -- to seize control of the game and win their conference opener. The win was big for the Sunshine State too, as Saturday marked the first time all seven of Florida's FBS teams won in the same day.

Welcome to the ACC: Syracuse surrendered a touchdown 38 seconds into its first-ever ACC game and never really could keep pace with Clemson in its 49-14 home loss, the Orange's first home loss since the start of last season after six straight wins. Hopes of pulling off another big home upset (Louisville in 2012, West Virginia in 2011) were washed away fairly early. Terrel Hunt struggled against good competition, going just 8-of-24 for 52 yards with three picks, while Scott Shafer lost his cool on the sideline when Dabo Swinney went for it on fourth down up 28 in the second quarter, though Shafer apologized after.

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