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Tag:Gio Bernard
Posted on: December 26, 2011 8:23 pm
Edited on: December 26, 2011 9:02 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Missouri 41, North Carolina 24

Posted by Chip Patterson

MISSOURI WON. The Tigers scored on their first five offensive drives, and never gave North Carolina a chance to come back on the the way to a 41-24 win in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl. Missouri quarterback James Franklin delivered another impressive dual threat performance - picking up 132 yards and a touchdownthrough the air while adding 142 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

HOW MISSOURI WON: North Carolina's offense never had a chance to get in a rhythm, with the Tigers' defense applying pressure to quarterback Bryn Renner and shutting down the Tar Heels' rushing attack. North Carolina picked up just 36 team rushing yards against Missouri, well below their regular season average of 147.4 yards per game. But that defense also benefited from the efficiency of Franklin and the offense. The Tigers scored on every offensive possession in the first half, and did not punt until the 7:16 mark in the third quarter. While the defense was delivering stops, the offense continued to grind away at the Tar Heels and create scoring opportunities by converting on key third downs. The extended drives kept the Tigers in the driving seat, all the way until the end. The victory gave the Tigers their sixth-straight 8-win season, and some great momentum on their way into the SEC East.

WHEN MISSOURI WON: Midway through the second quarter, North Carolina's defense needed to deliver a stop to keep the Tigers from scoring after a Gio Bernard fumble. Staring down a short field, Franklin converted on 2 third downs in the 40 yard drive on the way to increasing the Missouri lead to 24-7. On the Tar Heels' next play from scrimmage, a Dwight Jones bobbled catch turned into an astonishing interception for Tigers' defensive back Zaviar Gooden. At that point, it was clear things weren't going North Carolina's way.

WHAT MISSOURI WON: A fine highlight to show to their future conference partners in the SEC. James Franklin's performance against a talented North Carolina defense showed how comfortable he has gotten leading this Tigers' offense. Now with four-straight wins since Henry Josey's freak knee injury, Franklin has displayed the composure Missouri will need facing the SEC defenses in 2012.

WHAT NORTH CAROLINA LOST: North Carolina's roster has several NFL Draft hopefuls, but none of the prospects got much to put on tape from Monday night's loss. There was some speculation heading into the game that the talented draft class would look to make a statement in their final game as a Tar Heel. For whatever combination of reasons, the Tar Heels missed out on the opportunity to pick up their second-straight bowl victory because they didn't show up.

THAT WAS CRAZY: The aforementioned Dwight Jones bobble interception.  It was just one of those moments when the ball seemed to bobble forever, and the ease with which it fell to Gooden made you believe this was not North Carolina's day.

FINAL GRADE: B-minus. Franklin was still producing impressive plays on his feet well into the fourth quarter, and North Carolina's brief offensive explosion in the third quarter kept it interesting. But the Tar Heels' unenthusiastic showing in general took some of the luster of this matchup. Missouri was decidedly dominant throughout the game, and there was very little in doubt after the second drive of the game. .

Preview the next games on the bowl slate at the Bowl Schedule Pregame

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Posted on: December 19, 2011 4:47 pm
Edited on: December 19, 2011 4:50 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Independence Bowl

Posted by Chip Patterson

MISSOURI WILL WIN IF: They can limit turnovers on offense and prevent the big play on defense. Sophomore quarterback James Franklin's performance in the regular season finale against Kansas showed both the best and worst of Missouri's offense sans Henry Josey (knee). The worst came early in the game, with Franklin tossing three interceptions in the first 18 minutes of play and the Tigers' offense only producing one scoring drive - which resulted in a field goal. The best came in the second half, with Franklin wearing down the Kansas defense and taking advantage of their weaknesses by creating big plays on the way to a 24-10 win.

North Carolina is much stronger than Kansas, and three first half interceptions may not be something the Tigers can expect to bounce back from in the Independence Bowl. As long as Franklin is smart with the ball and avoids turnovers, he can keep taking his shots through the air and on the ground until he eventually hits the big play. Defensively the Tigers are much better than their numbers suggest, especially when you consider the competition. Still, even the best defense can be broken down by someone like North Carolina wide receivers Dwight Jones, Erik Highsmith, or Jheranie Boyd. Running back Gio Bernard will likely see a heavy load on the ground as well, and the Tigers must keep the shifty freshman from breaking outside and hitting the sidelines.

NORTH CAROLINA WILL WIN IF: The front seven can contain and pressure Missouri quarterback James Franklin. Ever since Henry Josey's season-ending knee injury, much of Missouri's offense has been based around Franklin creating plays. Luckily for the Tigers the sophomore signal caller not only can extend the play with his legs, but take off and make defenders miss in the open field. In the first game without Josey - the Big 12's leading rusher at the time of his injury - Franklin rushed for a career high 152 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries while still adding 172 yards and two touchdowns through the air. North Carolina's front seven is filled with NFL-caliber talent. However, there have been several games this season where it seems the defensive line and linebackers have not lived up to that NFL-caliber hype. With the nationally televised bowl game, it would be in the best interest of these pro prospects to delver their best performance of the season in this game. If Quinton Coples, Tydreke Powell, Zach Brown, and the rest of the front seven are able to contain and frustrate James Franklin, they will benefit their own draft stock and give the Tar Heels a much better chance to win their second-straight bowl game. A win-win scenario for the NFL-hopefuls.

X-FACTOR: Who Wants It More? Missouri certainly enters the game with a momentum advantage, winning four of their final five games while North Carolina lost four of their last six. Missouri picked up the invite after being over by the bowls with a Big 12 tie-in, not a surprise considering the Tigers' upcoming departure for the SEC. It will be the last game for interim head coach Everett Withers, who has already confirmed he's not staying with the Tar Heels "in any capacity" under new head coach Larry Fedora. So with Missouri in between conferences and North Carolina in between coaches, the team that can find the motivation for the moment will have an advantage on Dec. 26 in Shreveport.

That kind of advantage will likely be necessary in a bowl game that has been decided by seven points or less five of the last six years, with Georgia's 44-20 win against Texas A&M in 2009 being the only exception. Regardless of the expectations heading into the game, that matchup has always been close in recent years. Maybe it is the mystic atmosphere of Shreveport, or Independence Stadium - where the game has been played every year since the bowl's creation in 1976 - but advantages in X's and O's seem to matter much less in this game. For either team to get win No. 8 in 2011, they will need an extra dose of "Want" on Dec. 26.

Check out all the latest updates on Missouri and North Carolina right up until kickoff at the Independence Bowl Pregame

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Posted on: December 16, 2011 10:55 am
Edited on: December 16, 2011 10:56 am
 

PODCAST: Wrapping up the ACC and Big East

Posted by Chip Patterson

It must be the holiday season, because Adam Aizer and I are in the giving sprit and delivering two conference wrap-up podcasts for the price of one. In this edition of the CBSSports.com College Football Podcast, Adam and I put a bow on the regular season in the ACC and the Big East and break down the best and worst of both conferences.

Pleasant surprises, biggest disappointments, conference awards and the best games of the season. What worked well for Mike London in his second year at Virginia? What didn't work well for Todd Graham at Pittsburgh and Randy Edsall at Maryland? We run down each team in the ACC and Big East and tell you what worked and what didn't in 2011.


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Posted on: December 7, 2011 6:49 pm
Edited on: December 7, 2011 7:05 pm
 

CBSSports.com 2011 All-ACC First Team

Posted by Chip Patterson

The season has wrapped, the bowl games are set and it's time to hand out some awards. As part of CBSSports.com's look at the regular season, here is the best of the ACC.

Awards

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

David Wilson, running back, Virginia Tech

Throughout the regular season, no player was more consistent than Virginia Tech running back David Wilson. Championship game performance aside, Wilson was the answer every single time the Hokies needed a jolt for their occasionally-sputtering offense. As Logan Thomas grew into the starting quarterback position, Wilson was there as a crutch to help draw the attention of the opposing defense and deliver that home run play to seal a victory. He led the conference in rushing, totaled over 2,000 all-purpose yards, and was one of major reasons Virginia Tech made the ACC Championship Game for the fifth time in seven years.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Luke Kuechly, linebacker, Boston College

Arguably one of the best linebackers in Boston College history capped off his junior year by leading the nation in tackles for the second year in a row, and the . Kuechly sense for where the play is going is uncanny, and his physical abilities on the field make him deserving of his nickname: Superman. Off the field he'd remind you more of Clark Kent, but Kuechly credits that intense film study as a primary reason for his success. He averaged over 15 tackles per game in 2011, and added three interceptions including one pick-six. This is likely it for Kuechly, who is eligible for the NFL draft, but it has been a privilege to watch him dominate the position for the last three seasons.

FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR

Sammy Watkins, wide receiver, Clemson

The thing that makes Watkins a nightmare for opposing teams is the different ways he can have an effect on the game. Any time the explosive wide receiver has the ball in his hands, he is a threat to break loose and reach the end zone. Watkins lines up at wideout, slot receiver, H-back, runs end-arounds, and is both a kick and punt returner. On defense you have to be aware of where #2 is at all times, and in the special teams you have to decide whether you want to put the ball in his hands. Watkins also totaled over 2,000 all-purpose yards in 2011, something that has only been done six times in ACC history.

COACH OF THE YEAR

Mike London, Virginia

London's second season at Virginia was supposed to be another building block for the promising young coach back in his home state. After pulling in a top-ranked recruiting class in February, you could see the momentum moving towards Virginia becoming a player in the ACC once again. But with a roster of Al Groh's leftovers, the media picked the Cavaliers to finish only ahead of Duke in the ACC's Coastal Division. Virginia head very few stars, but London had them playing tough and physical football late in the season as they tore through the conference schedule and came within a game of clinching the school's first share of the ACC Coastal Division title.

All-ACC Offense

QUARTERBACK

Tajh Boyd, Clemson

Throwing for over 3000 yards with 31 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions is not simply the product of a "system." Boyd struggled some down the stretch - possibly the result of injuries along the offensive line - but when he was rolling no quarterback was better than the Tigers' redshirt sophomore. Boyd was given an arsenal of weapons at the skill positions, and he excelled at spreading the ball around to keep defenses on their toes. What's really scary is that Boyd and most of his comrades will be back to defend Clemson's title in 2012.

RUNNING BACKS

David Wilson, Virginia Tech and Lamar Miller, Miami

Like Wilson, Lamar Miller was a steady producer in an unsteady offense. The Miami offensive line dealt with injuries and position shifting all season, but Miller showed the ability to adapt on the fly and finished the season with over 1200 yards rushing and nine touchdowns. Also like Wilson, Miller is nearly uncatchable if he can hit the sideline in space and will be a very high prospect if he decides to make the jump to the league after this season.

WIDE RECEIVERS


Dwight Jones
, North Carolina and Sammy Watkins, Clemson

Jones and Watkins each had over 75 receptions, 1100 yards, and exactly 11 touchdowns in 2011. Only Wake Forest's Chris Givens was better in any statistical category (1.276 yards) and no wide receiver meant more to their team than the senior leader and the freshman phenom. They make an odd pair, but they were the two most consistent performers on the outside all season in the ACC.

TIGHT END

Dwayne Allen, Clemson

Allen's size and speed make him a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses, and only a case of turf toe slowed him from taking over a few games down the stretch. There was no tight end in the conference that jumped out quite like Allen, who was a red zone monster with eight touchdowns on the season.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Phillip Price, Clemson; Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina; Joe Looney, Wake Forest; Blake DeChristopher, Virginia Tech; and Jay Finch, Georgia Tech

The value of many of these offensive linemen was seen this season not just by what they did on the field but by how much their team was hurt when they were off the field. Significant drop-offs for these units that were otherwise rock solid showed the value of lineman like Phillip Price and Jay Finch, while others like Joe Looney stacked pancakes like an IHOP.

All-ACC Defense

DEFENSIVE LINE

Andre Branch, Clemson; Quinton Coples, North Carolina; Joe Vellano, Maryland; Brandon Thompson, Clemson

Clemson's dominant defensive linemen were given a green light to create havoc in the trenches all season, and that's exactly what they did. Vellano totaled 94 tackles on the season, but it was his 20 tackle performance in a 21-16 loss to Georgia Tech that stood out when very little for the Terps was working. Coples received extra attention and double-team treatment all season, yet still finished second in the ACC with 7.5 sacks.

LINEBACKERS

Sean Spence, Miami; Luke Kuechly, Boston College; Zach Brown, North Carolina

The linebacker position was LOADED in the ACC. Terrell Manning from NC State, Bruce Taylor from Virginia Tech, Jeremiah Attaochu from Georgia Tech all could have been on this list, but these three players meant the most to their team at the position. Kuechly's accolades are well documented, but Spence and Brown took leadership of their group and led by example as playmakers all over the field.

SECONDARY

David Amerson, NC State; Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech; Matt Daniels, Duke; Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech

Amerson came one interception away from breaking the ACC single-season record set by Dre Bly in 1997, and was an unsuspected star in a unit that was considered a weakness coming into the season. The secondaries in the ACC were also strong for the most part, but Hosley, Daniels, and Fuller got the nod for their flexibility to move positions/responsibilities yet still have a dramatic impact on the game. Fuller actually ranked 15th in the ACC in sacks with 4.5, just a half-sack behind teammate Bruce Taylor.

SPECIALISTS

PK Cody Journell, Virginia Tech; P Shaun Powell, Florida State; KR/PR T.J. Graham, NC State

T.J. Graham and Sammy Watkins could have tied for the specialist honor, but I gave Graham the nod for his contributions across his career and the aforementioned Watkins praise currently covering this post. The placekicking was pretty dismal in the ACC, but Journell was one of the few consistent-ish kickers in the league. Powell is arguably one of the best punters in the nation, and similarly stood out after a season of questionable punting.

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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.

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview
Posted on: November 15, 2011 3:20 pm
 

Keys to the Game: North Carolina at Virginia Tech

Posted by Chip Patterson

VIRGINIA TECH WILL WIN IF: They create turnovers and dictate the pace of the game. One thing Virginia Tech has done as well as anyone in the conference is hold on to a lead. It is not always pretty, as shown in the Hokies' 14-10 victory over Duke, but for the most part the ability to control the ball and shut down offensive drives has helped keep Virginia Tech at the top of the division. As the clock winds down in the second half, the Hokies will force their opposition to start taking chances in order to get back into the game. That's when Bud Foster's defense thrives, forcing turnovers and coming up with a stop in a crucial situation. The Tar Heels have lost three of their last four, and looked shaky outside for their win against Wake Forest. If Virginia Tech can get a first half lead and rattle Bryn Renner early, they could set themselves up for second half turnovers to ice the game.

NORTH CAROLINA WILL WIN IF: Logan Thomas and David Wilson are neutralized. This may be done with on-field performance or it may happen by sickness/injury. But if Thomas and Wilson are given the freedom to get going offensively North Carolina will not have much of a chance on the road in Blacksburg. Ball control has been an essential part of several Hokie victories, so running back Gio Bernard will need to get the ground game going to keep drives alive. The Tar Heels need to revert back to their performance against Wake Forest, when the offense put up 562 yards of offense and 49 points on the Demon Deacons. Bryn Renner was calculating and accurate with the ball, completing 21 of 28 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns. North Carolina's offense needs to get that type of production in order to knock off the Hokies at home.

X-FACTOR: North Carolina's secondary. Logan Thomas has been streaky with his ability to consistently get the ball to his receivers for four quarters. However, the North Carolina secondary has been equally inconsistent and burned for a big play more times than Everett Withers would care to count. If North Carolina's secondary steps up to the challenge and makes the Hokies one-dimensional, and North Carolina's rush defense is one of the best in the ACC. If Logan Thomas gets hot playing pitch and catch, he could end up burning the Tar Heels deep with a big play. Something North Carolina cannot afford to give up against an opponent like Virginia Tech.

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Posted on: November 6, 2011 3:30 am
Edited on: November 6, 2011 3:31 am
 

ACC Winners and Losers: Week 10



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: Tom O'Brien

NC State's head coach entered the rivalry weekend with plenty of buzz around his name. The Wolfpack needed a win to keep bowl eligibility hopes alive, and O'Brien's less-than-stellar record against competition was starting to come up in potential "hot seat" discussions. In addition to that pressure, North Carolina interim head coach Everett Withers and O'Brien made headlines with their verbal sparring on the topics of academics and who is the state's "flagship" school.

Tom O'Brien won the battle with the biggest zinger of them all, a 13-0 shutout of North Carolina in Raleigh. NC State's rush defense stepped up to the task of slowing star freshman Gio Bernard, and their penetration into the backfield made life tough for quarterback Bryn Renner. Renner left the game with "concussion-like symptoms," and the NC State defense just turned up the head on backup quarterback Braden Hanson. It wasn't the prettiest win, but it was a deflating loss for North Carolina. It was Tom O'Brien's funniest joke.

LOSER: North Carolina's offense

The Tar Heels looked uninspired and unemotional on offense in the 13-0 loss to NC State. The scoreless effort was the first for North Carolina this season, and extremely unusual for a team that has scored 20+ points in eight of their first nine contests. The Wolfpack showed up with a plan to stop the rushing attack and pressure sophomore quarterback Bryn Renner. Renner was on the run all afternoon, and was eventually sacked four times for a total loss for 48 yards. After a week of smack talk between the rival schools, North Carolina's failure to show up does not speak well for the future of interim coach Everett Withers. NC State was not able to make the most of great field position all game, but they were able to accomplish enough to escape with the victory. The Tar Heels may be bowl eligible, but Saturday's performance left fans uncertain about North Carolina's immediate future.

WINNER: Virginia's revivial 

For the first time since the 2007, and only the third time since 2005, Virginia is bowl eligible. Mike London's 2011 calendar year will be remembered with a late recruiting surge early, and an impressive improvement in conference play late. After winning just one ACC matchup in 2010, the Cavaliers have started 3-2 in league play with Duke, Florida State, and Virginia Tech left on the schedule. The Wahoos haven't finished .500 or better in conference play since that 2007 Gator Bowl season, and a win over the Blue Devils would at least secure that accomplishment for London. The second-year head coach served as Al Groh's defensive coordinator for that 2007 season, making 2011's success even more sweet.

LOSER: Anyone who watched Florida State-Boston College

Florida State may have walked out of Chestnut Hill with a convincing 38-7 win over Boston College, but very little about the contest was appealing to college football fans. Only 514 total yards of offense and five turnovers between the two teams kept the level of interest at "marginal" through most of the Thursday night game. The game was presumably set for primetime in the thinking that Florida State would be contending for ACC titles and Boston College would be led by Montel Harris ready to stun the Seminoles. But a banged up Eagles squad was outmatched in nearly every aspect of the game on Thursday, Head coach Frank Spaziani will likely have to start addressing job security questions in the week ahead, as the seventh loss makes Boston College ineligible for the postseason for the first time in 12 seasons.

WINNER: Miami offense

Jacory Harris spoke on the topic of needing consistency after the Hurricanes fell to Virginia at home last Thursday. Miami was consistent on offense against Duke in the 49-14 win on Saturday - consistently scoring touchdowns when they touched the ball. Harris led the Hurricanes to touchdowns on their first five drives of the game, and finished with scores on seven of the nine times they touched the ball.

Some of the success is due to the competition, but Miami's execution on offense was a result of a full game plan that might as well have been called "bounce back." Al Golden's squad looked sharper on offense, defense, and in the special teams after embarrassing themselves on national television in the loss to Virginia. In addition to Lamar Miller breaking the 1,000 yard mark on the season, junior wide receiver Tommy Streeter caught his eight touchdown pass of the season. The score pulls Streeter into a tie for second place in the ACC, and ranks him among the Top 15 receivers nationally in that category. Miami just needs one more win to become bowl eligible. With Florida State, South Florida, and Boston College left on the schedule, the expectation is that Golden will have this squad in the postseason by December.

LOSER: Maryland's fan support

A disappointing season has come to an end, at least for the Maryland fans in Byrd Stadium. The Terrapins "celebrated" their Senior Day on Saturday with a 31-13 loss to Virginia to close out the home schedule. After trailing by only one point at halftime, the Terps failed to score in the second half and gave up 300+ passing yards to once of the ACC's least consistent quarterbacks. Virginia's Michael Rocco completed 23 of 36 passes for 307 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Perry Jones added 139 yards rushing in the 527 yard offensive effort. I would suggest the performance might be enough for Maryland fans to have good reason for concern, but judging by the attendance it looks like the fan base is already plenty concerned. Noon kickoffs can be tough for ACC fans, but on a Senior Day this kind of showing (picture taken 10 minutes before kickoff) is pretty disappointing.



WINNERS: Lamar Miller and Gio Bernard

While Bernard struggled to meet his usual production against a well-prepared NC State defense, there was the small victory of him passing the 1,000 yard mark on the season. Miami running back Lamar Miller also accomplished that feat on Saturday, though he enjoyed the celebration of a 49-14 win over Duke. Bernard is the first 1,000 yard rusher form North Carolina since Jonathan Linton broke that mark in 1997. The redshirt freshman has played banged up the last several weeks, though continues to take the field. The Wolfpack held him to just 47 yards on 18 carries, his second-lowest output of the season. Miller, on the other hand, picked up 147 yards and a pair of touchdowns in a 20-carry effort against the Blue Devils. Miller is the first Hurricane to break the 1,000-yard mark since Willis McGahee in 2002.

LOSER: Wake Forest 2nd half offense

Credit the Demon Deacons for putting themselves in a position to knock off Notre Dame in the first-ever meeting of the two schools. But Wake Forest's inability to produce a single point in the second half kept them from picking up that all-important sixth win on Saturday night. Twice Wake Forest had the ball at the Notre Dame 10-yard-line in the second half, but those opportunities ended in a Brandon Pendergrass fumble and David Newman missed field goal. There were opportunities all over the place for Wake Forest, who led 17-10 at halftime. They played well against the top-caliber competition, but the Demon Deacons needed four quarters of solid play from the offense to emerge victorious.

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Posted on: October 23, 2011 12:05 am
Edited on: October 23, 2011 12:26 am
 

ACC Winners and Losers: Week 8


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: DeAndre "Nuke" Hopkins

Freshman phenom Sammy Watkins has been the Clemson wide receiver who has struck fear in defensive coordinators across the ACC, but Saturday was a reminder that there are plenty of dangerous weapons in the Tigers offense - notably sophomore DeAndre Hopkins. Nuke went off against the Tar Heels, catching 9 passes for a career high 157 yards. Hopkins was one of five different receivers to catch a touchdown pass from quarterback Tajh Boyd, who finished with 367 yards on 46 attempts with no interceptions. If Ellington continues to be bothered by an apparent foot injury, you can expect to see a lot more of Nuke down the stretch.

LOSER: North Carolina's third down efficiency

Defeating Clemson this season is an unbelievably difficult task. Beyond their collection of talent and playmaking ability, the team refuses to quit or stop their relentless attack. But North Carolina made winning in Death Valley so much harder by committing penalties, turning the ball over, and not converting on third downs. The Tar Heels did not convert their first third down until the start of the fourth quarter - when the Tar Heels trailed by 25 points.

One of the ways to take advantage of Clemson is to put together extended drives to keep the ball out of Tajh Boyd's hands. Sophomore quarterback Bryn Renner and the Tar Heels offense did the exact opposite on Saturday by continually handing the ball right back to Tajh Boyd and the Clemson offense. You give the Tigers enough opportunities, they will put basketball numbers on the scoreboard. North Carolina could have played flawlessly on Saturday and still lost, but we'll never know because they did enough beating themselves to put the game out of hand before the fourth quarter even started.

WINNER: Miami's defense

The Hurricanes have been playing much better football in recent weeks, but head coach Al Golden knew they could not defeat Georgia Tech without an improved performance from their defense. They have been hurting on the front line with injuries, but as of last week are back to full-strength from a suspension stand point. Georgia Tech, entering the game as the nations 2nd best rushing team, would be the ultimate challenge in a must-win scenario for the Hurricanes.

Miami's defensive line stuffed the dive from the Yellow Jackets' B-backs, while the linebackers swarmed to the ball to seal off the big play on the perimeter. It was fantastic execution by the entire unit, who only allowed a single scoring drive from Georgia Tech all afternoon. That top-ranked rushing attack only accounted for 127 yards, more than 200 below their season average. If Miami can keep up the effort, there are several winnable games left on the schedule for the Hurricanes to have a memorable on-field finish to a season filled with off-field distractions.

LOSER: Georgia Tech's grip on the Coastal Division

With their second straight conference loss, Georgia Tech has lost their position as frontrunner in the ACC's Coastal Division. There are plenty of places to point the blame. Some will look to the competition, and the unrealistic expectations drawn from weaker defenses the Yellow Jackets' faced in the first month of play. Some will argue that ACC opponents have figured out ways to prepare for, and limit, Paul Johnson's option attack. Johnson himself has spoken of the team's fatigue, and recently cut back on some of the workload in practices.

But whatever the reason, the Yellow Jackets have gotten beat up the last two weeks. The good news for Georgia Tech fans is the team still controls their own destiny in the division. Clemson and Virginia Tech visit Atlanta in the next two contests, with a much-needed bye week between those games. If they can upset Clemson under the lights in Bobby Dodd Stadium, a victory against Virginia Tech would give them a tie for the division lead and ownership of the head-to-head tie breaker. But because of Saturday's loss to Miami, none of that will be possible unless they upset Clemson. Which as we saw elsewhere, might require 94 points.

WINNER: David Amerson and the NC State defense

Just like Miami, N.C. State's defense has caught their fair share of criticism this season. The Wolfpack have been plagued with injuries on the defensive side of the ball, and just now are they starting to get back to full strength. Virginia used a power running game to wear down Georgia Tech a week ago in the upset, but when they tried a similar tactic on N.C. State the Wolfpack were ready. After putting up 272 rushing yards against the Yellow Jackets, N.C. State swarmed into the gaps and won the battle in the trenches to limit the Cavaliers' ability to methodically move the ball while milking the clock.

Once the Wolfpack got the lead, it was David Amerson time. Amerson entered the game leading the nation in interceptions, then picked off both Michael Rocco and David Watford to help seal a big win for N.C. State. Amerson has been viewed as the one bright spot in a struggling defense in some games, but on Saturday he was the icing on the cake in the Wolfpack's first ACC victory of the season.

LOSER: Luke Kuechly

Luke Kuechly is not a loser, but his performances this season have gone largely overlooked because of Boston College's struggles. The junior linebacker entered the game as the nation's leading tackler, averaging 16.5 tackles per game. As the Eagles' defense slowly broke down against David Wilson and Virginia Tech's downhill attack, Kuechly never stopped. The All-American finished Saturday's loss with 19 tackles, and once again seemed to be in on almost every open field tackle. With injuries and close losses, 2011 has not been friendly to Boston College. In the case that this might be Kuechly's last season in Chestnut Hill, it is a shame these performances are finding their way to the back page rather than the headlines.

WINNER: Devonta Freeman

There was a lot that didn't look good for the Seminoles after they suffered their third straight loss to Wake Forest two weeks ago. But the most concerning situation for Florida State's offense was figuring out how to establish a running game, particularly with the season-ending injury to leading rusher Chris Thompson. The Seminoles boasted a stable of talented backs during training camp, but none had emerged as a clear leader once the season started. In the last two weeks, true freshman Devonta Freeman has made his case to be that back for Florida State. Granted the competition has provided some opportunity (Duke and Maryland), but Freeman's back-to-back 100-yard games could be the beginnings of a big-time career for talented rookie. For starters, he is the first freshman to rush for 100 yards in back to back games since 1986. He's already grabbed a small piece of history, now we get to see if he helps the Seminoles bounce back and finish strong after their three-game slide.

LOSER: An unknown amount of C.J. Brown's brain cells

Maryland's freshman quarterback had a brutal meeting with Florida State's Nigel Bradham in the 41-16 loss on Saturday



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