NCF Nation: Brad Craddock

ACC weekend rewind: Week 11

November, 11, 2013
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Florida State is now in full control of its championship destiny. Miami needs to get its act together. Duke is delaying interest in basketball season in Durham (OK, probably not) and several surprise teams are making their pushes toward the postseason. All that and more in our ACC weekend rewind:

The good: Let's face it: The ACC's surest path toward national respect is by winning it all, something it has not come close to doing in recent years. And, fair or unfair, the only way an ACC team was going to become a serious player in that title conversation this year was if Alabama or Oregon lost. So Stanford's Thursday night shellacking of the Ducks was surely celebrated by the folks of Tallahassee, Fla., who then watched their beloved Florida State Seminoles punctuate the weekend with a 59-3 stomping of Wake Forest. The formula is simple now for FSU: Just win, something the program has been doing with relative ease so far this season.

[+] EnlargeFlorida State Seminoles
Brian Westerholt/Four Seam Images/AP ImagesFlorida State's defense throttled Wake Forest as the Seminoles continued their BCS title run.
The good, pt. II: Play the way the Seminoles' defense did Saturday in Winston-Salem, N.C., and you get a second category in your honor. They held the Demon Deacons' quarterbacks to a total QBR of zero for the game, the first time that has happened for a team in a game this season. They forced seven turnovers, picking off six passes while returning turnovers for touchdowns on consecutive plays. Wake Forest's three quarterbacks combined to complete seven passes to their own players, which was just one more than they completed to FSU defenders. As our David Hale noted, from the 7:15 mark of the first quarter to the 10:31 mark of the second, FSU ran four offensive plays and scored 28 points.

The bad: Miami entered Tallahassee last weekend as a top-10 team looking to make some noise if it could manage a respectable showing against the rival Seminoles. Two games later, and the Hurricanes have seen their Coastal Division frontrunner status fly away after consecutive losses to FSU and Virginia Tech, which turned three key Miami special teams gaffes into 21 points, resurrecting their own chances at making the ACC title game. Kudos to Logan Thomas for putting consecutive forgettable outings behind him by completing 25 of 31 passes for 366 yards with two touchdowns and no picks.

The ugly: Virginia's 45-14 loss at North Carolina was its seventh straight loss, its most in a single-season since 1981. The Cavaliers had little margin for error to begin with, but did themselves no favors by surrendering a pick-six and a punt return for a score to the resurgent Tar Heels, who have now won three straight games and are knocking on the door of bowl eligibility at 4-5 after a 1-5 start. Craig Littlepage has voiced his support for Mike London so far this season, but you have to wonder how much that will change with each passing loss.

The clutch: Sure, ruining Notre Dame's national title hopes in South Bend, Ind., last year would have been sweeter. But Pittsburgh's 28-21 home upset of the No. 23 Fighting Irish was nonetheless a high mark for the program, which recorded a signature win for second-year coach Paul Chryst and delivered the Irish's BCS bowl hopes an early knockout blow. Ray Vinopal keyed a strong defensive performance for the Panthers, coming up with a pair of fourth-quarter interceptions and forcing a fumble early. Now Pitt is just one win away from bowl eligibility with three games remaining.

The hat trick: Andre Williams outdid himself in Boston College's 48-34 win at New Mexico State, as he broke the 200-yard mark for the third time this season. Williams set an Eagles single-game record with 295 yards rushing on 30 carries, including a go-ahead 80-yard score and a game-sealing 47-yard touchdown on the next possession. What more can you say about the senior? He now leads the nation in rushing yards with 1,471. His 163.4 rushing yards per game are also a national best, nearly 11 full yards per game clear of the No. 2 man, Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey. BC is now 5-4, three wins past last season's total and, more importantly, a victory away from bowl eligibility.

The hat trick, pt. II: Duke redshirt freshman DeVon Edwards had a day for the ages, recording two pick-sixes -- one of 25 yards, the other of 45 -- on back-to-back NC State plays within 16 seconds of each other and returning a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown in the Blue Devils' 38-20 win, their fifth straight victory. Edwards became the first Duke player with two pick-sixes in a game since Leon Wright against Army in 2009 and became the first Blue Devil to return a kickoff for a score since Jabari Marshall against UConn in 2007. Edwards was named the national defensive player of the week by the Walter Camp Football Foundation for his efforts. He added 10 tackles, too.

The brick wall: So, it's unlikely that anyone will confuse this year's Syracuse defense with 2011 Alabama, 2008 USC or any other greats of recent memory. But after losing to Georgia Tech 56-0 the Orange have been on a roll, pitching 113 straight minutes of shutout ball over the past two-plus games before Brad Craddock's 23-yard field goal got Maryland on the board with 1:10 left in the third quarter Saturday. That would be all the Terrapins could manage in a 20-3 loss to an Orange team now 3-2 in its first season of ACC play and 5-4 overall, just one win shy of bowl eligibility. Syracuse forced four turnovers and held Maryland to 292 yards of total offense, though the challenge gets amplified just a bit this weekend when it travels to Florida State.

The class act: Hats off to Marquise Williams, who became North Carolina's starting quarterback for the rest of the season after Bryn Renner underwent season-ending shoulder surgery this week. Williams, normally No. 12, wore Renner's No. 2 in honor of the injured senior, and he completed 15 of 28 passes for 185 yards with two touchdowns and one pick while adding 46 rushing yards and another touchdown in the Tar Heels' win over Virginia. Oh, and he caught a 29-yard touchdown pass for good measure, with Quinshad Davis it to make Williams the first North Carolina quarterback to catch a touchdown pass since 1984, when Kevin Anthony did the same against Virginia.

The headaches: Good luck trying to sort out the potential scenarios for a Coastal Division winner after Virginia Tech's upset of Miami and Duke's win Saturday, which helped leave the division with four teams with two losses apiece. And good luck trying to sort out all of the possible bowl destinations for a number of ACC teams after a week in which conference newcomers Pitt and Syracuse inched their way closer to postseason play with upset wins to get to five victories apiece. Boston College got to five wins, too, while Maryland remains at five after the loss to the Orange. North Carolina is making a push at 4-5 and on a three-game winning streak, and there are already six bowl-eligible teams. So yes, there could be 11 teams bowling in the ACC this winter. Not bad.

Happy Halloween in the ACC

October, 31, 2012
10/31/12
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Happy Halloween, ACC fans! Andrea and I decided to have a little fun today with some spooky stuff in the ACC. We see you guys out there dressed up as officials …

Cursed: Maryland’s quarterbacks. It’s the only way to explain it. Some sort of hex. Following the transfer of Danny O’Brien to Wisconsin, starter C.J. Brown tore his ACL. His backup, Perry Hills, then tore his ACL. Backup Devin Burns also suffered a season-ending injury, and then -- as if all of that weren’t enough of a spell -- true freshman Caleb Rowe also suffered a season-ending ACL injury. Coach Randy Edsall called it unlucky. Spooky if you ask me.

[+] EnlargeDavid Cutcliffe
Peter Casey/US PresswireThis season, coach David Cutcliffe and Duke have been scaring opponents for a change.
Back from the dead: Duke. The Devils have done it. For the first time since 1994, Duke is bowl eligible. Not only have the Blue Devils reached the six-win mark, they also have a chance to win the Coastal Division. With a 6-3 record (.667) Duke is off to its best start in five seasons under head coach David Cutcliffe. The Blue Devils have compiled a 5-0 record at Wallace Wade Stadium this season, matching the school record for home victories in a season. They’re alive.

Graveyard: Virginia. Bury ‘em. The Cavaliers have officially replaced Boston College at the bottom of the ACC power rankings, and have lost six straight heading into Saturday’s road trip to NC State. They have yet to win an ACC game, and haven’t won since Sept. 8. Nobody in the country ranks worse than Virginia in turnover margin. It’s been a hard fall after last season’s success. Odds are the Hoos don’t get back up again this season.

Scary movie: Pitt 35, Virginia Tech 17: Nobody but Pitt wants to watch this horror flick again. The Hokies had four turnovers. Logan Thomas had one touchdown and three interceptions against a defense that managed just one sack and no turnovers through the season's first two weeks. Virginia Tech had just 59 rushing yards. Pitt jumped out to a 21-0 lead. The Hokies were manhandled up front on both sides and allowed the Panthers 537 total yards.

Nightmare in Carter-Finley Stadium: NC State 17, FSU 16. That was not a bad dream, Seminoles fans, that was a national championship dream dying in Raleigh. Nobody expected that to happen, not after FSU jumped to No. 3 in the rankings after its win against Clemson. Not after NC State struggled so badly in losses to Tennessee and Miami. But Tom O'Brien knows how to cast a spell at least once a season. Double Double, toil and trouble ... bring me FSU on the double! His players responded, rallying from a 16-0 halftime deficit to score the game-winning touchdown pass on fourth down with 16 seconds remaining. Poof!

Thriller: Speaking of the Wolfpack, NC State has probably been involved in more thrillers than any team in the country. The Wolfpack have gone down to the wire in four straight games. The thrills began at Miami on Sept. 29, when NC State overcame a 10-point fourth quarter deficit to tie the game with 1:58 to go, only to lose when Miami scored a touchdown with 19 seconds remaining. The following week came the biggest thriller of all, the upset of FSU. Then, they beat Maryland when Terps kicker Brad Craddock missed a 33-yard field goal with 2 seconds left. Last week, they lost to North Carolina when Giovani Bernard returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown with 13 seconds left.

Trick or treat (high stakes game): NC State at Clemson, Nov. 17. For the Tigers to keep their Atlantic Division hopes alive, they must win this game. NC State already took Florida State down this year, but the Wolfpack have had a much harder time beating both teams in the same season. NC State won this matchup last year in decisive fashion, 37-17 so you know Clemson will be looking for revenge.

Jack-o-Lantern: Georgia Tech. Will the light come on for this team in time to make a bowl game? The Jackets have to win three of their final four to keep one of the longest bowl streaks in the nation alive. Georgia Tech has gone bowling 15 straight years, but faces an uphill climb with this remaining schedule: at Maryland, at North Carolina, Duke and at Georgia.

ACC weekend rewind: Week 8

October, 22, 2012
10/22/12
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Here’s a look back at Week 8 in the ACC ...

[+] EnlargeClemson defense and Virginia Tech
Joshua S. Kelly/US PresswireClemson's defense held Logan Thomas and Virginia Tech to just 17 points.
The good: Clemson's defense. This highly criticized group played arguably its best game of the season, forcing Virginia Tech into four turnovers, including one interception safety Jonathan Meeks ran back 74 yards for a touchdown. The Hokies’ 17 points were a season low by an FBS team against Clemson this year.

The bad: Maryland’s quarterback situation. It started when Danny O’Brien transferred, and the hits just keep on coming for the Terps’ quarterbacks. As if it weren’t bad enough to lose starter C.J. Brown to a season-ending knee injury this summer, his backup, Perry Hills, was injured and taken out of Saturday’s game against NC State. And then there were two -- Caleb Rowe and Devin Burns, a former receiver who switched positions this summer just to help out.

The ugly: BC and Virginia are a combined 0-8 in ACC play.

The ugly II: Two calls in the Clemson-Virginia Tech game. The first was a sack that was called on Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas. It appeared the official blew the whistle too quickly, and it didn’t look anything like a sack. Maybe it was intended to prevent an injury? It nullified what would have been a momentum-changing first down. The other was a questionable call on what looked like a fumble by Sammy Watkins in the third quarter.

The historic: Duke’s sixth win. The Blue Devils are bowl eligible for the first time since 1994 and they are leading the Coastal Division standings after a 33-30 win over rival North Carolina.

The improved: Georgia Tech’s defense. After a tumultuous bye week in which defensive coordinator Al Groh was fired and assistant Charles Kelly was named the interim, the Jackets regrouped and showed progress in a win over BC. Georgia Tech shut down Boston College in a 37-17 win, holding the Eagles to 296 total yards and 32 on the ground.

The stat: The Hokies have four losses before the end of October for the first time since 1992.

The stat II: Duke had 234 yards rushing -- the most ever on the ground by a David Cutcliffe-coached Duke team.

The quote: "I'm still pretty darn young, and I've got a long time to go," he said, "but I want to leave this place much better than when we walked into it. That's when you know you've done something right." – Duke coach David Cutcliffe, according to USA Today.

The play: Duke quarterback Sean Renfree threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Jamison Crowder on fourth down with 13 seconds left to beat North Carolina 33-30.

The play II: With two seconds remaining against NC State, Maryland kicker Brad Craddock’s 33-yard field goal attempt hit the left upright to seal NC State’s 20-18 win.

The painful: Both Florida State and Miami lost their leading rushers to injuries on Saturday. FSU running back Chris Thompson suffered a knee injury and Miami’s Duke Johnson left the game in the second half with a foot injury and didn't return. Coach Al Golden said Johnson would have X-rays after the game, but had no update on the situation during his weekly Sunday afternoon teleconference, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

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