ACC: EagleBank Bowl

Morning mailblog

March, 20, 2009
3/20/09
9:47
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Good morning, ACC fans. Sorry for the late start today. One thing I can address without finishing my coffee is squashing the rumor that Boston College and Georgia Tech might switch divisions. Not gonna happen. Now, without further delay ...

Luis, a Cane stuck in Virginia, wrote: Heather, just wanted to know what you thought about Mark Whipple potentially being promoted to HEAD COACH at the U if the canes have another lackluster season. I was never a fan of the Coker hire, I wasn't a fan of the Shannon hire either (at least Shannon has had success in recruiting), and Whipple just comes off as a guy who knows what he's doing when it comes to running a football team. Do you think this is even remotely a possibility? Or just a pipe dream for some of us cane fans?

Heather Dinich: If the Canes have another lackluster season, why would Kirby Hocutt want to promote anyone on staff? What if the offense is the reason they struggle? Here are my thoughts on Miami: I have no question about Mark Whipple's abilities as a coach, and I've heard he's a heckuva guy, too. It's only a matter of how quickly his players can learn -- and execute -- the offense. From what I'm told, they're doing well with it. If Miami struggles this year, it certainly won't be for a lack of talent, that's for sure.


John in New York writes: Should we take it as a vote of no-confidence in Dominique Davis and Justin Tuggle that Codi Boek was moved back from FB to QB? What is Gary Tranquill looking for in a QB? Does his scheme emphasize athleticism and running ability as much as Logan's did? Thanks!

Heather Dinich: Definitely not. That move will help the depth at the position AND the competition. Boek was a dual-threat quarterback in high school. I talked to Montel Harris recently and he said they're opening up the playbook a bit, there's a wider variety of plays to choose from, and that it's been pretty difficult to learn. I'll have more from that conversation for you later.


Greg in Greenville writes: Heather would like to know what you think of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets this year and for years to come. You think we have a chance at winning the ACC this year?

Heather Dinich: Yes, definitely. I spoke with the Jackets' D-line coach, Giff Smith, recently, and he seems confident in the guys who will be taking over there. Georgia Tech's success (much like everyone else) will be determined by how they fare up front. They've got to replace three of four starters on defense, and the offensive line simply has to get better. Other than that, they've got all of the ingredients they need.


Somebody wrote: Heather Is the ACC losing the Champs bowl to the Big East?

Heather Dinich: No, that relationship is as solid as ever. However, the conference is expected to announce soon a new bowl partnership to replace the Humanitarian Bowl. The EagleBank Bowl will move up to the No. 8 spot and a ninth bowl will be added.

So long, 2008

January, 14, 2009
1/14/09
9:30
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

It was a great season to cover ACC football, with plenty of memorable moments, games, plays, coaches, players and issues -- some good, some not so good. Here are a few things I won't forget from 2008, in no particular order:

The jumbled, exciting race for the ACC title -- It was arguably the most competitive season in ACC football history, as the race to Tampa came down to the final weeks in November, and four teams finished with 5-3 conference records and six teams finished at 4-4.

Tommy Bowden resigns midseason -- On Oct. 13, 2008, Clemson announced that Bowden would no longer be head coach, and wide receivers coach Dabo Swinney took over the program and made immediate, sweeping changes, including the firing of offensive coordinator Rob Spence.

Miami's quarterback controversy -- It all began when starter Robert Marve was suspended for the season opener, and ended with him being suspended for the Emerald Bowl. Jacory Harris or Marve? Following Marve's transfer, there's only one choice.

Myron Rolle wins a Rhodes Scholarship -- There might not have been a more positive story in ACC football this season, as Rolle interviewed for one of the prestigious scholarships on the same day Florida State played a critical Atlantic Division game at Maryland. Rolle won the award, and flew to Maryland in time to contribute to the 37-3 win.

Virginia Tech wins the FedEx Orange Bowl -- The Hokies did the most with the least this season, as Frank Beamer did arguably the best coaching job of his career and led Virginia Tech to its fifth straight 10-win season. The 20-7 win over Cincinnati gave the ACC its first BCS bowl win since 1999.

Jeff Jagodzinski gets fired -- After only his second season and back-to-back appearances in the ACC title game, Jagodzinski decided to interview with the New York Jets, knowing it would cost him his job. A private matter of trust between Jagodzinski and athletic director Gene DeFilippo became public.

Bye-bye coordinators -- Virginia coach Al Groh fired his son, offensive coordinator Mike Groh, Miami coach Randy Shannon fired offensive coordinator Patrick Nix, Clemson coach Swinney fired offensive coordinator Spence, and both Maryland and Clemson's defensive coordinators both bolted for K-State. BC will need a new defensive coordinator now that Frank Spaziani is the new head coach.

Georgia Tech's 45-42 win over Georgia -- The Yellow Jackets earned their first win in the series since 2000, and they did it on the road and in Paul Johnson's first season. Georgia Tech broke a seven-game losing streak to the Dawgs and rushed for 409 yards in the process. It was arguably the ACC's best nonconference win of the season, though the Hokies' win over Cincinnati had a bigger impact.

The poor attendance at the ACC title game in Tampa -- Having seen it first-hand, it will be tough to forget. According to the St. Pete Times, the turnstile count for the game at Raymond James Stadium was 27,360, about half the tickets that were sold and distributed (53,927).

NCAA-record 10 bowl eligible teams -- Heading into the season, it didn't seem as if the ACC would be strong enough to have even a ninth team qualify to play in the inaugural EagleBank Bowl, but the conference became the first to send 10 teams to bowl games in a single season.

Final 2008 ACC power rankings

January, 14, 2009
1/14/09
9:12
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

The bowl season provided reasons for change from the top to the bottom in the final version of the power ranking. Remember, this is all based on 2008, not what 2009 might look like. We'll save that one for later.

Here is the final list:

 
  Mark Zerof/US Presswire
  Darren Evans' 153 rushing yards helped lead Virginia Tech in its Orange Bowl win.

1. Virginia Tech (10-4) -- The Hokies gave the ACC its first BCS bowl win since 1999 and broke the league's eight-game losing streak in those games. It was their fifth straight 10-win season under Frank Beamer, and they finished the season on a four-game winning streak.

2. Florida State (9-4) -- Their convincing 42-13 win over Wisconsin was the ACC's only other bowl win over a team from a BCS conference, and the Noles finished with more than eight wins for the first time since 2004. They never lost back-to-back games.

3. Georgia Tech (9-4) -- The Yellow Jackets are a better team than the one that showed up for the Chick-fil-A Bowl, but their 38-3 loss to LSU and the other results forced them to sink a few notches. Still, they won two of their last three games, including a statement win over rival Georgia.

4. Wake Forest (8-5) -- What separates the Demon Deacons from the other 8-5 teams is how they finished the season -- with back-to-back wins. They redeemed themselves in what was virtually a home game for Navy in the EagleBank Bowl, and had one of their best offensive performances all season.

5. Maryland (8-5) -- The Terps ended the season on a positive note with their win over Nevada, and that helped ease the disappointment of losing three of their last four regular-season games. Instead of worrying about missed opportunities, they took care of the one they were given.

6. Boston College (9-5) -- Yes, they have nine wins, but the Eagles also ended the season with back-to-back losses, a struggling offense and a fired coach. Instead of concentrating on Vanderbilt -- a team both Wake Forest and Duke were able to beat during the regular season -- the Eagles were stuck on what could have been.

7. North Carolina (8-5) -- The Tar Heels lost three of their last four games, including the Meineke Car Care Bowl, but it wasn't as if UNC got blown out by West Virginia. They countered Pat White with Hakeem Nicks, but it wasn't enough as UNC couldn't get its running game going in the 31-30 loss.

8. Clemson (7-6) -- The Tigers ended the season the way it began -- floundering on offense. Clemson finished with just four rushing yards in a 26-21 loss to Nebraska in the Gator Bowl, but deserve credit for a 4-3 finish under Dabo Swinney.

9. NC State (6-7) -- The Wolfpack made progress in Tom O'Brien's second season by earning a bowl bid, but depended too heavily upon quarterback Russell Wilson down the stretch. With no other answer, NC State relinquished a first-half lead and Rutgers snapped the Wolfpack's four-game winning streak.

10. Miami (7-6) -- The Hurricanes collapsed at the end, ending the season with three straight losses, one less quarterback and no offensive coordinator. A good effort against Cal in the Emerald Bowl was negated by fourth-quarter mistakes.

11. Virginia (5-7) -- The Cavaliers remain status quo after being just one of two ACC teams not to play in a bowl game this season.

12. Duke (4-8) -- The Blue Devils were only two wins shy of bowl eligibility in David Cutcliffe's first season and he is already talking about the potential for 2009.

Best and worst of the ACC bowl season

January, 13, 2009
1/13/09
1:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

We know what the ACC's best win was (Virginia Tech over Cincinnati in the Orange Bowl), and there shouldn't be much debate about the worst loss (Georgia Tech to LSU). But there were moments and plays within the games that defined the bowl season for the ACC. Here's a look at the best and worst the conference had to offer in its 10 games:

 
  AP Photo/Matt Cilley
  Da'Rel Scott came off the bench in the second half, running for 174 yards and two TDs.

BEST STORY: Breaking curfew and breaking tackles: Maryland running back Da'Rel Scott was benched for two-and-a-half quarters for breaking curfew (Boise must be more interesting than it sounds), but came in and rushed for 174 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries in the Terps' 42-35 win over Nevada.

BEST SOUVENIR: Sod. After beating Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl, FSU punter Graham Gano cut a swatch of sod out from the 3-yard line near where two of his punts went out.

BEST QUOTE: "BCS -- finally, we got one!" -- Virginia Tech cornerback Victor "Macho" Harris.

BEST CATCH: Easily UNC's Hakeem Nicks' behind-the-back vs. West Virginia. Anyone who watched Nicks reach behind his back, grab the ball with his left hand and pass it to his right for an eight-yard gain had to think NFL. The remarkable catch set up T.J. Yates' 4-yard touchdown run to give North Carolina a 30-24 lead.

BEST STAT: 32. The Wake Forest seniors finished as the winningest class in school history with 32 victories after their win over Navy in the EagleBank Bowl.

BEST COACHING JOB: Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech. The entire ACC owes him a big "thank you" for breaking the league's eight-game losing streak in BCS bowls. Beamer had to have been feeling the pressure after last year's loss to Kansas, but he kept the team and the staff together and directed the Hokies to a 20-7 win over Cincinnati in the FedEx Orange Bowl.

WORST ENDING: Miami's fumble and botched two-minute offense against Cal. There was poor clock management on the Canes' final possession, and freshman quarterback Jacory Harris fumbled the ball in the fourth quarter as Miami squandered its chance to beat Cal in the Emerald Bowl.

WORST DECISION: Clemson's comeback gets sacked. Trailing 26-21 in the fourth quarter, the Tigers had crept as close as Nebraska's 10-yard line with under two minutes left to play. On second and goal from the 10, quarterback Cullen Harper was sacked for a loss of 16 yards. The veteran should have gotten rid of it.

WORST QUARTER: Second quarter of the Chick-fil-A Bowl. LSU outscored Georgia Tech 28-0. 'Nuff said.

WORST INJURY: NC State quarterback Russell Wilson's knee injury. While Wilson was sidelined for all of the second half against Rutgers in the Papajohns.com Bowl, his replacements combined to throw three interceptions. The Pack's 17-6 halftime edge quickly disappeared.

ACC helmet stickers: Bowl edition

January, 12, 2009
1/12/09
12:18
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Now that that national championship game is over, ESPN.com is officially putting a cap on the 2008 season. We're kicking it off today with a bowl edition of helmet stickers. The ACC won four of its 10 bowl games, with Virginia Tech, Florida State, Maryland and Wake Forest earning postseason victories.

Here are the ACC's top performers during the bowls:

Virginia Tech's backups: Offensive guard Jaymes Brooks, linebacker Barquell Rivers and defensive end Nekos Brown filled in for Tech's missing starters and the Hokies didn't miss a beat. Brooks played all 78 snaps as the Hokies put up nearly 400 yards of total offense. Brown and Rivers helped limit the high-powered Cincinnati offense to just one touchdown and Rivers had a key stop on fourth-and-goal at the 1 to help seal the game.

Virginia Tech tailback Darren Evans: Evans ran for 153 yards and a score, earning FedEx Orange Bowl MVP honors in the Hokies' 20-7 win over Cincinnati.

Virginia Tech's defense: The Hokies grabbed four interceptions, held Cincinnati to 71 yards rushing and 310 yards of offense. They didn't allow any touchdowns after the first drive.

UNC wide receiver Hakeem Nicks: In what became the final game of his career, Nicks caught eight receptions for 217 yards and three touchdowns, including ESPN's No. 1 bowl play of the season -- a behind-the-back catch. It was a standout performance in a losing effort, as the Tar Heels fell, 31-30, to West Virginia in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

Florida State kicker Graham Gano: He averaged 48.2 yards on five punts and had three downed inside Wisconsin's 5-yard line to earn MVP honors. Gano placed three first-quarter punts inside the 4-yard line, including two at the 1.

Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder: He threw for 199 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the 42-13 romp over Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl. It was a dramatic improvement from the last 10 games of the regular season during which he threw six touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

Maryland running back Da'Rel Scott: After being benched for 2 1/2 quarters for a curfew violation, Scott came in and ran 14 times for 174 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns in the Terps' 42-35 win over Nevada. His 49-yard touchdown run with 12:21 left put Maryland ahead 35-28, and Scott became the seventh back in Maryland history to top 1,000 yards.

Wake Forest offensive lineman Jeff Griffin: After starting 11 games at right tackle, Griffin moved to right guard and graded out at 94 percent (65 offensive plays, 61 plays graded positive), led the team with 18.5 knockdown blocks and didn't have one missed assignment. Wake Forest rushed for a season-high 239 yards and outrushed Navy 239-221 in the 29-19 win over Navy in the EagleBank Bowl. Griffin paved the way for Kevin Harris to rush for 136 yards, the most by a Demon Deacon this season. Wake Forest did not allow a sack.

Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner: He completed all 11 pass attempts against Navy for 166 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed seven times for 29 yards. Trailing Navy 19-14 with 12:30 to play in the game, Skinner drove the Deacons 80 yards in nine plays and finished it off with an 8-yard touchdown pass to tight Ben Wooster. Skinner was named the game's MVP.

Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers: Bowers had three tackles for loss, the most ever by a Clemson freshman in a bowl game. He finished with five total tackles and three quarterback pressures in the Tigers' 26-21 loss to Nebraska. He was named Clemson's MVP of the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl by the media attending the game.

Navy, Maryland -- meant to be rivals

December, 2, 2008
12/02/08
12:18
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Navy and Maryland should play each other again.

It makes too much sense, considering Maryland is a short drive to RFK Stadium, where the inaugural EagleBank Bowl will be held on Dec. 20, and Navy is about the same distance. It makes sense because they played each other in the 2005 season opener and it was a great game. It makes sense because they're scheduled to play each other in 2010.

AND ...

Because it's way too much fun to let the little zingers between the schools go unnoticed.

They've been going back and forth for the past few years, and it all started when Maryland was picked for the Champs Sports Bowl in 2006 and Navy felt snubbed because the Terps opted for Orlando instead of facing the Midshipmen in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte.

As long as the two programs have been talking about playing each other or even NOT playing each other, there's usually a subtle little jab, and it often comes from Navy AD Chet Gladchuk.

This time, it's because Maryland says it cannot play in the EagleBank Bowl because it's their last day of exams. To that, Gladchuk responded:

"We have exams that week, too, but we're going to show up," Gladchuk said. "Everybody has an excuse why they can't do this or can't do that. We're finding a way to accommodate the bowl's situation."

Except for the fact that Gladuck doesn't want a rematch, which eliminates Wake Forest from the picture.

Considering it's the LAST day of fall semester exams, you would think not every player on the roster has a test that day. In fact, I'd be surprised if half the team even actually had a test that day. It's hard to believe that men's basketball and baseball make it through their seasons without having to tinker with an exam schedule. Maryland has figured this out before, it can figure it out again.

After all, Maryland and Navy are natural rivals, starting at the top.

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