FSU Downs Miami
The Noles win over Miami highlighted ACC play.
By: Rob Doster | 10/11/10, 5:03 PM EDT
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher
The ACC’s highly anticipated battle of Florida turned out to be no contest. Florida State blew out Miami 45–17 on FSU coach Jimbo Fisher’s 45th birthday, scoring a point for every candle on the cake.
The Seminoles (5–1, 3–0 ACC) looked like the best team in the conference and built some momentum heading into upcoming games against Atlantic Division rivals Boston College and NC State. The Hurricanes (3–2, 1–1), meanwhile, were unimpressive in front of their first home sellout crowd since 2004.
The condition of the two teams was most evident in the body language of their quarterbacks. Florida State’s Christian Ponder remained poised in front of the crowd of 75,115, delivering an unspectacular but solid performance with help from his teammates. Miami’s Jacory Harris spent much of the evening limping around with injuries to his groin and left shoulder as his receivers dropped passes that they should have caught.
Harris’ passing statistics were ugly for the second week in a row — he has completed just 32 of his last 79 throws — and his health appears to be a big question mark moving forward. Miami’s chances of winning the Coastal Division are equally uncertain now that Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and North Carolina have gotten back on track. The Hurricanes have played poorly in both of their games against high-quality competition this season, and each of their three wins came against teams that are under .500. That doesn’t bode well for a team that claims to have ACC championship aspirations.
The outlook is much sunnier at this point for the Seminoles, who rushed for 298 yards and got three touchdowns from tailback Jermaine Thomas against Miami. Florida State has run for at least 200 yards in four consecutive games for the first time since 1995, showcasing the kind of offensive balance that the team has lacked in recent years.
The Seminoles should handle reeling Boston College this week, setting up their showdown at NC State on Oct. 28. The winner of that game will have the inside track toward earning a trip to Charlotte, N.C., for the ACC championship game on Dec. 4.
N.C. State 44, Boston College 17
Virginia Tech 45, Central Michigan 21
Georgia Tech 33, Virginia 21
North Carolina 21, Clemson 16
Navy 28, Wake Forest 27
Florida State 45, Miami 17
Tar Heels gaining strength
North Carolina picked up another key player and then picked up another key victory. The Tar Heels (3–2, 1–1), who welcomed back All-ACC safety Deunta Williams from a four-game suspension, held on to beat Clemson despite generating a season-low 255 total yards.
“As I told the players in the locker room, there are a lot of ways to win football games,” said UNC coach Butch Davis, whose team has put together a three-game winning streak. “Some of them don’t always look like the blueprint you draw up sometimes. But when the kids compete and play hard the whole game, it gives you a chance.”
Investigations into UNC’s program concerning improper benefits and possible academic misconduct have robbed the Tar Heels of many of their best players, especially on defense. But UNC’s chances of making noise in the Coastal Division improve every time one of those players gets reinstated.
Williams, who showed some rust against Clemson by allowing a long touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, and fellow starting safety Da’Norris Searcy have returned in the last two weeks to boost a depleted secondary. All-ACC cornerback Kendric Burney, serving a six-game suspension, is scheduled to join them after this week’s game against Virginia.
In the meantime, senior quarterback T.J. Yates and senior tailback Johnny White continue to play better than they ever have. Neither blinked when starting fullback Devon Ramsay was held out Saturday for the first time this season because of the investigations. Yates registered his fourth interception-free game of the year, and White rushed for 89 yards and two touchdowns in addition to catching six passes for 90 yards.
The Tar Heels still have issues, of course, but they have bounced back from early adversity to contend in a league that doesn’t feature a truly elite team.
“It’s just a weight lifted off our shoulders,” White said. “It just didn’t seem like anything would go our way the first two weeks where we were a drive away from winning both of those games, and now finally things are changing and starting to go our way.”
Allen, Jackets run over Cavaliers
Anthony Allen hadn’t forgotten the location of the end zone. It only seemed that way. Allen, a senior B-back who went Georgia Tech’s first five games this season without a score, admitted that he had not been finishing runs as well as he should have. He finally broke out in a big way against Virginia, rushing for 195 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries.
“I didn't know what to do!” Allen joked about celebrating his first score. “It was good to get that first touchdown, and my second, and my third.”
Allen sparked a Georgia Tech offense that had struggled against NC State and Wake Forest. The Yellow Jackets (4–2, 3–1), who rushed for 456 yards in those two games combined, churned out 477 yards on the ground against the Cavaliers. It was the fifth-highest rushing output in school history and the most rushing yards ever for Georgia Tech in an ACC game.
The storyline entering the game involved Al Groh, the former head coach at Virginia who is in his first season as Georgia Tech’s defensive coordinator. But the Yellow Jackets were so effective on the ground that Groh’s defense was on the field for only 23 minutes against the team he coached last season. The performance was a relief for Georgia Tech’s oft-injured and much-maligned offensive line.
“As poorly as we have played and as blind as we have been, this was the game we needed,” center Sean Bedford said. “Not just from a confidence point of view, but also to get everything in gear and moving downhill.”
Deacs fall short late … again
As was the case the previous week, Wake Forest took the field needing one more defensive stop in front of its home fans to secure a victory. As was the case the previous week, Wake Forest’s opponent was an option-heavy team that had to resort to passing the ball because not much time remained. And as was the case the previous week, Wake Forest failed to get the stop.
Ricky Dobbs threw a 6-yard touchdown pass with 26 seconds remaining to lead Navy past the Demon Deacons, capping a 10-play, 64-yard drive. It was eerily similar to the 9-yard touchdown pass Joshua Nesbitt threw with 15 seconds remaining that led Georgia Tech past the Demon Deacons 24–20 the previous week.
Wake Forest (2–4, 1–2) has dropped four consecutive games after opening the season with wins over Presbyterian and Duke, putting its bowl prospects in serious doubt. The losing streak won’t be easy to end next week on a trip to Virginia Tech, which has won four games in a row after starting the season 0–2.
“I think the deal is for every young football team, there comes a point when they get tired of watching the other team celebrate after the game,” Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said. “And when that point comes, we’ll start winning games. Right now, we haven’t done that. I told the kids after the game that’s what has to happen. You have to get to the point where you get tired of losing.”
Hokies win where it counts
Some statistics from Virginia Tech’s game against Central Michigan:
Total yards: Central Michigan 401, Virginia Tech 394.
Third-down conversions: Central Michigan 7-for-20, Virginia Tech 0-for-8.
Time of possession: Central Michigan 35:47, Virginia Tec 24:13.
Turnovers: Central Michigan 1, Virginia Tech 1.
Those numbers hardly seem reflective of a 24-point victory, but that’s exactly what the Hokies (4–2, 2–0) enjoyed in their final non-conference game of the season.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor was the key player for Virginia Tech, moving past Bryan Randall for the most wins (27) by any quarterback in school history. Taylor completed 13 of 23 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown, and he added 127 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in the sixth 100-yard rushing game of his career.
Wolfpack do it all
NC State did more than give Tom O’Brien his first victory against Boston College since he left Chestnut Hill in 2006 after 10 seasons as head coach. The Wolfpack scored touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams in the same game for the first time since a 49–21 victory over Texas Tech in 2003.
Cornerback C.J. Wilson completed the trifecta, picking off a pass from Dave Shinskie and returning it 28 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. Wilson, who picked off a pass and ran it back 43 yards in his team’s 28–21 victory at Central Florida on Sept. 11, became the first NC State player to score on two interception returns in the same season since Greg Williams in 1966.
• Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich showed yet another example of his toughness over the weekend. Herzlich, who has returned after missing all of last season while recovering from cancer, played against NC State with a broken bone in his left hand. Herzlich wore a huge wrap that rendered his fingers immobile, but he still intercepted one pass and broke up another in addition to making three tackles.
• Clemson coach Dabo Swinney attempted to shield his players from blame in the aftermath of the Tigers’ third consecutive loss, but he gave plenty of ammunition to his critics in the process. “I’m extremely embarrassed,” Swinney said. “This team deserves better, Clemson deserves better, the fans deserve better. This is just not a very well-coached football team right now, and it’s my fault. I’m extremely disappointed in what I saw today. I saw a team that wasn’t very smart, I saw a team that wasn’t very disciplined. I saw a team get a lot of critical penalties, right from the beginning of the game on the first play. I saw a team give up a huge play that led to a score right before the end of the half. I’m embarrassed. I’m extremely disappointed in myself. I’m better than this, I know I’m better than this, and it’s my job to get it fixed. It’s nobody else’s job. This football team didn’t quit, the football team played, they tried as hard as they could, and it’s obvious they’re just not very well-coached.”
• Florida State backup tailback Chris Thompson rushed for a career-high 158 yards on 14 carries against Miami. Thompson gave his stats a huge boost late in the fourth quarter with a 90-yard touchdown run, the third-longest rush in FSU history and the longest run ever allowed by the Hurricanes.
• Georgia Tech posted consecutive victories over Virginia for the first time since 1990-91. The Yellow Jackets have won six consecutive games against their Coastal Division foes.
• Tailback Graig Cooper, Miami’s leading rushing each of the last three seasons, showed some burst in his first playing time since the season opener. Cooper, who had been out with an ankle injury after spending the off-season rehabbing from knee surgery, gained 22 yards on two carries and caught a pass for 11 yards against Florida State.
• North Carolina has played back-to-back games without a turnover for the first time since 1996.
*Virginia tailback Keith Payne, who rushed for 56 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries against Georgia Tech, had some unconventional help on his 1-yard TD run in the fourth quarter. Linebacker Darnell Carter, who tallied the first interception of his career earlier in the game, lined up at fullback to help clear Payne’s path to the end zone.
• Virginia Tech tailbacks Darren Evans and David Wilson filled in admirably once again for injured starter Ryan Williams, who missed his third consecutive game with a hamstring injury. Evans and Wilson each rushed for a touchdown against Central Michigan while combining for 119 yards on 14 carries.
• Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price produced a record-breaking return to action after sitting out last week’s game with a concussion. Price completed 37 of 53 passes for 326 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions against Navy, completing more passes and throwing for more yardage than any true freshman in school history.
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