ACC: North Carolina State Wolfpack

ACC morning links

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
It appears things are getting a bit salty between a pair of ACC coaches.

Florida State's Jimbo Fisher fired back Monday at NC State coach Dave Doeren, two days after Doeren had accused the Seminoles of faking injuries in FSU's 56-41 win.

"Well, I accuse him of not knowing what he's talking about," Fisher said Monday, as our Jared Shanker wrote. "They're not fake injuries. No one faked injuries, and we wouldn't do that. We'll coach Florida State, and he can coach North Carolina State."

As Shanker writes, Eddie Goldman, Derrick Mitchell Jr. and Terrance Smith needed help off the field Saturday in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Doeren softened his stance Monday but did not exactly back down, saying that the issue is not specific to FSU and that a rule should be in place that a player has to sit out for more than one play if he leaves the game in such a situation.

None of this, of course, is particularly new to college football, which has publicly wrestled with the hurry-up, no-huddle debate going on three years now. There is no real clear answer yet.

Surprisingly, a poll embedded in Shanker's story shows fans are overwhelmingly OK with Doeren's suggestions, saying that he did not cross a line. But our David Hale likely had a point Saturday when he tweeted that if you're going to fake injuries to slow the offense's tempo, you probably don't do it with Goldman in the red zone.

On to the rest of your ACC links ...

By the numbers: Week 5 recap

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
Breaking down some interesting stats after five weeks of games in the ACC.

* Jameis Winston’s Heisman campaign shouldn’t be on life support just yet. His numbers are down from last year, but not by as much as you might think.

Last season, Winston led 137 drives and Florida State scored on 66 percent of them, averaging 4.1 points per drive.

This season, Winston has led 33 drives and the Seminoles have scored 61 percent of the time and averaged 3.7 points per drive.

It’s really a small blip, and given that Winston is breaking in a lot of new faces in new roles at the skill positions, it’s certainly not too surprising.

Winston also ranks 10th nationally in passing yards per game, 15th in yards per attempt and 19th in passer rating. Again, off a bit from last season, but certainly well within range of climbing back into the Heisman race by year’s end.

* In Florida State’s first eight quarters of action against Power 5 opponents, it had tallied just 131 yards and two TDs on 45 non-QB rushing attempts (2.9 yards per carry). Since the start of overtime against Clemson, however, those numbers have jumped to 194 yards and five TDs on 30 carries (6.5 YPC).

* Rashad Greene is FSU’s Mr. Reliable. Since he arrived in 2011, he’s responsible for 36 percent of all of the Noles’ receptions on third or fourth down (48). This season, he's been targeted on 11 of 21 third-down passes.

More Greene: He's played in 19 games decided by two touchdowns or less. In those games, he's caught 118 passes for 1,658 yards and 12 TDs. No other FSU receiver has had more than three touchdown catches in those games.

* The bad news for FSU is the defense. The Seminoles have allowed more than 400 yards of offense to ACC teams in consecutive games for the first time since 2009 — a season in which Florida State finished 108th nationally in total defense.

* Looking for a dark horse for the ACC’s top freshman? How about NC State’s Bo Hines, who has 24 catches for 312 yards already this season. Only three other true freshmen in the nation have more catches and only two have more yards than Hines, and no Power 5 conference receiver in the nation (min. 25 targets) has caught a higher percentage of his passes (87.5).

* Jacoby Brissett was exceptional against Florida State, with Jimbo Fisher comparing the NC State QB’s game to that of his own Heisman winner. But beyond the highlight plays, what’s perhaps been so impressive about Brissett so far this season is that he hasn’t made many mistakes. In fact, the NC State QB currently has a streak of 156 straight attempts without an interception — the longest streak by any quarterback since Baylor’s Bryce Petty went 229 straight throws from Oct. 5 through Nov. 30 of last season.

* While Brissett avoided picks, Virginia Tech’s Michael Brewer keeps racking them up. Brewer threw two more against Western Michigan, giving him 10 for the year, which is tied with Wake Forest’s John Wolford for the most in the country. Brewer has thrown multiple interceptions in four straight games. That’s the longest streak by a Power 5 QB since USC’s Matt Barkley tossed multiple INTs in four straight in 2012. In the last decade, the only Power 5 QB with two or more picks in five straight games was Oregon State’s Matt Moore in 2005.

* Speaking of Wolford, he threw three more picks Saturday, which Louisville turned into two touchdowns and a missed field goal. Overall, Wake Forest has allowed 59 points off turnovers this year, the third most by any Power 5 team. Those 59 points account for 59 percent of all the points the Demon Deacons have surrendered this season, third most of any team in the country.

Worse news for Wake: It has Florida State up next on the schedule. Last year, the Deacons turned the ball over seven times against FSU, leading to 38 points for the Seminoles. Ouch.

* Saturday marked the first time this season that Pitt’s James Conner failed to reach 100 yards rushing and the first time that Miami’s Duke Johnson topped the century mark. Still, Conner and Johnson are the only running backs in the nation to have exceeded 90 yards in every game so far this season.

For Johnson, Saturday’s win over Duke was his 14th career game topping 90 yards rushing. Only three other active Power 5 running backs have had more since the start of 2012: Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah (22), Georgia’s Todd Gurley (18) and Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon (15). That’s pretty good company.

* Of course Deshaun Watson is great, but here are a few numbers to illustrate how good he’s been: Watson leads the nation in yards per attempt (11.9). He’s second only to Oregon’s Marcus Mariota in passer rating (212.7). He’s third behind Mariota and Alabama’s Blake Sims in completion percentage (72.7). He has the third-best rate of TD-to-attempts in the country behind Mariota and Cal’s Jared Goff. And no QB in the nation has had a higher percentage of his passes result in plays of 20 yards or more than Watson (21.1).

* Impressive early work by Todd Grantham. Louisville currently leads the nation in total defense (208.5 yards per game) against FBS teams. Virginia is the next closest in the ACC, allowing more than 100 additional yards per game than the Cardinals (313.0). Louisville’s 18 sacks and nine interceptions against FBS teams are also tops in the nation, and only TCU has had a higher percentage of opponent drives end without gaining a first down (58%). ESPN’s metrics note the Cardinals’ defensive win probability added of 2.40 nearly doubles any other team in the country (Ole Miss and Utah State are next at 1.23).

* Virginia’s offense still won’t be confused with Oregon or Baylor, but the Hoos have scored 20 points or more in five straight games for the first time since Oct. 6, 2007. They haven’t hit that mark in six straight since 2002, but that could change Saturday against reeling Pittsburgh.

ACC bowl projections: Week 5

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
Another week in which the middle of the pack in the ACC took another big step backward but may have actually cleared up the bowl picture a bit. Miami and Clemson are on the rise, while Duke, Pitt and BC are headed in the wrong direction -- but as of now, they’re all still on track to play in a bowl.

College Football Playoff: Florida State
Capital One Orange Bowl: Clemson versus Notre Dame*
Russell Athletic Bowl: Louisville
TaxSlayer Bowl: Georgia Tech
Belk Bowl: Virginia Tech
Hyundai Sun Bowl: Miami
New Era Pinstripe Bowl: NC State
Military Bowl presented By Northrop Grumman: Virginia
Duck Commander Independence Bowl: Duke
Quick Lane Bowl: Pittsburgh
BITCOIN St. Petersburg Bowl: Boston College

* Note: Notre Dame is eligible for a bid to any ACC tie-in game unless it is selected for a New Year’s Six game, which can include playing an ACC team in the Orange Bowl.

ACC Power Rankings: Week 5

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28

ACC helmet stickers: Week 5

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
Here are the players who stood out above the rest during a wild Week 5 in the ACC:

NC State quarterback Jacoby Brissett: How can you overlook Brissett's efforts in NC State's 56-41 loss to top-ranked Florida State? The Florida transfer completed 32 of 38 passes for 359 yards with three touchdowns, while rushing for 38 yards as well. It was a loss, yes, and it will be tough to get up for every game the way you do when the No. 1 team in the country comes to your backyard, but Brissett gives NC State a completely new look offensively, and the program has to be excited about the rest of the season going forward.

Wake Forest defensive end Tylor Harris: When you set a national record, you likely end up with a helmet sticker. The junior did just that for the Demon Deacons in a tough 20-10 loss at Louisville. Harris set a new FBS record by recovering three fumbles in a game. No FBS players has totaled three fumble recoveries since it became an official stat in 1992. Harris now has four on the year, one shy of the school single-season record of five. He had a strip-sack and fumble recovery in the end zone for a score in the third quarter to give Wake the 10-7 lead at the time. This defense will give the Deacs opportunities to stick around in some games in which they are overmatched this year. Hats off to Harris.

Miami linebacker Denzel Perryman: The Hurricanes looked like a completely different team than the one that was run over by Duke late last season, topping the Blue Devils, 22-10. Perryman was a big part of that, forcing a fumble, picking of one pass and breaking up another. His interception with 1:55 left all but clinched the win for Miami, handing Duke its first loss and shaking up the entire Coastal Division race once more.

Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson: How about this for a first career start: 27-of-36 passing for 435 yards, six touchdowns, one interception, in addition to 28 yards rushing. The Tigers bounced back appropriately from last week's heartbreaker at Florida State and beat North Carolina, 50-35. With a true freshman quarterback already this good, it's easy to get excited about the future for the Tigers, both short- and long-term.

Florida State running back Karlos Williams: If FSU has plans on repeating as national champions, it is going to need some production out of its backfield. And the Seminoles finally got that Saturday in their 56-41 come-from-behind win at NC State. Williams carried the ball 21 times for 126 yards and scored three touchdowns. He added three catches for 29 yards. As our David Hale noted, before overtime of the Clemson game last week, Williams had tallied just 152 yards and a touchdown on 40 carries. This was a huge development during an otherwise concerning afternoon for the Noles.

What we learned in the ACC: Week 5

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
Let's take a look at what we learned in the ACC for Week 5:

[+] EnlargeJacoby Brissett
AP Photo/Gerry BroomeNC State's Jacoby Brissett dazzled again this week, but Florida State rallied to stay undefeated.
1. Survival State. Florida State is not as good as it was a season ago. That much seems pretty clear. But despite some of their flaws, the Seminoles have found ways to win in consecutive weeks, keeping themselves in College Football Playoff contention. A week after surviving Clemson in overtime, No. 1 Florida State had to overcome a 24-7 first quarter deficit at NC State -- a house of horrors that has haunted the program going for a decade. Given the horrible start and the history, Florida State looked ready to go down. But the Seminoles scored on three straight possessions between the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth to come away with the 56-41 win. Florida State ended up outscoring the Wolfpack 49-17 after that dreadful opening period. Good teams are often tested during the season. But Florida State has now been tested in all three of its FBS games. Wake Forest and Syracuse are ahead before a big showdown against No. 8 Notre Dame on Oct. 18. The Seminoles have plenty of work to do before then.

2. Do not count out Miami. A week ago, Miami defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio was the most wanted man in South Florida after the Canes looked completely out of it in a loss to Nebraska. Would you look at that defense a week later? Miami completely shut down Duke and its run game, holding the Blue Devils to 264 total yards and 2-of-16 on third down while forcing three turnovers. But maybe the best news of all in its 22-10 victory -- Miami made some exceptional tackles and that has to be encouraging moving forward. While critics might want to quickly dismiss the win because it came against a Duke team that feasted on weak competition to date, Miami deserves credit for bouncing back from a dreadful tackling day against the Huskers. Duke Johnson finally got to 100 yards rushing and Brad Kaaya keeps getting better. The rest of the Coastal is a mess, so why not Miami?

3. Jacoby Brissett is for real. We thought Brissett might be for real based on his first four games, but after his performance against Florida State, we know it now to be true. Brissett had some pretty terrific Houdini moments and ended up going 32-of-48 for 359 yards and three touchdowns, while adding 13 rushes for 38 yards. His presence in the offense makes NC State a radically different team. Just look at the difference in the games between these two teams over the span of a year. Last season, NC State trailed 35-0 after the first quarter. This season, Brissett had NC State on the verge of an upset. The Wolfpack have improved as the season has worn on -- having Brissett behind center is a big reason why.

4. Pitt, BC are not for real. On a day when the ACC kept its College Football Playoff hopes alive, the league took yet another double-whammy hit from its middle-of-the-pack teams. Pitt and Boston College lost to Group of 5 programs and it’s hard to gauge which home defeat was more stunning. Was it the Panthers, who showed no signs of life in a 21-10 loss to Akron? Or was it Boston College, blowing a fourth-quarter lead and losing 24-21 to Colorado State? Just two weeks ago, the Eagles pulled their own stunner, beating down USC in a performance that should have served notice. Instead, BC falls into the same trap Virginia Tech did, albeit a few weeks apart. Neither team could keep up the momentum it created after taking down a ranked team. As for Pitt, the nonconference schedule presented four winnable games. The Panthers only won two. They failed in just about every area against Akron, most notably rushing the ball. James Conner had his 100-yard streak snapped. If Pitt can’t run, it has little hope to win.

5. Mixed bag for young QBs. Clemson's Deshaun Watson got his first career start and wowed just about everybody, setting a school record with six touchdown passes in a 50-35 win over North Carolina. If only he had started against Georgia and Florida State. … Meanwhile, Kaaya keeps showing growth in the Miami offense, going 20-of-34 for 223 yards and two scores. These two look like future quarterback stars in the ACC. As for some of the others? Louisville fans clamored for Reggie Bonnafon the way Clemson fans wanted Watson. Bonnafon got his shot against Wake Forest with an injured Will Gardner on the sideline and showed some flashes, going 16-of-32 for 206 yards. But he also had two critical fumbles, including one in the end zone Wake Forest converted into a touchdown. The offensive line did him no favors, and his receivers also had several drops in the 20-10 win. Wake quarterback John Wolford continues to have a tough time, throwing three interceptions.
Trailing by 10 midway through the third quarter, Florida State rallied for a 56-41 win at NC State.

How the game was won: For Florida State, the game was brutal at times, but Seminoles' fans can walk away feeling OK because at times both the offense and defense played exceptionally -- for the first time all season. The Seminoles were able to win because, despite allowing a school-record 24 first-quarter points, the defense was tough the rest of the game, with breaks only after turnovers. When the offense didn’t turn it over, it was scoring touchdowns behind an energized Jameis Winston and improved rushing attack.

Game ball goes to: The freshmen of FSU’s No. 3-ranked 2014 class deserve this one because they made critical plays throughout the third quarter. Defensive end Lorenzo Featherston is credited with causing the fumble that helped the Seminoles to their first lead. Fellow freshmen Jacob Pugh was next to Featherston as they pressured Jacoby Brissett on that fumble. Receiver Travis Rudolph had a big catch, and Dalvin Cook had a 19-yard touchdown. It all came in the latter part of the third quarter, when FSU began taking control.

What it means: There is no such thing as an ugly win when every loss has the potential to cripple a season. It was a close win, but coach Jimbo Fisher can leave Raleigh, North Carolina, feeling pretty good about how his offense played. Winston was sharp, Karlos Williams played his best game at running back, and the offensive line provided lanes to rush the football.

Playoff implication: As the No. 1 team in the country and the defending champions, all Florida State needs to do is win. An undefeated FSU is not going to be left out of the College Football Playoff, so every win -- despite margin of victory -- is critical for Florida State. Fisher doesn’t need to worry about style points.

What's next: The Seminoles get a bit of a reprieve as unranked Wake Forest travels to Doak Campbell Stadium next weekend before a road date at Syracuse. Those two weeks should provide an opportunity for FSU to build on this performance before undefeated Notre Dame comes to Tallahassee.

ACC viewer's guide: Week 5

September, 27, 2014
Sep 27

Plenty of ACC teams wrap up their nonconference slate on Saturday, but there are several important league games, too, in addition to Notre Dame's foray into semi-ACC play. Here's what's on deck. Be sure to follow along on Twitter using the hashtags below.

12:30 p.m.

Colorado State at Boston College, ESPN3, #CSUvsBC: A 4-1 start would be huge for the Eagles, with the heart of ACC play fast approaching. They are the nation's No. 2 rushing team, tallying 1,345 yards, a by-product of Florida transfer quarterback Tyler Murphy, who has tallied at least 99 rushing yards in each game so far. The defense hasn't been too shabby, either, surrendering less than 20 points per game despite plenty of new faces. Garrett Grayson and the Rams can throw the ball, but they'll need more to go their way if they want to escape Alumni Stadium with an upset.

Western Michigan at Virginia Tech, ESPN3, #WMUvsVT: Which Michael Brewer will the Hokies get? The transfer signal-caller was a tremendous ball distributor in Virginia Tech's Week 2 upset win at Ohio State, but last week he had three costly turnovers in letting a home tilt slip away against Georgia Tech for the Hokies' second straight home loss. Coach Frank Beamer liked what he saw out of his quarterback otherwise, and the Broncos should provide an opportunity for Brewer and the rest of the Hokies to shake out of their rut and gain some momentum heading into the rest of league play.

1:30 p.m.

Akron at Pitt, ESPN3: Can Pitt bounce back from a tough home loss to Iowa? The Panthers probably let one get away, but the Zips are not to be slept on, as the 1-2 squad has had no shortage of early-season tests itself so far, losing to Penn State and Marshall. This is a homecoming of sorts for Akron coach Terry Bowden, a Morgantown, West Virginia, native who went to Pittsburgh regularly. The Panthers need this win more, though, as they look to get back on track before their first Coastal game next week at Virginia.

3:30 p.m.

Wake Forest at Louisville, ESPNU, #WAKEvsLOU: This here is a battle of the ACC's two first-year head coaches, Dave Clawson and Bobby Petrino. It's also a rematch of the 2007 Orange Bowl, which Petrino was a part of with the Cardinals. Both teams will be starting true freshmen under center, with John Wolford showing plenty of growth in his fourth start last week against Army and Reggie Bonnafon returning to Louisville after the tragic loss of his father, and after starter Will Gardner suffered a knee injury that will keep him out of action against the Demon Deacons.

[+] EnlargeNiklas Sade
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesNC State shocked FSU on the Seminoles' last visit to Raleigh, North Carolina, in 2012.

No. 1 Florida State at NC State, ABC/ESPN2, #FSUvsNCSU: We know all about how Carter-Finley Stadium has been a house of horrors for the Seminoles lately, as the Wolfpack have won three of their past four home contests against FSU. A win would be a very tall order for the still-growing Pack, who are in their second year under Dave Doeren. But this could be a great measuring-stick game for them after a 4-0 start against subpar competition. NC State has already topped its win total from last season, and Jacoby Brissett has been magnificent under center. The Noles, by the way, will trot out a certain Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback after surviving a one-game suspension without him.

Kent State at Virginia, ESPN3: First things first: How about those sharp throwback unis the Cavaliers will be wearing? As for who will be under center wearing them when things kick off, well, that appears less clear, as Greyson Lambert recovers from an ankle injury he suffered in last week's loss at BYU. The Hoos know the offense is in capable hands with Matt Johns regardless, and their defense will look to revert to its early-season form after stumbling in Provo, Utah.

7 p.m.

North Carolina at Clemson, ESPNU, #UNCvsCLEM: The Tigers might be getting the perfect medicine following a heartbreaking overtime defeat at Florida State. They have a talented and growing offense, led by Deshaun Watson, who will be making his first career start. And they are facing a UNC team that laid a major egg defensively last week against East Carolina, surrendering 70 points and nearly 800 yards of total offense. The Tar Heels have given little indication through three games they are ready for the challenge that awaits them in Death Valley, but that's why they play the games, right?

7:30 p.m.

Duke at Miami, ESPN2, #DUKEvsMIA: We should learn much more about both of these teams when they face off at Sun Life Stadium. The Blue Devils are 4-0 but were hardly challenged during nonconference play, while Miami struggled against the two good teams it faced. It will be interesting to see what kind of response the Hurricanes defense shows after Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah gashed it for 229 yards and two touchdowns last Saturday. Perhaps more importantly, Duke dominated the Canes' D to the tune of 358 rushing yards last year, running away in the fourth quarter. If Miami has any hopes of competing for the Coastal crown this year, it has to show more this time around at home.

8 p.m.

No. 8 Notre Dame at Syracuse, ABC, #NDvsCUSE: The Irish unofficially kick off their ACC football alliance by taking on old Big East (hoops) foe Syracuse at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. It is the first "road" game for the 3-0 Irish, though they will likely have most of the home crowd on their side. One thing to watch out for is how Notre Dame's offensive line performs, as it used the bye week to shake up a so-so unit and will now take the field featuring four players in different spots than before. Can the Orange's aggressive defense take advantage of this? Ball protection is key for Syracuse if it wishes to pull the upset, as Terrel Hunt and the offense are capable of putting points on the board when they stay out of their own way.

ACC morning links

September, 26, 2014
Sep 26
College football too often can be too cynical. We’re all guilty of it sometimes.

Well, maybe not everyone.

Meet Caleb Pressley, formerly a backup quarterback at North Carolina and now the Tar Heels' “supervisor of morale.” Pressley figured it was time to quit football when he skipped spring practice.

Here’s a good feature on Pressley from Nicole Auerbach of USA Today.

As Pressley puts it, his job is pretty easy.

"All I have to do is come in, signal plays, talk to my friends and dance around on the sidelines,” he told USA Today.

That has us thinking which other ACC players would make good “supervisors of morale” once their career ends. Karlos Williams could fill that role for the No. 1 Seminoles. The senior running back is affable and is never at a loss for supportive words. Duke safety Jeremy Cash knows a thing or two about keeping spirits up after originally transferring from Ohio State. Clemson could use a morale boost from defensive tackle Grady Jarrett after Saturday’s heartbreaking loss to Florida State.

But we all know no one will ever motivate as well as this guy. Hammocks!
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State’s players called it a missed opportunity, called it a letdown. A few called it a turning point, easier to compartmentalize it as such now that Florida State has won 25 of 26 games and a national title since.

But coach Jimbo Fisher summed it up best Monday when asked how the 2012 loss to NC State, a game in which the then-No. 3 Seminoles blew a 16-0 lead, felt at the time.

"It was very … point blank," Fisher said.

[+] EnlargeKarlos Williams
Jeff Gammons/Getty ImagesKarlos Williams and Florida State rolled past NC State last season, but they have bad memories of their last trip to Carter-Finley Stadium.
It was. It knocked the Seminoles out of the national title picture. And Florida State knew that immediately after as the players sank their head into their hands in the locker room.

"Dead silent," senior running back Karlos Williams recalls. "And nobody broke the silence."

On Saturday, No. 1 Florida State for the first time returns to NC State and Carter-Finley Stadium (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2), which has long ruined Seminoles seasons. In their past eight visits to Raleigh, North Carolina, the Seminoles have exited with a loss five times.

Maybe no stadium has caused the Seminoles more grief than Carter-Finley. In FSU’s past three losses in Raleigh, it has blown a double-digit halftime lead. The Seminoles' offense registered just 177 yards in the 2002 loss, and their seven points in a 1998 loss were the fewest they have scored in more than a decade.

In each of those losses, the Seminoles were ranked and NC State was not. So, ya know, historically, the table has been set once again. Despite a 4-0 start, NC State is unranked in 2014.

Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren, who is orchestrating an offense ranked third in the ACC, sees holes in a vulnerable Florida State defense, too.

"They’re still really good on defense, but they were better last year," Doeren said. "… Maybe they’ll get better at that as they go, or maybe they’ll quit running [the scheme]. But there’s a lot more mistakes than there were a year ago."

This game represents the first Year 2 measuring stick for Doeren and the Wolfpack, who went winless in conference in 2013 and whose first four opponents consisted of three teams that are currently FCS schools or only moved up to the FBS level in 2014.

How serious is this game for NC State, which trailed 42-0 at halftime last season? Well, first-year starting quarterback Jacoby Brissett, whom Fisher recruited to Florida State, is not answering texts from high school teammate Nick O'Leary or their former coach despite goading from both.

The NC State fans realize the significance, too, and Noles junior cornerback P.J. Williams remembers how relentless they were two years ago when the Wolfpack were a mediocre 3-2 program lacking a signature win.

"[Carter-Finley Stadium] is definitely wild. It’s always packed, and the stands are right by the sidelines, so they’re right in your ear every second of the game," Williams said. "It’s a great atmosphere. You have to be focused and locked in to succeed."

Now that Florida State has been wildly successful since that Oct. 6, 2012, loss, Fisher can point to that evening as a "learning point." He said that game’s impact is still being felt, and he attributed that close loss to helping with Florida State’s close overtime win against Clemson. It was maybe the first time Fisher saw a direct correlation between that 2012 loss and a game since, including the Auburn win.

"It was another thing we had to go through to make us the team we are now," Fisher said.

Except NC State has a knack for knocking off those kinds of Florida State teams.
NC State pulled out an improbable 17-16 win over No. 3 Florida State in 2012, the last time the Seminoles visited Carter-Finley Stadium. With the two set to meet again Saturday, we decided to take a look back at the fourth quarter, from the NC State players’ perspective.

NC State trailed 16-3 when the fourth quarter began, but nobody on the Wolfpack sideline had given up hope. Not with Mike Glennon at quarterback. Not with the way the defense had shut down the Florida State offense in the third quarter.

“We all knew we were going to come back and win the game,” defensive tackle T.Y. McGill said. “Everybody on the sideline was into the game. The crowd, they were into the game. I believe Mike Glennon or one of the leaders was walking around making sure everybody was still keyed into what was going on.”

The Wolfpack began the quarter with the ball at their own 43. Three completions later, NC State was in position to score. On second-and-10 from the Florida State 24, Glennon went back to pass.


“That play specifically, I knew we had a lot of deep routes going down the field and I would be the back out of the backfield in an option route,” running back Shadrach Thornton recalled. “I went out and did as I was coached to do. I broke away and Mike Glennon, he got me the football in stride, and I was able to turn the corner. I locked my eyes on the goal line. I saw the safety coming from afar and I saw the scoreboard and all I could think about was bringing us within a touchdown.

“I put everything I had into it to make it to the corner. The receiver had a pretty decent block back there by the end zone. I ran toward him, as they tried to bring me down from the side. I dove in and just crossing the goal line, I landed on my back. I laid there for a second, and when I glanced up I saw the referee hesitate and then he signaled for the touchdown. My heart began to race. I said, ‘Yes! This is what we planned to do. This is what we wanted to do.’”

The receiver who made the block was Bryan Underwood.

“It was a hot read, a play designed for the tight end, but their defense picked him up and Shad was open in the flat,” Underwood recalled. “I had to clear the area where I was, so I had to run my man off. I saw Shad catch the ball. The DB didn’t see it so I ran to the back of the end zone, fought him off and Shad did the rest.”

Confidence started to rise, with NC State trailing 16-10 with 13:47 to play. On the ensuing Florida State drive, the Seminoles drove to the NC State 19. Facing a crucial third-and-2, quarterback EJ Manuel went out on a bootleg. NC State safety Dontae Johnson sacked Manuel for a 15-yard loss, taking the Seminoles out of field goal range.


“I believe it was a blitz, he came on the outside and he got the sack,” McGill said. “We huddled up as a defense, and those were some of the key words that were going through the huddle at the time -- that it was on us.”

The teams traded punts, then NC State failed to convert on a fourth-and-10. Florida State got the ball back with 2:47 remaining.

On first down, Chris Thompson ran at Thomas Teal. Teal tackled him for a 2-yard loss.

“I figured they wanted to keep the ball on the ground,” Teal said. “They thought they could run the ball against us. Studying the film, I knew the formation and based on the stance, I knew what was coming at me so I played the block with great technique and I was able to make a play.”

NC State called timeout.

On second down, Thompson ran again at Teal, who made the tackle for a short gain.

NC State called timeout.

On third down, Manuel was stopped for no gain.

NC State called timeout.

Florida State went back to punt. Mike Rose got his hand on the ball, blocking the punt and setting NC State up at the Florida State 43 with 2:27 to go and no timeouts remaining.


“I remember vividly how he came through there,” NC State kicker Niklas Sade said. “As soon as he blocked it, you just knew we were going to go down and score a game-winning touchdown with time expiring.”

On the ensuing drive, Glennon converted two critical fourth downs to stay alive. The second, to Quintin Payton, gave NC State first-and-goal from the 2. NC State could not punch it in on the first three downs, leaving the Wolfpack with one last chance to win the game.


“There were three receivers in the game: me, Tobais [Palmer] and [Quintin Payton],” Underwood explained. “Tobias was the slot and it was a motion for me to come down and run a shallow cross route across the middle, and Tobais curled behind me in case I was covered, he could get it. When I heard Mike call it, I was so wrapped up in the fact that I was one of the options, it shocked me because I didn’t think as a redshirt sophomore the coach would give an option for the game-winning touchdown to a redshirt sophomore.

“I was shocked about the play call before I even broke the huddle so I was going out there late, not really looking at the defense, just thinking this could happen to me or Tobais in the back of the end zone. They motioned me down, Mike gets the ball and throws it in, and the celebration begins.”

Sade knew he had to make the extra point to win.

“I knew Florida State was going to bring everything they had,” Sade said. “The most important thing for me was to be as fast as I could on the operation. With Scott [Thompson’s] snap being so fast and Wil [Baumann’s] holds -- they’re always perfect no matter what -- I knew I could cheat a little bit and go a little bit faster and know that I could still trust it and it would still be good.”

It was, and as a result, NC State pulled off one of the biggest upsets in its history.

“A sense of pride came across me,” Teal said. “There was so much work we put in. It was blow-for-blow for both teams, and we came out victorious. It’s just a great feeling to know you gave your all and came away with something.”

ACC playoff watch: Week 5

September, 24, 2014
Sep 24
Last week in this space, we wrote the following: “When it comes time for the selection committee to judge the ACC, there’s a good chance [Week 4’s] games will tell a big part of the story.”

After a brutal Saturday for the league, the best hope the ACC has is that the remaining chapters of that story are remarkably impressive, because we’re not through September, and the playoff picture is already awfully bleak for some teams.

Where the ACC stands: Week 4 was so bad for the ACC that its marquee team won a drama-filled game over a ranked foe — and fell two spots in ESPN’s Football Power Index. The league now ranks fifth in ESPN’s conference power rankings, tumbling past the Big Ten, and Florida State and Clemson remain the only ACC teams ranked in the FPI top 30.

Top playoff contenders: Florida State (No. 1 AP, No. 4 FPI), Pitt (NR, 31), Duke (No. 23 USA Today Poll, No. 38 FPI)

Nonconfernece record: 32-10 overall (5-5 last week), 18-7 vs. FBS, 4-5 vs. Power 5.

Week 3 recap: The ACC had a chance to put a nail in the Big Ten’s coffin and virtually lock up at least the No. 4 spot in the conference power rankings. All it had to do was avoid disaster.

The result? Disaster.

Miami fell to Nebraska as Ameer Abdullah ran for 229 yards against an overwhelmed Hurricanes defense. Syracuse’s disastrous second quarter meant the Orange never had a chance against Maryland. Pitt watched as a 17-7 halftime lead slowly disappeared as Iowa’s previously hapless offense converted one big play after another. And when the dust cleared, any ACC bragging rights against the maligned Big Ten had vanished.

But that wasn’t the worst of it.

North Carolina became the second straight ACC victim for East Carolina, and it was as ugly as a game can get. The Pirates torched the Heels’ defense for 789 yards, 39 first downs and 70 points and made a relatively compelling case that they ought to win the ACC Coastal by default.

Add in a road loss for Virginia and a devastating collapse for Clemson, and the end result of Week 4 is that the ACC once again has only one real contender for the playoff: Florida State.

According to ESPN’s College Football Playoff Eliminator, UNC, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Virginia and Clemson are officially goners. But before we crown FSU, there is one more team worth discussing.

Georgia Tech was largely overlooked in the much-debated Coastal, but the Yellow Jackets have routinely staved off disaster and, after a come-from-behind win against Virginia Tech on Saturday, stand at 4-0 and in control of their own destiny. Tech’s next two games are against Miami and Duke, and with wins, Paul Johnson’s crew would have the inside track in the Coastal. The Jackets will also get in-state rival Georgia (currently No. 4 in FPI) with a chance to boost its profile at year’s end, then perhaps a date with FSU in the ACC title game.

It’s a long shot, of course, but other than Florida State, that’s what the ACC is left with at this point.

Week 5 preview: It’s hard to know what to make of Duke and NC State so far this season. Both are 4-0, but neither team has played an opponent ranked higher than 68th in FPI (Georgia Southern). But that changes this week, as Duke travels to Miami and NC State hosts the Seminoles. If either one still has a spotless record on Sunday, they’ll start being taken much more seriously.

Of course, it was just two years ago that NC State knocked off Florida State in Raleigh, and Jacoby Brissett has the Wolfpack thinking upset again. It would, no doubt, be a stunning development if it happened, but after three games, it’s still hard to know what to make of FSU. The defense has looked shaky, but it’s buckled down when it’s had to. The offense has been up-and-down, but it’s hard to build rhythm without your star QB. In other words, while NC State wants to prove it belongs, the best thing for Florida State — and probably the ACC as a whole — would be for the Seminoles to finally turn in one of those dominant performances that they made look routine a year ago.

ACC Live: Week 5 (2 p.m. ET)

September, 24, 2014
Sep 24
Join ACC reporters Andrea Adelson, Matt Fortuna, David Hale and Jared Shanker as they delve into the state of the conference after the first quarter of the season and look ahead to Week 5 action. They will also take your questions live on-screen.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- NC State is third in the ACC in scoring offense, and Florida State doesn't own either of the spots ahead of the Wolfpack. That doesn't mean anyone is taking NC State's offense over Florida State's, but the Seminoles will need to score more points than previously thought before the season started.

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
Don Juan Moore/Getty ImagesAfter sitting out against Clemson, QB Jameis Winston returned to practice Monday, in preparation for the Seminoles' game at NC State on Saturday.
The offense has not hit on all cylinders yet, although a true Jameis Winston-led offense has only been seen against Oklahoma State in the opener. Winston was suspended from Saturday's game and did not take first-team practice reps the second half of last week. It showed in practice Monday.

"It's definitely a difference from not playing in a game and going [between] different quarterbacks," senior receiver Rashad Greene said. "We definitely have to get our timing back and it's already back, but Monday was a little off. It shows you if you miss a little time it makes a difference."

Fisher said Winston is leading the No. 1 Seminoles in the same fashion as he always has despite the suspension, which was handed down a week ago. The fifth-year coach did say Winston was a little more "appreciative of how quickly things can go away."

Senior running back Karlos Williams said Winston still has the respect of the Seminoles' locker room. Williams called the reigning Heisman Trophy winner Florida State's "emotional leader."

"The way Jameis loves the game is unlike a lot of people. He's going to be vocal, he's going to talk, he's going to express himself and he's going to show emotion," Williams said. "You can tell it hurt him down to the core of his soul because he could not play … but the way he responded to it brought attention to me like 'this guy really cares about this team and it's not just about Jameis Winston but Florida State as a whole.'"

The passing offense's production comes down to more than just Winston's re-emergence as the starting quarterback and one of the country's elite players. The offensive line was suspect in run and pass blocking against a talented Clemson front four. Left tackle Cam Erving was seen once again working at center with right tackle Bobby Hart sliding to the left side. Chad Mavety, a former junior college lineman, was playing right tackle.

Fisher said after practice he still plans to use the same starting five offensive linemen he has all season with Austin Barron orchestrating the calls at center. If the same starting lineup trots out against NC State, there is the potential Fisher could mix things up during the game if the offensive line, which consists of five seniors, once again isn't playing up to the level it showcased in 2013.

The Seminoles are still waiting on the emergence of a No. 2 receiver opposite Greene, who is fourth in the country in receiving yards per game. Christian Green is the other starting outside receiver, but Fisher said true freshmen Ermon Lane and Travis Rudolph saw increased snaps in practice Tuesday.

"We need the legs and to bring them along," Fisher said. "We have to get more bodies. I'm very happy with the day they had."

Greene, who ESPN Insider KC Joyner recently ranked as college football's top receiver, said the onus is on him to develop a secondary receiving threat to open up the offense.

"As a whole we're not at our best but we're definitely coming along. I'm in charge of that and I'm doing my best to get everybody on the same page and the mindset of how to work," Greene said. "That's the first thing I have to do is show them and teach them how to work."

ACC morning links

September, 24, 2014
Sep 24
East Carolina has this way of, you know, beating teams in the ACC. And it has no shame in reminding the teams it has vanquished.

A billboard has popped up in Winterville, North Carolina, taking a shot at the North Carolina Tar Heels, after the Pirates demolished them for the second straight season.

This is reminiscent of what East Carolina did last year after beating NC State. The Pirates have room to brag considering their success recently. They also beat Virginia Tech this season.

By the way, if you're wondering what the #beneathwho is all about, it's a response to this quote from last week:

For North Carolina, there is absolutely nothing to brag about now. The loss was so ugly, it is being left on the cutting room floor. According to The Daily Tar Heel, linebacker Jeff Schoettmer said of the tape, "You know, we didn’t even watch it. Coach (Larry) Fedora left it up to the position coach to make that decision. Since we ran a little different scheme than we do normally, there’s no need to dwell on it, too.”

After stumbling early last season, North Carolina recovered to make a bowl game. But the looming stretch looks more challenging than anything the Tar Heels faced year, beginning Saturday at Clemson. As Fedora said, "The true test of a man is finding out who you are. Until you’re really tested, you don’t know. But when you are tested, the true man comes out. It’s who you are. You can’t hide it at that point. And why would you want to hide it?"