NCAAF Team Report - Virginia Tech - INSIDE SLANT
The Atlantic Coast Conference had four 4-0 teams for the first time in history -- of course, with expansion there was a larger pool to pick from.
Now there are three 5-0 teams. Something had to give when Florida State played Maryland. It gave away in a hurry, with Florida State posting a 63-0 rout.
Miami had the biggest challenge, fending off Georgia Tech 45-30 in finally another competitive game for the Hurricanes.
So things remain on course, particularly for a Florida State-Clemson showdown Oct. 19. Florida State doesn't play again until that game, so all Clemson has to do is win at home against Boston College to make the clash a matchup of unbeatens.
BOSTON COLLEGE (3-2, 1-1)
Game: Boston College 48, Army 27. Andre Williams tied a school record by scoring five rushing touchdowns as part of his 263-yard outing on the ground. The Eagles scored the final 17 points to pull away in the home game.
Takeaway: The Eagles proved that their offensive uptick against Florida State wasn't just a blip of good fortune because they continued some good work on that side of the ball in defeating Army.
Andre Williams is the big reason for this and he's the ACC's leading rusher. With 778 yards less than halfway through the season, he's in line for some big things.
Williams has been durable and effective, and it only figures to aid Boston College's passing attack before long. If nothing else, QB Chase Rettig has turned efficient, completing 11 of 13 passes against Army.
The downside for the Eagles is they've given up some points the past few games and that's not a good trend when Clemson is next on the schedule.
Next: at Clemson, Oct. 12.
CLEMSON (5-0, 3-0)
Game: Clemson 49, Syracuse 14. QB Tajh Boyd needed only three quarters of playing time to rack up five touchdown throws and 455 passing yards. The Tigers struck from various angles in the road victory, ruining the ACC debut for Syracuse.
Takeaway: The Tigers should be proud of how they took care of business in an unfamiliar setting by going into the Carrier Dome and dispatching Syracuse, which has pulled a few major upsets in its home building in the past. The Tigers built a 21-0 lead in the first quarter, marking the second week in a row that they've held that lead in the opening period.
The Tigers are full of weapons and they kept finding more ways to produce big plays. WR Adam Humphries caught touchdown passes of 60 and 42 yards, while Sammy Watkins had a 91-yard touchdown catch.
This has made QB Tajh Boyd look like a true Heisman Trophy candidate. He completed 20 of 27 passes, though he endured his first two interceptions of the season.
The Tigers are one victory away from making the clash with Florida State a monumental game. First, they must take care of Boston College in a home game.
Next: vs. Boston College, Oct. 12.
DUKE (3-2, 0-2)
Game: The Blue Devils didn't play during the past week.
Takeaway: The Blue Devils needed an off week because they were becoming a banged-up team on both sides of the ball.
This should give them a chance to get some players back into the mix. It's also extra time to prepare for Navy's triple-option offense. Getting LB Kelby Brown back would be a good lift for the Blue Devils.
QB Anthony Boone, who has been out since suffering a broken collarbone in the second week of the season, has started to do some light work. Still, it doesn't appear that he'll be back for the Navy game.
Cutcliffe said it's important for his team to recoup both physically and emotionally.
After consecutive losses, Duke went into the open week by defeating Troy.
Next: vs. Navy, Oct. 12.
FLORIDA STATE (5-0, 3-0)
Game: Florida State 63, Maryland 0. The Seminoles seemed in big-game mode against a nationally ranked foe, leading 21-0 by halftime and then racking up 21 points in each of the third and fourth quarters. QB Jameis Winston threw for five touchdowns, including four in the second half.
Takeaway: Teams have been unable to slow down Winston, who has 17 touchdown passes across five games in his first season. The redshirt freshman has thrown only two interceptions.
The defense got back on track after a rather ordinary performance a week earlier at Boston College. The defense, which allowed Maryland to produce only nine first downs, will be the focal point moving forward because the Seminoles' next game comes at Clemson.
But first there's an open week on the schedule for the Seminoles, who will have to keep their attention focused on improvement and avoid the temptation of becoming too antsy.
This will mean coach Jimbo Fisher is bound to have a chore on his hands. While he likes what he has seen from his team, the coaching staff might have to dig quite a bit to find things to fix after the manhandling of Maryland.
The Seminoles showed they could give full focus to the task and they were running strong in the efficiency department.
Next: at Clemson, Oct. 19.
GEORGIA TECH (3-2, 2-2)
Game: Miami 45, Georgia Tech 30. The Yellow Jackets were within 24-23 early in the fourth quarter, failing to tie the game on a missed extra-point kick. It went downhill from there as Miami's balanced attack was too much after Georgia Tech held a 17-7 lead into the second quarter.
Takeaway: Coach Paul Johnson vowed to fix some of the ailments with his triple-option offense and that proved to be the case. The defense didn't react well enough to a different kind of challenge from Miami.
Even when a plan works, there still has to be game-long execution and that might be what the Yellow Jackets learned from their trip to Miami. They held an overwhelming edge in time of possession, yet they couldn't stop Miami long enough.
Part of that was because Miami was moving the ball on the ground, too, so in some ways the Yellow Jackets were beaten at their own game. That had to sting a little bit as Georgia Tech lost to Miami for the fifth consecutive time.
Georgia Tech's defense ought to have a better sense of where it stands after this game. In early games, the Yellow Jackets feasted on some teams that have struggled on offense, so this was a much better barometer.
Next: at Brigham Young, Oct. 12.
MARYLAND (4-1, 0-1)
Game: Florida State 63, Maryland 0. The Terrapins didn't find much to take from this whipping, unable to establish much on offense and unable to slow down the Seminoles. QB C.J. Brown was knocked out of the game in the first half, further hindering Maryland's attack.
Takeaway: This might have been the ultimate reality check for the Terrapins, who will have a short-lived appearance in the Top 25. A soft early schedule drew some skepticism and apparently for good reason.
Maryland managed 234 yards of offense, and that's not nearly enough to help keep a high-powered attack such as Florida State off the field.
The Terrapins didn't get a chance to see how they might stack up in a full sense because do-everything QB C.J. Brown exited with a second-quarter injury. He was 6-for-14 throwing the ball to that juncture.
If Brown is lost for an extended period, it could signal a crisis for the Terrapins, who ran so thin on quarterbacks last year that they were pulling players from other positions to take snaps.
So in coach Randy Edsall's three seasons with the Terrapins, he has gone from the best stretch during his tenure to suddenly an element of the unknown looming.
The Terrapins will have to live by the adage of not allowing one defeat to turn into others. They have games against Virginia and Wake Forest next on the schedule, both possibly falling in Maryland's favor if it plays up to its capabilities.
Next: vs. Virginia, Oct. 12.
MIAMI (5-0, 1-0)
Game: Miami 45, Georgia Tech 30. Dallas Crawford ran for two fourth-quarter touchdowns after Georgia Tech pulled within a point, allowing the Hurricanes to win their ACC opener. QB Stephen Morris looked good enough after a couple of weeks hobbled by an ankle injury, throwing three touchdown passes.
Takeaway: The Hurricanes needed to show they could beat elite teams because other than conquering Florida, they hadn't been tested this season.
The defense will need to stiffen a little bit more, but all in all they handled Georgia Tech's triple-option attack pretty well.
The good part for the Hurricanes is they appeared healthier at some key positions because that had been a concern on offense. Morris played a full game for the first time in three games and RB Duke Johnson looked more like an elite runner by racking up 184 rushing yards.
These are nice combinations to have.
Another good thing for the Hurricanes is they showed the ability to dig out of a double-digit hole. There were some rough patches that they had to overcome, something that had rarely cropped up across the first month of the season.
Next: at North Carolina, Oct. 17.
NORTH CAROLINA (1-4, 0-2)
Game: Virginia Tech 27, North Carolina 17. Despite falling into an early hole, the Tar Heels hung around long enough to force some key plays. But a fourth-down interception thwarted a drive that could have made it more interesting for the Tar Heels.
Takeaway: North Carolina went with QB Marquise Williams at quarterback as he made his first career starter in place of QB Bryn Renner, who has a foot injury.
The change wasn't announced until game time, with Renner insisting earlier in the week that he would play. This throws an interesting dynamic into the mix for the Tar Heels because Williams performed at a pretty decent level for the most part.
He's more of a dual threat, gaining a team-high 56 rushing yards and passing for 277 yards. Renner is approaching some career school records.
The change of pace might have given Virginia Tech's vaunted defense some new things to consider.
The most encouraging change from the North Carolina side came on defense, where coverages had some breakdowns but were generally much better than a week earlier in a 55-31 home loss to East Carolina.
Penalties continue to hurt the Tar Heels. They were charged with 11 infractions at Virginia Tech, perhaps the most harmful an illegal block that negated WR Ryan Switzer's third-quarter punt return for a touchdown. Switzer later muffed a punt, with Virginia Tech recovering to set up a touchdown.
Next: vs. Miami, Oct. 17.
NORTH CAROLINA STATE (3-2, 0-2)
Game: Wake Forest 28, N.C. State 13. Wake Forest went ahead with a drive in the final minute of the first half, snatching away momentum from the Wolfpack on the way to the home victory. N.C. State has lost six road games in a row in the series, and this time the Wolfpack was unable to muster any fourth-quarter points.
Takeaway: The Wolfpack offense sputtered too often, with QB Pete Thomas putting up 257 passing yards, but he was intercepted twice.
When the Wolfpack settled for a third-quarter field goal after moving inside the Wake Forest 10-yard line, that was indicative of the kind of game it was.
Also troubling for N.C. State is a defense that hasn't reached shutdown mode.
"If we could have got off the field on defense and maybe got them tired, we have a chance," coach Dave Doeren said.
That could be interpreted that the Wolfpack can't function efficiently without some outside influences.
Thomas was N.C. State's leading rusher with 60 yards, and that's a reflection of a rushing attack that can't gain enough traction in a traditional method even with RB Shadrach Thornton back in a starting role.
There could be something else for the Wolfpack to consider next because QB Brandon Mitchell, who was injured in the opener with a broken foot, could be cleared to play against Syracuse. Even with a week off after that game, Doeren said there won't be any hesitation to play Mitchell as soon as he's deemed ready.
Next: vs. Syracuse, Oct. 12.
PITTSBURGH (3-1, 2-1)
Game: The Panthers didn't play during the past week.
Takeaway: The Panthers were coming off two drastically different kinds of victories going into their off week. There was the 58-55 win at Duke followed by the 14-3 home result against Pittsburgh.
"Hopefully, it helps our team in understanding that it truly is a team game," coach Paul Chryst said.
The Panthers had concerns about QB Tom Savage, who suffered an apparent concussion Sept. 28 against Virginia. He mostly rested during the off week, but he'll likely be ready for the Virginia Tech game, so he might not miss any full games.
Chryst said with Savage sitting out, it provided an opportunity for other members of the offense to receive extra work.
The Panthers are using freshmen in crucial roles, so it might have been a good time for some refreshers now that the team has played four games. Still, every other team in the ACC has played at least five times.
Next: at Virginia Tech, Oct. 12.
SYRACUSE (2-3, 0-1)
Game: Clemson 49, Syracuse 14. The Orange couldn't contend with Clemson's speed and it showed too often. Syracuse fell behind 21-0 in the first quarter and was fortunate that Clemson QB Tajh Boyd was finished after three quarters.
Takeaway: The Orange defense came unglued right from the start and that will be something Syracuse will have to assess as it tries to figure out how to control some of the new opponents on its schedule.
The speed issue is something that could be troublesome for the Orange because they don't seem well-equipped to handle some of the athleticism they might come across in the ACC. While Clemson might be an extreme case, there's more of that out there.
While Clemson was racing up and down the field, perhaps overlooked was the struggles encountered by QB Terrel Hunt. He completed only eight of 24 passes, while he was intercepted three times and sacked four times.
Hunt gained the starting nod in the Orange's fourth game of the season, but after this outing, there's bound to be questions about how Syracuse proceeds at the quarterback spot.
Next: at N.C. State, Oct. 12.
VIRGINIA (2-3, 0-1)
Game: Ball State 48, Virginia 27. This game was tied until late in the third quarter, when Ball State went ahead and surrendered only one Virginia field goal the rest of the way. The Cavaliers perked up on offense, but they're not well-versed in going at this pace even against a team from a non-power conference.
Takeaway: Any time the Cavaliers can post more than 450 yards of offense, things are usually going in the right direction for them. So that's the good omen they can take from the game against Ball State.
The offense actually turns out to be versatile enough with RB Kevin Parks gaining more than 100 yards on the ground and QB David Watford doing damage throwing and running the ball. So if the Cavaliers can retain some of that type of offense, they should be more competitive in the ACC.
Still, the foundation is going to have to come on defense, and after the torching from Ball State, there's going to be more concerns. A week earlier, Virginia couldn't win a defensive tussle with Pittsburgh and the result wasn't any better in an offensive shootout.
With less than 40,000 fans turning out for an early October home game, you can be sure there will be extra concerns expressed about the direction of the program.
Next: at Maryland, Oct. 12.
VIRGINIA TECH (5-1, 2-0)
Game: Virginia Tech 27, North Carolina 17. QB Logan Thomas threw three first-half touchdowns and those were enough to send the Hokies to their fifth consecutive victory. Virginia Tech hasn't lost a homecoming game since 1998, so that string remains intact after avenging a loss from last year.
Takeaway: The Hokies seem content with allowing their defense to do most of the work and that's not a bad thing. But the offense has shown some signs as well.
The Hokies hit several big passing plays against North Carolina and that should give QB Logan Thomas another jolt of confidence after his slow start to the season. Several receivers have come through with clutch catches, but the Hokies will look to become better because they had a couple of potentially costly dropped passes as well.
Of concern for Virginia Tech is a stale rushing attack. The line doesn't seem capable of creating holes on a regular basis and this is putting more pressure on Thomas when he drops back to pass.
Virginia Tech's defense was up to snuff, receiving a different type of assignment with North Carolina QB Bryn Renner out with an injury. The Hokies seemed to adjust well enough to get the job done.
Their secondary coverage has been a key component. The Hokies intercepted two North Carolina passes, pushing their nation-leading total to 12 pickoffs for the season.
Next: vs. Pittsburgh, Oct. 12.
WAKE FOREST (3-3, 1-2)
Game: Wake Forest 28, N.C. State 13. A last-minute drive before halftime catapulted host Wake Forest into the lead and the Demon Deacons were stout on defense in the second half, yielding only three points. WR Michael Campanaro caught 12 passes for 153 yards, with two of those ending up as touchdowns.
Takeaway: The Demon Deacons were in must-win mode and they came through against N.C. State, which has now lost in its last six trips to Winston-Salem, N.C.
When Campanaro is unleashed on opposing secondaries without being fully accounted for, he makes foes pay. He made half of Wake Forest's 24 catches.
Coach Jim Grobe said he was surprised Campanaro was able to find as much space as he did. The Demon Deacons like the production, though they would prefer that others show the ability to chip in with more spark on the offense.
QB Tanner Price has gone through rough patches, but take away one interception and he gave the Demon Deacons what they needed. He led the team with 82 rushing yards, and that's not necessarily a desired accomplishment, although the plan has been for him to be more involved in the rushing attack.
Wake Forest's defense needed a boost after it was ravaged a week earlier by Clemson. The Demon Deacons again showed that defensively they can hold their own against teams that aren't overly flashy.
Now the Demon Deacons take a week off at the midway mark of their schedule. They're the only team in the ACC to play in each of the season's first six weeks.
Next: vs. Maryland, Oct. 19.
NCAAF Team Report - Virginia Tech - NOTES, QUOTES
--Boston College officials were full of praise regarding their dealings with Army leading up to the game, which appeared to be in jeopardy because of the government shutdown.
That turned out to go well on all fronts for Boston College, which picked up a 48-27 victory.
But the ACC isn't out of the woods yet on this whole government shutdown issue and how it could impact its teams. The service academies needed special permission to play Saturday's games.
Next up for Navy on the schedule is a trip to Duke. Navy played a home game against Air Force on the first weekend of the government shutdown, but it appears to become trickier when the academies must travel. The permission to play applied only to the first weekend. Of course, the issue of the government shutdown could be resolved by the time of the Navy-Duke game.
"I think there's a lot of people willing to help support the circumstance where you don't have to cancel football games because it's very difficult to make them up," Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. "At this point, I'm going to let somebody else worry about that."
For Duke, it would be particularly problematic because the Blue Devils are coming off an open week on the schedule. The last thing they need is two weeks without a game.
--Don't dismiss Virginia Tech just yet because the Hokies have found a foundation with their defense.
Already they've encountered varied styles of offenses in repelling Georgia Tech and North Carolina in ACC play.
"We want to be the best defense in the country," LB Jack Tyler said.
That's a tall order. But the Hokies will have a chance to prove their worth. Their next game comes against Pittsburgh, which put up 58 points at Duke in its only previous ACC road game.
The Hokies have at least one sack and one interception in their last 10 games dating to last season.
--Syracuse's Carrier Dome certainly creates a different type of atmosphere compared to other ACC venues and it will be noteworthy to see how teams react to that setting when they're forced to go there regularly. As a fellow Atlantic Division opponent, Clemson will go there every other year.
"We knew it was going to be a tough place to play, but our guys came out focused and really executed at a high level early in the game," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "It keeps us where we need to be."
Clemson won 49-14 at Syracuse.
The dome seats nearly 50,000 fans for football. It won't be a totally new experience for several ACC opponents.
Pittsburgh and soon-to-join member Louisville were headed there regularly in Big East Conference play. Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech were also part of that conference before earlier departures to the ACC. Plus, Wake Forest, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Florida State and Virginia have all made trips to the dome.
It was a rough ACC opener for Syracuse when Clemson arrived. Other league members to visit this year are Wake Forest, Pittsburgh and Boston College.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've played probably the two teams that were picked to win the division." -- Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, on back-to-back losses to Virginia Tech and Miami in Coastal Division matchups. Virginia Tech moved into the national rankings for the first time after winning its fifth consecutive game a week after toppling Georgia Tech.
NCAAF Team Report - Virginia Tech - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
FIVE BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS FROM WEEK 6 IN THE ACC:
1. Florida State doesn't much care for imposters, and apparently the Seminoles were intent on showing that Maryland might be one. Florida State had a habit in the 1990s of shredding opponents that looked to be making inroads and that has been on display again.
2. False alarm on Maryland. After the whipping the Terrapins took from Florida State, they can be lumped back with a bunch of other teams in the conference taking whippings from the elite group. So, for now, they join Wake Forest, Duke, Boston College and Syracuse, just to name a few.
3. So much for the nice gestures that the ACC gave Syracuse and Pittsburgh to start the season. They both played their first ACC games in marquee home outings, Pittsburgh losing to Florida State in the Labor Day opener and Syracuse trounced by Clemson on Saturday. Those teams will find out it's not always that difficult.
4. Miami is for real, too. The Hurricanes needed to give a better example of that against a quality opponent and defeating Georgia Tech was a pretty good barometer.
5. Anyone who has been paying attention knows that Virginia could be in trouble and the Cavaliers don't seem to be able to convince observers otherwise. The 48-27 home loss to Ball State is bound to set off more alarms around Charlottesville, Va.