ACC: California Golden Bears

Hokies and Terps both in a hole

September, 5, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

This doesn't bode well for the ACC. Not at all. There are only two nonconference games left to play this weekend -- including the biggest one, in Atlanta -- and both Virginia Tech and Maryland are currently on the losing end.

The Hokies are down 24-17 to Alabama in the fourth quarter, and Maryland trails Cal 14-6 in the second quarter. Offense has been hard to come by for the ACC, despite so many returning quarterbacks and loaded backfields. The clock is running out for these teams to help redeem an otherwise dreadful opening week for the ACC.

Harris poised in defeat

December, 27, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

It's still too early to deem Jacory Harris Miami's starting quarterback for 2009, but even in defeat, the true freshman proved Saturday night he is definitely capable of the job.

  Phil Carter/US Presswire
  Playing well in an Emerald bowl defeat, Miami's Jacory Harris proved he is the quarterback of the future for the Hurricanes.

With suspended starter Robert Marve momentarily in the background, Harris played with poise in his second career start and further validated what coach Randy Shannon has been trying to tell everyone all along -- he's got two quarterbacks.

Harris grew up right before our eyes, and the 24-17 Emerald Bowl loss might have been different had the Hurricanes had better clock management and not wasted precious seconds in the final minute of their final drive. That, though, falls on the shoulders of offensive coordinator Patrick Nix, not his young quarterback. Nix has to have a two-minute drill Harris can handle as a true freshman, and Harris proved all game he can handle the pressure.

It was hardly a flawless performance, as Harris showed his youth with the interception, and should have held onto the ball more tightly in a critical fourth-quarter fumble that led to Cal's game-winning touchdown. But Harris' future is bright, as is Miami's. He finished with 194 yards and two touchdowns on 25 of 41 completions.

The biggest difference in this game was youth, and for the Hurricanes, that's hardly a bad thing.

Harris was occasionally a step slow with his timing, but for the most part did a good job recognizing coverages and was able to make plays out of nothing with his feet. He also threw the ball away instead of taking sacks. He gave his receivers catchable balls, but they didn't always return the favor (see Javarris James' drop in the end zone). As the game went on, Harris' confidence grew, and he began to take more chances.

Miami's offensive line struggled with both pass protection and run blocking early in the first half, and Cal controlled the line of scrimmage. As they settled down, though, so did Harris, and things began to open up for Lee Chambers and the running game in the third quarter.

As expected, Cal running back Jahvid Best racked up enough mileage to run back to campus.

Best was Mr. Inside AND Mr. Outside. He rolled off tackles, broke tackles, juked defenders and flat-out beat Miami with his speed in the open field.

He had to, because Cal's passing game was ineffective, and Miami's defense had a little something to do with that.

Miami wrapped up and tackled better than it did in its last two regular season losses to Georgia Tech and NC State, and the Canes got pressure on quarterback Nate Longshore as the game progressed.

Harris was easily the more productive of the two quarterbacks.

Aside from the poor clock management at the end of the game, Miami had nothing to be ashamed of in this game -- including the five suspensions.

The bowl appearance, the improvement on defense and Shannon's unwavering discipline all marked signs of positive change in his second season.

Breaking down the Emerald Bowl

December, 26, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

In keeping with the mini bowl previews I've been doing, here's a closer look at the Emerald Bowl, starting with three reasons why Miami will win:

1. Cal's offensive line. The Golden Bears are down three starters and a reserve from its preseason depth chart, and junior college transfer Donovan Edwards, who's not physically there yet, has been exploited at times at tackle.

2. Cal's issues at quarterback. It looks like Nate Longshore will start in place of Kevin Riley. The Golden Bears broke in an entirely new group of receivers from 2007, and they never really got in sync. The passing game has been somewhat of a weakness this season.

3. Miami's ability to pressure quarterbacks. Although they are the worst team in the FBS when it comes to interceptions (they only have four this season), the Canes rank 20th nationally in tackles for loss and are tied for 25th with 30 sacks this season. Miami has the No. 13 pass defense in the country.

Here are three reasons why they won't win:

1. Location, location, location. Miami had to travel about 3,000 miles to play this game, while Cal had to go about six and a half. Cal is undefeated at home this season.

2. Running back Jahvid Best. He ranks fifth nationally in rushing, averaging 126.7 yards per game. He was the Pac-10's leading rusher with 1,394 yards and 13 touchdowns during the regular season. Best also ranked second in the conference in scoring with 84 points and led the Pac-10 with 183.5 all-purpose yards per game.

3. Cal's defense. The Golden Bears' defense was second in the Pac-10 in scoring defense, behind only USC with an average of 20.2 points. Cal ranks seventh nationally in turnover margin (+1.17) having forced 32 turnovers which includes 23 interceptions and nine fumble recoveries. Cal is also tied for 13th nationally in sacks while overall the Golden Bears rank 24th in total defense and 27th in scoring defense. They'll be pressuring true freshman quarterback Jacory Harris, who is making just his second career start, all game.

ACC's lunchtime links

December, 24, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Boston College is still stung by its loss to Virginia Tech in the ACC title game, but this year's group of seniors are still capable of something special.

UNC coach Butch Davis is apparently earning his $2 million salary, as increases in attendance and ticket sales have led to a big payoff for the program.

NC State coach Tom O'Brien enters the Bowl on a six-game bowl winning streak. "He's a bowl coach," says linebacker Nate Irving.

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson finished fourth in the national Coach of the Year voting. In case you missed this story earlier, Johnson has really toned down bowl practices from the way his predecessor, Chan Gailey, used to run things:

"Bowl practices here used to be hell," defensive tackle Darryl Richard said. "It was like going to camp again."

Cal running back Jahvid Best is keeping Miami linebacker Sean Spence awake at night.

Al Groh still has one position he needs to fill, a defensive line coach.

What to watch in the ACC bowls

December, 24, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Here are a few things to watch in the pre-New Year's Day ACC bowls:

1. The ACC's win-loss record. With seven of the 10 games being played between Dec. 27-Dec. 31, this is the conference's chance to make a statement and show how far it has come since last year's two-win postseason. So far, so good, as Wake Forest got the ACC off to a 1-0 start.

2. North Carolina's defense against Pat White. The Tar Heels couldn't beat Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor, and White is even more dangerous. In addition to his 135.64 pass efficiency rating, White has also accounted for 83.5 rushing yards per game.

3. Wisconsin's time of possession. The Badgers best chance of winning this game is by running the ball repeatedly, wearing out FSU's defense and controlling the clock. It's what they've done all season, as Wisconsin is No. 22 in the nation in time of possession with 31:22. If the Seminoles can contain P.J. Hill, they should come out on top.

4. Miami quarterback Jacory Harris. He won when starter Robert Marve was suspended in the season opener and will have to do it again, as Marve is suspended for the Emerald Bowl. Harris has proven before he can win games, as he came off the bench and accounted for five touchdowns against Duke. But he has also looked cold and uncomfortable at times in the formula Randy Shannon has used him in. He has completed 60.8 percent of his passes for 1001 yards, six interceptions and 10 touchdowns.

5. Miami's run defense. The Hurricanes will need to play better than they did against NC State, when they allowed 219 yards on the ground. Cal running back Jahvid Best finished the regular season with 1,394 rushing yards and will be playing about six miles from his campus.

6. NC State quarterback Russell Wilson vs. Rutgers quarterback Mike Teel. Both have led their teams to impressive late-season rallies, and one will be the difference in this game. Wilson has a 134.28 passer rating and has thrown just one interception this season. Teel is 16th in the nation in passing efficiency at 148.53.

7. Georgia Tech's rushing offense vs. LSU's rushing defense. This is the key statistical matchup in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, as the Yellow Jackets rank third in the nation with 282.3 rushing yards per game, and LSU is No. 17 in the nation in rushing defense, with 105.7 yards per game and just 3.3 yards per carry.

8. Boston College quarterback Dominique Davis. He's trying to rebound from a subpar performance in the ACC championship game and has been working hard to improve his pocket presence. He'll face a tough Vanderbilt defense.

9. BC's non-offensive touchdown streak. The Eagles are tied for first in the country with eight non-offensive touchdowns, and have scored on either defense or special teams in seven straight games, the longest streak in the nation. Can they keep it going until the end?

10. UNC's record-setting receiver, Hakeem Nicks. Nicks needs one more touchdown to set the school record with 10. One more would also equal the career record of 19. He also needs five more receptions to break the UNC career record of 177, and is just 58 yards shy of moving into 12th place on the ACC's career receiving list.

Maryland's QB from Cali hopes to impress against Cal

September, 11, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

This should be a good week for Maryland quarterback Chris Turner. Should.

He celebrated his 21st birthday on Monday, and six or seven family members are flying in from California to cheer him on as the Terps host Cal.

The only problem is the Terps (1-1) are hosting Cal (2-0).

Maryland is one of the most consistently inconsistent teams in the ACC, and if it is going to have any chance against the surging Golden Bears, Turner knows he's got to play better than he did in the 24-14 loss to Middle Tennessee State last weekend.

Turner completed 13-of-28 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown and threw three interceptions -- two of which halted fourth-quarter drives as Maryland trailed by 10 points.

"As you can imagine, I'm not happy with how I played," Turner said, "but I keep telling everyone the good news is I can only get better. I'm confident. I've had some pretty good games in the past. If I just play to my ability, I think we'll be alright."

After starting the last eight games of 2007, Turner was benched in favor of Jordan Steffy this summer. But he regained his starting spot last week when Steffy injured his thumb. Turner has tried to figure out what went wrong for him, and the one thing he came up with is being out of rhythm.

"Our offense now takes a lot of timing, a lot of rhythm going through progressions," said Turner, a native of Simi Valley, Calif. "Sometimes I'd rush through progressions, sometimes I'd be so slow. Basically I have to translate what I do in practice onto the field. In practice things mesh pretty well. The timing is there. In the game it's a little bit faster."

And Cal will certainly bring the speed. On defense, cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson is tied for the nation's lead in interceptions with three, and offensively, Jahvid Best leads the Pac-10 with 155.5 rushing yards per game. They're coming off a 66-3 romp of Washington State.

Still, Turner is convinced the team is better than what it showed a week ago.

"I can't even think of a good way to describe how much better we are," Turner said. "On paper, obviously we're much better than that. We have tons of speed, tons of athletes. We were a much better team and we didn't play like that. People can take that for what it's worth. There are always going to be skeptics, but we know what we're capable of. We know that if we play how we're capable of playing, we can beat anybody. We showed that last year."