Sunday, September 23, 2012
What we learned in the ACC: Week 4
By Andrea Adelson
What did we learn in the ACC in Week 4?
1. FSU is for real. For real, for real, for real! The No. 4 Seminoles proved they were more than just preseason hype in their 49-37 victory over No. 10 Clemson in the marquee game Saturday night. Clemson led 21-14 going into the break as the Seminoles showed some of their same ol' bad habits (too many penalties, turnovers, wide right, eek!). But with the game on the line in the second half, Florida State never panicked. In fact, it was Florida State that produced the best halftime adjustments as the Noles remained as composed as a maestro at an orchestra. EJ Manuel being the maestro, of course. The Noles matched Clemson playmaker for playmaker, but they had Manuel on their side to account for 483 all-purpose yards. Meanwhile, the Florida State D tightened up in the second half. After giving up three touchdowns before the break, the Noles allowed Clemson only one in the second half -- and it came with 2:11 remaining, when the outcome was pretty much decided. FSU gave up its first touchdowns of the season, yes, but did anybody really expect the Noles to totally shut down a Clemson offense with talent everywhere? This was the statement performance Florida State needed. Now the Noles can't let up if they have designs on playing for a national title.
2. Clemson is right behind Florida State. It became clear throughout the course of the game that it is Florida State-Clemson in the top two spots in the ACC, and then everybody else. Yes, the Tigers' defense had its share of problems once again -- giving up 667 yards of total offense. Missed tackles were also plentiful, and there were holes all over the run defense. But this is a group that was physically worn down in the second half because its offense could not sustain any drives. Florida State controlled the clock and the tempo, and you could see the Tigers' defenders were just wiped out at the end of the game. This loss should not spell doom for Clemson. The Tigers might not be in control of their destiny in the Atlantic, but they could still have a special season.
Mike James accounted for four TDs, including the winner, in Miami's OT victory at Georgia Tech.
3. Watch out for Miami. The Hurricanes pulled the stunner of the afternoon, beating Georgia Tech 42-36 in overtime in a wild game that had scoring runs resembling a basketball game. First they led 19-0. Then they fell behind 36-19. Then they tied the game at 36. Then they won. A team that has been much maligned for its porous defense now sits 2-0 in ACC play with a winnable game this weekend against NC State. Stephen Morris delivered in the clutch, setting a career high with 436 yards passing, and Mike James was right there with him, with four total touchdowns. His third score of the day sent the game into overtime; his fourth score won it. For Georgia Tech, it was yet another heartbreaking loss, as it was the second time in ACC play the Yellow Jackets gave up a lead with just seconds to play. It also happened in the opener against Virginia Tech, when Cody Journell made a field goal to send the game into overtime as regulation expired. The Jackets also lost that one in overtime. Three of Tech's past five games have gone into overtime. All three were losses.
4. Rush attack. Boy were the running games working for several teams across the ACC. Virginia Tech had a season-high 246 yards on the ground in a 37-0 win over Bowling Green, featuring carries for a handful of running backs; NC State had a season-high 282 yards rushing in a 52-14 win over The Citadel; Wake Forest had a season-high 296 yards in a 49-37 win over Army; Duke had a season-high 177 yards in a 38-14 win over Memphis; and Florida State had 287 yards rushing to mark the third time in four games the Seminoles have run for 285 or more. Wake Forest and Florida State each had multiple players go for more than 100 yards on the ground.
5. Maryland, UVa can't pull the upset. Even though Maryland lost 31-21, the Terps drew widespread praise for the way they were able to hang with No. 8 West Virginia. The big reason was the defense that has helped Maryland to a .500 record through four games. Maryland hit Geno Smith and flushed him out of the pocket, but the Terps simply had no answer for Tavon Austin, who had 179 yards and three touchdowns. The game was 17-14 in the second quarter until Austin scored right before halftime, and Maryland could not get closer. Meanwhile, Virginia desperately needs to find its offense. The Hoos lost 27-7 to No. 17 TCU and have scored a combined 43 points in the past three games. Michael Rocco was ineffective, and benched in favor of Phillip Sims, who led the only touchdown drive of the game. Will there be a quarterback controversy brewing now in Charlottestville?