NCF Nation: Chandler Catanzaro

ACC's best moments of 2012

January, 14, 2013
1/14/13
11:12
AM ET
It was a rough year for the ACC, but in retrospect, there were too many highlights to narrow it down to 10. From Blair Holliday’s return, to the ACC’s impressive performances during bowl season, to individual performances and games, the conference had plenty of memorable moments in 2012.

The following is a list of 10 moments and memories that best captured the 2012 ACC season, according to ESPN.com. ACC fans are bound to have more, and we’d love to hear them. What did we miss? Feel free to drop us a note in the mailbag, and we’ll highlight the best nominations in a separate mailblog. Until then, here are your top 10 moments from 2012, starting with the best:

1. Chandler Catanzaro's game-winning field goal versus LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl: It was the ACC’s biggest win of the season, and the highest-ranked team Clemson has beaten in a bowl game since the 2004 (2003 season) Chick-fil-A Bowl, when the Tigers defeated sixth-ranked Tennessee 27-14. Catanzaro’s 37-yard field goal as time expired gave No. 14 Clemson a wild 25-24 win against No. 8 LSU, and it was the highest-ranked SEC team an ACC team has beaten in the past nine years.

2. Duke becomes bowl eligible for the first time since 1994: Sean Renfree's 5-yard touchdown pass to Jamison Crowder on fourth down with 13 seconds left lifted Duke past North Carolina 33-30 and made the Blue Devils bowl eligible for the first time since 1994. Renfree converted three third-and-longs during the game-winning, 87-yard drive.

[+] EnlargeGiovani Bernard
Bob Donnan/US PresswireGiovani Bernard's 74-yard game-winning punt return to lift UNC past rival NCSU was a play to remember.
3. Giovani Bernard versus NC State: Bernard returned a punt 74 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 13 seconds left, helping North Carolina stun rival NC State 43-35 to end a five-year losing streak in the series. That day, Bernard also ran for 135 yards and two touchdowns, and had eight catches for 95 yards.

4. Karlos Williams' tip and interception in the ACC title game: In what turned out to be the final game for FSU defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, FSU's D came up big against Georgia Tech, and no play was bigger than Williams'. The game wasn't decided until Williams intercepted Tevin Washington with less than a minute remaining. It was FSU's first ACC title since 2005.

5. The ACC posting its first winning bowl record since 2005: With marquee wins over LSU and USC and a victory in the Discover Orange Bowl, the ACC finally came out on the right end of bowl season, and will enter 2013 will some much-needed positive momentum. The Noles took another step toward national relevance with a 31-10 win against No. 15 Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl -- their first BCS bowl win since they beat Virginia Tech in 2000.

6. FSU quarterback EJ Manuel’s performance versus Clemson: It was Manuel’s one true Heisman moment of the season, as he completed 27 of 35 passes for a career-high 380 yards while rushing for another 102 to become the first Seminoles quarterback since Charlie Ward in 1992 to pass for more than 300 yards and run for more than 100 in a game.

7. Clemson QB Tajh Boyd accounts for eight touchdowns: The ACC Player of the Year set school and ACC records when he scored five passing and three rushing touchdowns in a 62-48 win over NC State. The Tigers gained 754 yards and ran 102 plays, the most in school history. Boyd was responsible for every Clemson touchdown. Boyd was 30-for-44 for 426 yards and ran for 105 yards -- the combined 531 yards set another school record.

8. Johnson leads Canes to Coastal title: In the regular-season finale against Duke, Miami freshman Duke Johnson rushed for season highs of 176 yards and three touchdowns. He scored on runs of 18, 6 and 65 yards. He finished his freshman year with 947 yards rushing, easily surpassing Clinton Portis' 13-year-old school freshman rushing record of 838 yards.

9. NC State’s game-winning TD in its upset of No. 3-ranked FSU. This isn’t a “best moment” for FSU fans, but it was by far one of the most memorable plays in the ACC and a highlight for the Wolfpack. Quarterback Mike Glennon found Bryan Underwood for a 2-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with 16 seconds left, helping the Wolfpack beat the Seminoles 17-16 on Oct. 6.

10. Duke receiver Conner Vernon rewrites the record books: In a 42-17 win against Virginia, Vernon surpassed Clemson's Aaron Kelly as the ACC's all-time leader in career receptions when he made a catch for minus-2 yards in the first quarter. In the 42-24 loss to Georgia Tech, Vernon became the ACC's all-time leader in yards receiving, passing former Florida State star Peter Warrick's record of 3,517 yards.

TOP 3 OFF-FIELD MOMENTS

[+] EnlargeBlair Holliday
Courtesy of Duke Sports InformationBlair Holliday (No. 8) walks with his Duke teammates in his return to the field following a terrible jet ski accident that sidelined the wide receiver.
So as not to trivialize these moments by tossing them in with touchdowns, here are three more memories you won't want to forget:

1. Blair Holliday joins his Duke captains for the coin toss against NC Central: It was a miraculous recovery, and the most inspirational story in the conference. Holliday, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in a jet ski accident on July 4 that left him in critical condition, led the team on the Devil Walk in what was an emotional comeback for the entire team.

2. Clemson receiver Daniel Rodriguez leads the Tigers on Military Appreciation Day: The Army veteran led the team down the hill carrying the American flag prior to the Virginia Tech game on Military Appreciation Day at Clemson on Oct. 20.

3. The ACC adds Louisville: The ACC's presidents and chancellors voted to add Louisville to replace Maryland, a move that looked better and better as the Cardinals' football season ended with a win against Florida in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. ACC officials conceded the move was an athletics-first, academics-second decision, but it was one the conference should eventually benefit from.

ACC bowl superlatives

January, 10, 2013
1/10/13
3:00
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Time to take a look at the best and worst of bowl season in the ACC.

Best game: Chik-fil-A Bowl, Clemson 25, LSU 24. How many bowl games delivered more drama than the Chick-fil-A Bowl? None. Just when LSU fans thought they would see their Tigers cruise to yet another win against the ACC, Tajh Boyd said, "Not so fast my friends!" Entering the fourth quarter down 24-13, Boyd engineered three fourth-quarter scoring drives. The most impressive? Clemson got the ball at its 20 with 1:39 remaining, down two. None of the 10 plays in the drive were more impressive than a fourth-and-16 completion to DeAndre Hopkins that went 26 yards. Chandler Catanzaro kicked the 37-yard, game-winning field goal to give the Tigers the win and 11 wins for just the fourth time in school history.

Best coaching performance: Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech. We could have gone a few different directions with this category. Dabo Swinney deserves major credit for beating LSU, but I am going with Johnson here because he needed a win in the Hyundai Sun Bowl against USC more than Swinney needed a win against LSU. Johnson had the big oh-fer next to his name under the bowl record category. His team was sent to El Paso, again, to take on the former No. 1 team in the nation. Nobody really thought the Jackets would compete. Well, they did more than compete. They blasted USC, holding the Trojans to seven points in their best defensive game of the season. USC was not who we thought they were, but who cares. Johnson deserves credit for beating a team that had a talent advantage at just about every position.

[+] EnlargeDabo Swinney
Joshua S. Kelly/USA TODAY SportsClemson's Dabo Swinney was all smiles after his team pulled an improbable comeback against LSU.
Best celebration: Speaking of Swinney, I know you all saw him bear hug ESPN sideline reporter Jeannine Edwards after the victory. Best. Candid. Celebration. Ever.

Best performance in a loss: Sean Renfree, Duke. The Blue Devils gave it the ol' college try in the Belk Bowl against Cincinnati, jumping out to a quick 16-0 lead before losing it, then taking a 31-27 lead early in the fourth quarter before losing it for good. Renfree did his part to get the Blue Devils their first bowl win since 1960, setting Belk Bowl records for completions (37), attempts (49) and passing yards (358), and adding a 10-yard touchdown pass to Conner Vernon. He did have two interceptions, but Duke would not have been in position to win without the way Renfree played.

Best defensive performance: Florida State. There were four excellent defensive performances during bowl season, but I am giving the nod to Florida State for a variety of reasons. First, the Seminoles were playing a team with a pretty prolific quarterback. Georgia Tech, Clemson and Virginia Tech most certainly did not. And the story all week leading into the game was how Florida State would stop dual-threat quarterback Jordan Lynch. Well those questions were answered, as Lynch had his worst game of the season with 176 yards passing, 44 yards rushing and one total touchdown. Northern Illinois managed 83 yards rushing, the first time all season it was held below 100 yards on the ground.

Best quote: “First off, I was just proud to be a part of this organization, honestly. The good and the bad, I understand that. That's what you're going to get as a quarterback, and Coach Fisher and I have had plenty of conversations. It's a part of the job. You're going to take the blame and you're going to get the credit, even though sometimes it's not deserved when you win. Good or bad, I'm just happy for my team. We won a BCS game. It doesn't get any better than that. We won 12 games, we won all my bowl games I've had an opportunity to play in my career. The biggest thing, we wanted to leave a legacy. A lot of the guys that came in the ‘08 and ‘09 class, we wanted to leave a legacy here at Florida State and … change the culture of what we do here. It wasn't an overnight process, but you're reaping the benefits right now, and that's why we're here, and that's why we won this game.” -- FSU quarterback EJ Manuel

Best performance: Clemson's Hopkins: He set a Chick-fil-A Bowl record with 190 receiving yards. The bowl was first played in 1968. Hopkins also caught a touchdown pass in 10 straight games, breaking the ACC record. Virginia’s Herman Moore caught a touchdown pass in nine straight games in 1990. Hopkins had touchdown catches in 12 of Clemson’s 13 games this season. No other ACC player has caught a touchdown pass in more than 10 games in the same season.

Best stat: 4-2, the ACC’s first winning bowl record since 2005.

Worst bowl game: The Russell Athletic Bowl: Zzzz. Even if you love defense like Bud Foster, this game was painful to watch. A Russell Athletic Bowl record for total punts was set with 21. It was the lowest-scoring game in the bowl’s history. The Hokies had 3 yards rushing. And won.

Worst offense: Virginia Tech. Out of 70 bowl teams, the Hokies tied Rutgers for the worst offensive output during bowl season. Each team managed a paltry 196 yards of total offense. No other team finished with under 200.

Worst stat: Five turnovers by NC State in the 38-24 loss to Vanderbilt in the Music City Bowl.

Worst stat II: Two turnovers by Duke in the red zone, including a fumble at the Cincy 5 with 1:20 left to play.

ACC's 2012 All-Bowl team

January, 10, 2013
1/10/13
11:24
AM ET
The ACC went 4-2 this bowl season, its first winning record since 2005. There were plenty of top performers to highlight, but these are the players who were most deserving of the ACC’s 2012 All-Bowl team:

Offense first team

[+] EnlargeTajh Boyd
Daniel Shirey/USA TODAY SportsQuarterback Tajh Boyd had a record-setting game in Clemson's victory against LSU.
QB -- Tajh Boyd, Clemson: He had 368 yards of total offense against LSU on 79 total offensive plays. He set a Clemson record for plays in a game by a quarterback.

RB -- Lonnie Pryor, Florida State: He had a career-long 60 yard touchdown in the first half of the Orange Bowl, which was the second-longest touchdown run in FSU bowl history. In his final game as a Seminole, he also had a 37-yard run in the fourth quarter for his second touchdown in the game.

RB -- David Sims, Georgia Tech: He rushed for a game-high and career-best 99 yards on 17 carries, and caught a touchdown pass in the 21-7 win against USC.

WR -- DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson: He finished the game with 13 receptions for 191 yards and finished the season with 82 receptions for 1405 yards. Hopkins tied his own Clemson record for receptions in a game with 13. He also had 13 in the opener against Auburn.

WR -- Conner Vernon, Duke: He caught 10 passes for 119 yards and one touchdown against Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl. He helped Duke to 34 points against a Bearcats defense that entered the game ranked 12th nationally, allowing just 17.2 points per game.

TE -- Brandon Ford, Clemson: His nine receptions against LSU tied the overall Clemson single-game record for receptions by a tight end. He finished with 69 receiving yards, including one reception for 20 yards.

T -- Cameron Erving, Florida State: It was the sixth game this season with over 500 yards of total offense for the Seminoles. All three touchdown runs came between center and left tackle, and quarterback EJ Manuel had all day to throw.

T -- Perry Simmons, Duke: He led an offensive line performance that yielded zero sacks and allowed quarterback Sean Renfree to establish Belk Bowl records for pass completions (37), pass attempts (49) and passing yardage (358). Simmons also aided a running game that gained 200 net yards on 39 attempts as running back Josh Snead picked up a career-high 107 yards on just 17 attempts.

G -- Josue Matias, Florida State: The Noles racked up 243 rushing yards, 23 first downs and 534 yards of total offense. He was part of an offensive line that didn’t allow Manuel to be sacked once by Northern Illinois. Two of Pryor’s runs came between Erving and Matias.

G -- Omoregie Uzzi, Georgia Tech: He helped pave the way for 294 rushing yards in the win against USC, and 369 total yards. He made his 39th career start, the second-most on the team.

C -- Dalton Freeman, Clemson: The Tigers had 100 plays and 32 first downs, and his blocking was a major factor.

Defense first team

DE -- Malliciah Goodman, Clemson: He set a bowl record with three sacks as Clemson held LSU to 219 yards of total offense.

DE -- Bjoern Werner, Florida State: In his last game with the Noles, the dominating end knocked down his eighth pass of the season, which is the second-most in the FBS by a defensive lineman. He finished with two tackles.

DT -- Derrick Hopkins, Virginia Tech: He had four tackles, including 1.5 for loss, and a sack. The sack was on Rutgers' first play of overtime, forcing them into long yardage which led to a long (and missed) field goal.

DT -- Grady Jarrett, Clemson: He had four tackles, including two tackles for loss, and one was a sack. He was a big reason Clemson held LSU to just 99 yards rushing.

LB -- Christian Jones, Florida State: Jones tied for the team lead with 10 tackles in the 31-10 Discover Orange Bowl win against Northern Illinois.

LB -- Vince Williams, Florida State: He tied Jones for the team lead with 10 tackles, and finished with one tackle for loss and a sack.

LB -- Bruce Taylor, Virginia Tech: He led the Hokies with 11 tackles, including 1.5 for loss, and had a pass breakup. Virginia Tech’s defense held Rutgers to 196 yards and three offensive points, none in the last three quarters.

CB -- Rod Sweeting, Georgia Tech: Even though his statistics were modest -- three tackles, two pass breakups and an interception returned for 21 yards -- Sweeting was voted the game’s MVP. He fared well in a tough assignment, matching up with Biletnikoff Trophy winner Marqise Lee.

CB -- Antone Exum, Virginia Tech: The Russell Athletic Bowl’s MVP led a stifling pass defense that allowed just 129 yards. He made the play of the game with an interception of Gary Nova to set up the game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter. Virginia Tech’s defense allowed just 196 yards total, and just 17 completions from Nova on 40 attempts.

S -- Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State: He finished third on the team with six tackles, including one tackle for loss. The Northern Illinois receivers were no match for the FSU secondary and were rendered ineffective.

S -- Rashard Hall, Clemson: He led the team with nine tackles, including eight solo, in the win against LSU.

Specialists

PK -- Chandler Catanzaro, Clemson: He kicked the 37-yard game-winning field goal as time expired to give Clemson and the ACC a monumental 25-24 win against LSU. It was the fourth walk-off field goal in Clemson history, and Catanzaro has two of the four.

P -- A.J. Hughes, Virginia Tech: He tied the record under coach Frank Beamer for punts in a game with 11. He finished with an average of 42.2 with four punts inside the 20-yard line, and a long of 57.

SP -- Tobais Palmer, NC State: He returned a second-quarter kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown in the loss to Vandy, and became the first Pack player since Greg Golden in 2001 to return a kickoff for a score in a bowl game. He finished with 173 kickoff return yards, setting a new NC State season record with 1,130 KOR yards. Palmer and T.J. Graham (1,028 in 2008) are the only two Wolfpack players to go over 1,000 yards in kickoff returns in a single season. Palmer also went over 100 yards receiving for the third time in 2012, as he finished with eight catches for 111 yards.
The entire 2012 season is officially in the books, and there was some movement in the final ACC power rankings for ESPN.com based on the bowl performances. Before we turn the page and look ahead to how the ACC will stack up in 2013, take one look back on the 2012 pecking order:

FINAL

1. Florida State (12-2, 7-1 ACC; Previous ranking: No. 1) -- Clemson has the more impressive bowl win, but there’s no denying Florida State’s accomplishments this season. The Noles won the program’s first BCS bowl since 2000, defeating Northern Illinois 31-10 in the Discover Orange Bowl. An ACC title and Orange Bowl win make FSU the ACC’s undisputed No. 1 in 2012.

2. Clemson (11-2, 7-1; PR: No. 2) -- The Tigers hung on to beat No. 8 LSU 25-24 thanks to a 37-yard field goal by Chandler Catanzaro as time expired in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Quarterback Tajh Boyd has yet to announce if he will return for his senior season. Regardless, it was a monumental win for the program and the ACC.

3. Georgia Tech (7-7, 5-3; PR: No. 4) -- The Jackets’ 21-7 win over USC was a huge boost for their program, and it also was significant for the ACC. Georgia Tech’s defense was the highlight against the Trojans. It also was Paul Johnson’s first bowl win as coach at Georgia Tech.

4. North Carolina (8-4, 5-3; PR: No. 5) -- There’s no question the Tar Heels were one of the best teams in the Coastal Division in Larry Fedora’s first season, but they were ineligible for a bowl because of NCAA sanctions. Fedora will be challenged to replace standout running back Giovani Bernard, who left early for the NFL draft, and his lead blocker, Jonathan Cooper.

5. Miami (7-5, 5-3; PR: No. 3) -- The Canes weren’t a great team in 2012, but they overachieved enough to earn respect and could have played for the ACC title had they not self-imposed a bowl ban. The program is still waiting for closure from the NCAA.

6. Virginia Tech (7-6, 4-4; PR: No. 8) -- In what was one of the most painful-to-watch bowl games of the season, the Hokies beat Rutgers 13-10 in overtime of the Russell Athletic Bowl. The program avoided its first losing season since 1992, but didn’t earn any style points in the process. Many questions still face Frank Beamer.

7. NC State (7-6, 4-4; PR: No. 7) -- Under the direction of interim coach Dana Bible, the Pack ended the season the same way it began 2012 -- with an embarrassing performance in a loss to an SEC team. NC State turned it over five times in a 38-24 loss to Vanderbilt in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl.

8. Duke (6-7, 3-5; PR: No. 6) -- This season will always be remembered as the year Duke got back to a bowl game for the first time since 1994. The Blue Devils, however, lost a 48-34 heartbreaker to Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl. With the score tied at 34 and Duke driving to score the game winner, Josh Snead fumbled at the Cincy 5-yard line with 1:20 left.

9. Wake Forest (5-7, 3-5; PR: No. 9) -- The Deacs ended their season losing three straight and four of their last five to miss bowl eligibility. Recruiting has been the biggest priority for the Deacs since their season ended with a home loss to Vanderbilt.

10. Virginia (4-8, 2-6; PR: No. 10) -- The Hoos had to win their last two games to become bowl eligible and couldn’t do it, but Mike London wasted no time in making offseason changes. He fired defensive coordinator Jim Reid and has since hired former NC State coach Tom O’Brien and former NC State linebackers coach Jon Tenuta.

11. Maryland (4-8, 2-6; PR: No. 11) -- The Terps put on a respectable performance this past season despite the unbelievable amount of injuries to starting quarterbacks. The biggest news, of course, was that Maryland will play one more season in the ACC before joining the Big Ten.

12. Boston College (2-10, 1-7; PR: No. 12) -- The Eagles hired Steve Addazio to turn things around, and he has hired several of his former assistants from Temple, including former BC assistant Ryan Day as offensive coordinator.

ATLANTA – When Tajh Boyd looked up at the scoreboard inside the Georgia Dome and saw only 1 minute, 39 seconds remaining in the final football game of 2012 all he could do was smile.

He didn’t look at LSU's 24-22 lead or the chance for yet another ACC team to fall at the hands of the mighty SEC. All the junior quarterback saw was a chance at something special -- and three timeouts on Clemson’s side.

“Last drive, ball is in your court. It’s your game to lose,” Boyd later said.

With 80 yards to go and the first bowl win for the Tigers since 2009 on the line, Boyd calmly turned to his coaches and said, “Let’s go get it.”

And against one of the toughest defenses in the nation, Boyd went and got it. It started off a little rocky, but for the quarterback who had been thrown around like a rag doll all night, he wasn’t leaving Atlanta without dramatics.

After two incompletions and a Sam Montgomery sack made it fourth-and-16 from his own 14, Boyd made the throw of his life when he hit DeAndre "Nuk" Hopkins over the middle for a 26-yard gain.

Boyd hit Hopkins, who finished the night with a game-high in catches (13) and receiving yards (191) and caught two touchdown passes, two more times for 20 yards before Adam Humphries set up kicker Chandler Catanzaro’s game-winning, 37-yard kick to give Clemson the 25-24 win.

[+] EnlargeTajh Boyd
Daniel Shirey/USA TODAY SportsTajh Boyd completed 36 of 50 passes for 346 yards and two touchdowns in Clemson's win.
“I wanted to go into the stands and celebrate already because I knew [Catanzaro] was going to kick it through those uprights,” he said.

The image of Catanzaro celebrating well before the kick went through will live on forever, but the night Boyd and Hopkins had together will go down as one of the all-time greats.

Both entered the game with gaudy numbers. Boyd had more than 3,500 yards on the season and 34 touchdowns, while Hopkins led the ACC with 1,214 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns. But both left with hero status, as they willed their team to a win.

Boyd was smacked around on just about every play, while Hopkins had to work 98 percent of the night without his dynamic partner Sammy Watkins, who left the game on the second play from scrimmage with an ankle injury.

Talk about a straight shot of adversity with no chaser.

But Boyd and Hopkins didn’t flinch. With every bone-crushing hit or awkward tumble Boyd took, he stood up stronger and more confident. He might have mimicked a pinball at times, but he played like a champion.

“Hits hurt a little bit,” Boyd said. “I’ll be sore in the morning, but it’s well deserved. For this type of offense and for this type of team, you lay everything out there on the line, regardless of the game.”

Before the game, coach Dabo Swinney told Boyd he was going to have to play and fight for everything on the field and it was going to take him squeezing throws through windows the size of Gatorade bottles. It wasn’t always going to be pretty.

Boyd took hit after hit, but kept going. He ran the ball a game-high 29 times and threw 50 passes, finishing the night with 368 yards of total offense on a school record 79 plays by a quarterback.

Of Clemson’s last 34 plays, 28 involved Boyd.

“It’s not about how hard you get hit,” Swinney said of Boyd, “it’s about can you keep competing, can you keep getting up and keep competing. That’s what it’s about.

“He kept competing, kept playing, going to the next play.

“He was awesome. So proud of him.”

But he wasn’t alone. Hopkins, who was basically on double duty, overwhelmed LSU’s secondary, catching just about everything in sight and finding space in the most clogged areas. He created his own room at times and hauled in two magnificent touchdown catches to keep the Tigers going.

“That’s how Nuk is,” safety Xavier Brewer said. “He’s a true competitor. You can put it all on his shoulders and he’s going to make those plays when you need him and he did that tonight.”

He was a man possessed, as he pushed Boyd to elevate his game.

Swinney called Monday’s game a “landmark win” and a “tombstone win.” Boyd said it felt like winning the ACC title, which the Tigers were a win away from defending. So much rode on this game, while all areas of Clemson’s team stood tall against one of the SEC’s best, the play of the Tigers’ dynamic duo truly was special to watch.

"There’s never any doubt that Tajh and Nuk are going to bring everything they’ve got," Brewer said. "It was awesome to see them compete and play with so much heart. It inspired the whole team."

Boyd will have time to rest and the pain from the night’s beating will disappear, but this win is something he’ll cherish forever. For a team that endured so much good and bad this season, Monday night’s win was the consummate ending for the Tigers’ season.

“It was a special moment,” Boyd said. “One of the most special moments I’ve ever been a part of.”

“You live for these moments to grind and to sweat it out and have tears with your teammates out there. In the fashion that we won the game, it was unbelievable.”

Instant analysis: Clemson 25, LSU 24

December, 31, 2012
12/31/12
11:40
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ATLANTA -- In the battle for Death Valley and Tigers supremacy, No. 14 Clemson upset No. 8 LSU 25-24 on a last-second, 37-yard field goal by Chandler Catanzaro.

It was over when: Catanzaro nailed the 37-yard kick to cap a masterful 10-play, 60-yard drive by Clemson.

Game ball goes to: Clemson wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins was unstoppable all night. Even with partner in crime Sammy Watkins out for basically the entire game with an ankle injury, he caught a game-high 13 passes for a game-high 190 yards and two touchdowns. His last touchdown cut LSU's late fourth-quarter lead to two points.

Stat of the game: Hopkins finished the night with the school record for single-season receiving yards (1,404).

Stat of game II: LSU linebacker Kevin Minter finished the game with 19 tackles, including 1.5 for loss and a sack.

Stat of the game III: Clemson registered a season-high eight sacks against LSU.

Unsung heroes of the game: You can't really say that Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd was an unsung hero, but he deserves some love after he threw for 346 yards and two touchdowns on 36-of-50 passing. He also ran the ball a game-high 29 times for a net gain of 22 yards and a touchdown. Defensive end Malliciah Goodman finished the game with three sacks, including a major one with LSU leading 24-16 with more than nine minutes left and driving in Clemson territory. The sack knocked LSU out of Clemson's side of the field.

What it means for Clemson: After a disappointing finish to the regular season, Clemson took down one of the SEC's best teams, as its offense put together spectacular back-to-back scoring drives, gutting LSU's defense along the way. It was also the first bowl win for Clemson since beating Kentucky 21-13 in the 2009 Music City Bowl.

What it means for LSU: The Tigers' defense totally collapsed on Clemson's final two drives of the game, allowing scoring drives of 77 and 60 yards. After controlling the game for most of the second half, the defense fell apart. Now, the Tigers will probably say goodbye to a good chunk of that defense, as a handful of underclassmen are expected to declare early for the NFL draft.

ACC Week 9 sneak peek

October, 22, 2012
10/22/12
1:00
PM ET
Let's take a sneak peek at the the ACC schedule for Week 9.

Thursday night

Clemson (6-1, 3-1) at Wake Forest (4-3, 2-3), 7:30 p.m., ESPN. Will this game come down to the wire the way the meeting between the two schools did a season ago? Flash back, to last year, and remember that Clemson rallied from 14 points down to win 31-28. Chandler Catanzaro kicked a 43-yard field goal as time expired to clinch the ACC Atlantic Division title for the Tigers. Clemson has won three straight in the series. The last Wake Forest win came in 2008 -- also a Thursday night game. Headed into this game, it appears as if the Clemson defense has turned a corner following a good game against Virginia Tech last week. Wake Forest, meanwhile, was stagnant on offense last week in a win over Virginia, managing just one touchdown and 213 yards. In fact, the Deacs have managed less than 300 yards of total offense in back-to-back games.

Saturday

NC State (5-2, 2-1) at North Carolina (5-3, 2-2), 12:30 p.m., ACC Network. The Wolfpack own a five-game winning streak in the series, matching 1988-92 for its longest in the series. In a 13-0 win last year, NC State limited the Tar Heels to 165 total yards. If the Wolfpack do that this year, they deserve a golden medal in addition to the W in the win column. Despite losing to Duke last week, North Carolina had 414 yards of total offense. The Tar Heels have run for more than 150 yards in five straight games. NC State, meanwhile, survived Maryland last week to stay atop the Atlantic Division. This one is yet another important one for bragging rights in the state of North Carolina.

Maryland (4-3, 2-1) at Boston College (1-6, 0-4), 1 p.m., ESPN3. The big question headed into this game is: Who will start at quarterback for the Terps? Perry Hills will undergo an MRI on his left knee, and coach Randy Edsall was not giving out many answers about his quarterback situation after the game. Caleb Rowe and Devin Burns both played in relief of Hills last week against NC State. No doubt this team has been decimated at the position, losing starter C.J. Brown in the preseason. Could all this uncertainty be the opening BC needs to end its five-game losing streak?

BYU (4-4) at Georgia Tech (3-4). The Yellow Jackets take a break from conference play to take on BYU, a team that took Notre Dame down to the wire last week before losing a heartbreaker. These two teams last met in 2002 and 2003, splitting their series. But the Cougars are a vastly different team today than they were back then. In fact, the strength of this team resides on its defense, as the Cougars rank No. 4 in the nation in total defense. Should be a great challenge taking on the run-heavy Georgia Tech offense. Meanwhile, the BYU offense has been inconsistent for the last several years now, and that could play right into the hands of the reconstituted Georgia Tech D, which held Boston College to 296 yards of offense -- its best showing of the season against an FBS opponent.

Duke (6-2, 3-1) at Florida State (7-1, 4-1), 3:30 p.m., ESPNU. Is this an ACC championship game preview? Stop laughing -- Duke is for real this year. The Blue Devils go into the game having clinched bowl eligibility and sit alone in first place in the Coastal Division. Florida State is in the mix in the Atlantic. So how will this one play out? History is not on the Blue Devils' side. Florida State leads the series 17-0. The Noles got pretty banged up in a very physical game against Miami, so we will see how close they are to being 100 percent healthy as the week goes on.

ACC weekend rewind: Week 3

September, 17, 2012
9/17/12
10:00
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Here’s a look back at Week 3 in the ACC:

The good: Two top-10 teams played like two top-10 teams. No. 4 Florida State and No. 10 Clemson both took care of business and dominated their respective opponents. The Seminoles shut out Wake Forest 52-0, and Clemson beat Furman 41-7.

[+] EnlargeFlorida State Seminoles quarterback EJ Manuel
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesQuarterback EJ Manuel and Florida State handled Wake Forest easily, 52-0.
The great: The return of Duke receiver Blair Holliday. It was the best story in the ACC this weekend, as Holliday joined his teammates again for the first time since he suffered a severe head injury in a July 4 jet ski accident. Holliday, who had to learn to walk and talk again, led his team in the pregame walk to the stadium, and was on the field for the coin toss. It was an emotion pregame for Holliday and his friends and family.

The bad: The ACC’s 0-3 record against the Big East. The ACC struck out this weekend, losing to Pittsburgh, Connecticut and Louisville. Two of those were road losses, as the Hokies snapped their nation-leading streak of 13 straight true road wins with the loss at Pitt, and UNC’s comeback fell short at No. 19 Louisville. Maryland lost at home to Randy Edsall’s former team.

The ugly: Virginia Tech’s performance. We’ve already rehashed this enough -- nobody but Pitt wants to rewind this game film.

The surprise: Clemson president Jim Barker snuck into the Tigers’ mascot costume at halftime, and acted as the mascot until Clemson’s third touchdown put the Tigers up 27-7 over Furman. Barker did the requisite 27 pushups (one for each point) before pulling off the head of the costume and revealing himself to the crowd.

The stat: According to ESPN’s Stats & Information, three of the six most lopsided ACC wins in Florida State history have come at home against the Demon Deacons (+59 in 1995, +54 in 1993, and +52 in 2012).

The stat II: Florida State has held 11 straight opponents to under 20 points. According to ESPN’s Stats & Info, it's the longest such active streak and longest by an ACC team since Virginia Tech did it in 12 straight over the 2004 and 2005 seasons.

The stat III: Dating back to 2006, when Virginia Tech was ranked No. 11 and lost to Georgia Tech, the Hokies have lost before October in all but one season when they were ranked No. 17 or higher. The lone exception was in 2011, according to ESPN’s Stats & Info.

The record: With his two field goals in the win over Furman, Clemson PK Chandler Catanzaro has made 14 straight, a streak that began in the 2011 season. He is currently tied with former Tiger standout Obed Arriri, who made 14 straight field goals during the 1980 season when he led the nation with 23. The ACC record is 27 straight set by NC State’s Marc Primanti during the 1995-96 seasons. Catanzaro is now 42-55 over his career, a .764 percentage.

The overmatched: NC Central. Duke won 54-17 and scored touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams for the first time since 2004. They improved to 2-1 for the first time since 2008, coach David Cutcliffe's first season.

ACC helmet stickers: Week 11

November, 13, 2011
11/13/11
12:07
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Here are your top five performers for Week 11:

Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas: He played an outstanding game in the Hokies' 37-26 victory over Georgia Tech on Thursday night. Thomas threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more. He completed 7 of 13 passes for 209 yards and ran for another 70 yards. He also completed 75 percent of his third-down passes.

Florida State's special teams: Greg Reid scored on an 83-yard punt return, and Dustin Hopkins kicked three field goals to help lift the Noles over rival Miami, 23-19. Hopkins accounted for the only points in the third quarter with a 21-yard field goal, and his 38-yarder to start the fourth quarter put FSU up 23-7.

BC linebacker Luke Kuechly: He finished with 18 tackles in the 14-10 win over NC State, extending his streak of double-digit tackles to 32 consecutive games, the longest such streak in FBS. In the third quarter, Kuechly became the fifth player in ACC history to record 500 or more career tackles. He now has 509, fourth-best on the conference record list.

Clemson kicker Chandler Catanzaro: His game-winning, 43-yard field goal as time expired assured Clemson of a 31-28 win over Wake Forest and its second appearance in the ACC title game in three seasons. It was the first time since 2007 that Clemson had won on a last-second field goal. It was also the first time since 1948 -- when the stat started being tracked -- that Clemson won at home on a last-second field goal.

Virginia's offensive line: The Cavaliers have now gone three consecutive games without giving up a sack and the line paved the way for Kevin Parks and Perry Jones in the 31-21 win over Duke. It was the tenth game in a row that the offensive line has had the same five starters -- guards Austin Pasztor and Luke Bowanko, tackles Oday Aboushi and Morgan Moses and center Anthony Mihot . The last time the same five players started an entire season on the offensive line at UVa was 2004.

Clemson wins Atlantic Division

November, 12, 2011
11/12/11
3:45
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Those tickets you already bought for the ACC championship game?

Feel free to keep them, Clemson fans.

The Tigers escaped a season-defining scare from Wake Forest in Death Valley, and in a game in which missed field goals were costly, Clemson kicker Chandler Catanzaro got redemption with the game-winner as time expired. The 31-28 win over Wake Forest assured No. 9 Clemson of its second appearance in the ACC title game in three years. It was a gutsy, impressive performance by the Demon Deacons, but two missed field goals will continue to haunt them. Wake Forest had a 21-point third quarter lead and led 28-21 entering the fourth quarter, but couldn't hang onto the lead.

Despite a lackluster three quarters for the No. 9 team in the nation, Clemson came together in the fourth quarter and rallied behind quarterback Tajh Boyd and got several key defensive stops for the come-from-behind win. It wasn't Boyd's best performance -- he had two interceptions and could have had several more, had potential picks not been dropped -- but he came through in the clutch and threw two touchdown passes to tie the game at 28.

Clemson did not "Clemson itself" this season. It found a way to win. Again.

With all due respect to Wake Forest and its fans -- and I mean that sincerely, because it was an outstanding effort and has been a great season for the Deacs -- this was the best possible outcome for the ACC, because right now, there are two top-10 teams slated to play for the ACC title this year. First, Virginia Tech must win its final two games.

ACC awards tracker: Week 10

November, 1, 2011
11/01/11
3:00
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It's tough to keep up with all of college football's major awards, so I wait until a bunch of them have been released and then compile a one-stop shopping post for you. There are still lots to come this month, so I'll update it again. Based on how many times you'll see Luke Kuechly's name mentioned, you'd think he brings home some kind of award this season. He definitely deserves it. Here's a look at your ACC semifinalists so far:

BEDNARIK AWARD. Presented to the nation's most outstanding defensive player by the Maxwell Football Club.
  • Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
  • Sean Spence, LB, Miami
BUTKUS AWARD. Presented to the nation's most outstanding linebacker by the Butkus Foundation.
  • Zach Brown, North Carolina
  • Audie Cole, NC State
  • Luke Kuechly, Boston College
  • Sean Spence, Miami
LOU GROZA AWARD. Presented to the nation's most outstanding kicker by the Palm Beach Sports Commission.
  • Chandler Catanzaro, Clemson
  • Dustin Hopkins, Florida State
  • Jimmy Newman, Wake Forest
  • Jake Wieclaw, Miami
ROTARY LOMBARDI AWARD. Presented to the nation's most outstanding down lineman by the Rotary Club of Houston.
  • Luke Kuechly, Boston College
MAXWELL AWARD. Presented to the nation's most outstanding player by the Maxwell Football Club. DAVEY O’BRIEN AWARD. Presented to the nation's best quarterback by the Davey O'Brien Foundation.
  • Tajh Boyd, Clemson
JIM THORPE AWARD. Presented to the nation's most outstanding defensive back by the Jim Thorpe Association.
  • David Amerson, CB, NC State
  • Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech
  • Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia

ACC helmet stickers: Week 6

October, 8, 2011
10/08/11
7:58
PM ET
Here are your top five performers in the ACC for Week 6:

Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech: Wow. It was an MVP performance from Thomas, who completed 23 of 25 passes for 310 yards, three touchdowns, and ran for two touchdowns, including the game-winner in the Hokies’ 35-30 win over Miami. His 19-yard touchdown run with 56 seconds remaining put the Hokies ahead and kept them in the mix to win the Coastal Division title. It was a breakout performance by Thomas and the Hokies’ offense.

Miami running back Lamar Miller: Wow II. It was a valiant effort despite the loss, as Miller ran for 166 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, averaging 9.2 yards per carry. His 30-yard run with 2:51 left in the game closed the gap to 35-31 and gave the Canes a chance to win. He also caught three passes for 23 yards and a touchdown. It was the fifth-straight game he eclipsed the 100-yard mark, becoming just the fourth Hurricane to accomplish the feat, joining Edgerrin James (7), Willis McGahee (6) and Clinton Portis (6).

Wake Forest: The Deacs are 3-0 for the first time in the league’s 58-year history. Stickers for everyone. It’s Wake’s best start since going 5-0 in 2006 and the program ended a streak of five straight losses against ranked opponents. It’s impossible to single out one person, as the defense forced five turnovers and the offense rolled up 391 yards en route to the Deacs’ 35-30 upset of Florida State. It was the most points Wake has ever scored against FSU. Wake has now won four of the last six against FSU and has won four straight games, its longest winning streak since 2007.

Clemson kicker Chandler Catanzaro: It was a career day for Catanzaro, who made all five field goal attempts in the Tigers’ 36-14 win over Boston College. He made kicks of 38 yards, 42 yards, 18 yards, 20 yards and 47 yards.

Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington: He didn't have his best passing day (6-for-19, 114 yards) but he rushed a career-high 32 times for 120 yards and two touchdowns in the 21-16 win over Maryland. It was the second time in Washington's career he has passed and thrown for more than 100 yards.
It was a busy weekend in the ACC. Here's a look back at the highlights from the scrimmages, according to the sports information departments of the teams that provided reports:

BOSTON COLLEGE

Coach Frank Spaziani told reporters after the 70-minute scrimmage that there were some good things, but "it's like a jigsaw puzzle with all the pieces in the box; they're not connected yet."

Offensive highlights:
  • Quarterback Chase Rettig completed 12 of 19 passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns. “I think Chase showed the progress he's been making,” Spaziani said. “The obvious things were fine; there were some subtle things he needs to work on.”
  • Rettig connected on passes of 10 yards six times, including a 30-yard pass to Colin Larmond, Jr., a 24-yard touchdown pass down the middle of the field to receiver Bobby Swigert and a 3-yard touchdown pass to senior captain Ifeanyi Momah.
  • Larmond (3 receptions for 53 yards), Swigert (3-for-33), junior receiver Donte Elliott (3-for-37) and redshirt freshman tight end Jarrett Darmstatter (3-for-16) led a total of 12 receivers that registered at least one reception each.
  • Rettig and fellow quarterbacks Mike Marscovetra and Dave Shinskie combined for four touchdowns as Marscovetra went 6-for-9 for 30 yards and a touchdown pass of five yards to junior receiver Hampton Hughes and Shinskie connected on 4-of-5 passes for 38 yards and a touchdown to sophomore tight end Mike Naples.
  • Tailback Rolandan Finch carried the ball 10 times for a total of 30 yards to lead all running backs while sophomore Andre Williams broke free for a 20-yard touchdown run during red zone drills. Williams finished with five attempts for 21 yards and redshirt freshman Tahj Kimble accounted for 20 yards on five carries.
Defensive highlights:
  • Linebacker Nick Clancy and defensive back Sean Sylvia led the team with four tackles each.
  • Sophomore linebacker Jake Sinkovec had one interception and one fumble recovery.
CLEMSON

Quarterback Tajh Boyd had an impressive performance, as he completed 10 of 12 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown to highlight the new offense in Clemson’s 75-play scrimmage in Memorial Stadium on Saturday morning.

Offensive highlights:
  • Boyd completed each of his final eight passes to six different receivers. He threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to receiver DeAndre Hopkins, then connected on a 3-yard score to Dwayne Allen in a goal-line situation.
  • Allen had three receptions for 66 yards, including a diving catch over the middle for 14 yards and a first down. Brandon Ford had three receptions for 37 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown pass from Cole Stoudt.
  • Stoudt was 4-of-14 passing, but threw for 71 yards and two touchdowns, one to Ford and one to Bryce McNeal (23 yards).
  • Rod McDowell was the leading rusher with four carries for 68 yards, including a 39-yarder on his first carry of the day. Andre Ellington had five rushes for 41 yards and added two receptions, while freshman Mike Bellamy had five carries for 40 yards.
Defensive highlights:
  • The first-team defense did not allow a scoring drive.
  • Martin Jenkins led the team with seven tackles, including a tackle for loss.
  • Corico Hawkins had five tackles and a fumble recovery, while freshman defensive end Corey Crawford had five stops, including a sack.
Special teams highlights:
  • Clemson’s three kickers, Chandler Catanzaro, Ammon Lakip and Brian Symmes were a combined 16-of-16 on the day in field goal attempts and extra points against a live rush.
Notable:
  • Three Tigers missed the scrimmage because they were going through graduation exercises across the street from Memorial Stadium in Littlejohn Coliseum. Starting offensive tackle Landon Walker, starting safety Rashard Hall and reserve defensive end Kourtnei Brown all graduated from Clemson on Saturday. It was especially noteworthy for Hall, who has been at Clemson just three years. He joins Nick Eason (now in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals) as the only scholarship football players to graduate with two years of athletic eligibility remaining.
  • Four players missed the scrimmage due to injury. Those players were defensive back Xavier Brewer (sprained foot), defensive back Garry Peters (bruised calf), Andre Branch (head injury), DeShawn Williams (sprained ankle).
GEORGIA TECH

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson had mixed reviews after the Yellow Jackets' first scrimmage, which ran 90 minutes inside Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday morning.

"It was like a lot of first scrimmages, there were way too many balls on the ground and way too many penalties," Johnson said. "But we hit some big plays. When you play against each other there's positives and negatives on both sides. It's a starting place and we'll look at it and try to make some improvements."

Offensive highlights:
  • While no official statistics were kept, quarterback Tevin Washington passed for well over 100 yards, including a 63-yarder to senior A-back Roddy Jones. Redshirt freshman quarterback Synjyn Days threw the only touchdown of the day, to true freshman Jeff Greene.
  • Greene ran with the first unit Saturday as most of the veterans -- junior Stephen Hill, senior Tyler Melton, sophomore Jeremy Moore and junior Daniel McKayhan -- all sat out with injuries.
  • Washington scored the only other touchdown Saturday on a 1-yard QB keeper.
Defensive highlights:
  • Defensive end Emmanuel Dieke had a sack, true freshman Jamal Golden intercepted a Vad Lee pass, and Steven Sylvester and Isaiah Johnson both recovered fumbles.
Special teams highlights:
  • Sophomore Justin Moore booted a 45-yard field goal on his only attempt.
  • David Scully's 52-yard attempt was long enough, but just wide left.
MIAMI

The most important news out of Miami's first scrimmage was that quarterbacks Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris combined for five touchdown passes and only one interception. That sounds like improvement. Miami's quarterbacks combined for 407 passing yards on 38-of-52 passing for six touchdowns and only one interception.

Offensive highlights:
  • Receiver Tommy Streeter had the best offensive day for the Canes, catching five passes for 71 yards and three touchdowns, two of which came from Harris.
  • Lamar Miller had runs of 16 and 31 yards on the opening drive.
Defensive highlights:
  • Senior defensive back JoJo Nicolas led all defenders with eight tackles (six solo), with two tackles for loss.
  • Ramon Buchanan and freshman Gionni Paul and each had six total tackles, with Paul also recording a tackle for loss.
  • The defense totaled eight tackles behind the line of scrimmage for a total loss of 29 yards
VIRGINIA TECH

The Hokies' offense was the highlight, but what does that mean for the defense? Coach Frank Beamer pointed out that there were some long plays allowed, as the offense racked up 398 yards of total offense in the 78-play scrimmage at Lane Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The touchdowns came against Tech's second- or third-team defense, though, so the jury is still out.

"I thought it was a good first scrimmage -- better than most," Beamer said, according to the team's scrimmage report. "You take into consideration that you're trying to get everyone some work, people who don't know quite what they're doing, and that makes things a little ragged. I thought overall, though, it was a sharp scrimmage. The quarterbacks made some nice plays and Wilson got a couple of long plays against the defense, and we need to see what's going on there. Overall, the effort was good and the play was good."

Offensive highlights:
  • Backup quarterback Mark Leal led the quarterbacks with 116 yards passing, completing 6 of 13. He also threw an interception. Beamer said Leal is No. 2 on the depth chart behind Logan Thomas. Ju-Ju Clayton, who has dropped to No. 3 on the depth chart, completed 6 of 10 for 51 yards, while starter Thomas completed 4 of 8 for 79 yards, with an interception, in limited action.
  • Tailback David Wilson scored against the Hokies' second-team defense on a 22-yard run. Wilson led all rushers with 57 yards on five carries. Freshman Michael Holmes added 54 yards rushing on a game-high 11 carries.
Defensive highlights:
  • Freshman tackle Luther Maddy led the team with eight tackles, including two for a loss, and a sack. Freshman Michael Cole added six tackles, while Telvion Clark and Jack Tyler each finished with four.
  • Barquell Rivers had three tackles and an interception.
  • Jayron Hosley and freshman Ronny Vandyke also had interceptions. Hosley intercepted a Logan Thomas pass, while Vandyke intercepted a Trey Gresh attempt.
Special teams highlights:
  • The kickers connected on 5-of-6 attempts. Cody Journell hit from 35, 22 and 35 yards, while Justin Myer drilled a 52-yarder and a 28-yarder. "Cody's kicking extremely well," Beamer said. "Myer has a load of potential, and he needs to win some of the kicking contests during the week. That shows consistency, and that's where he is right now. Cody is usually winning it or right in the running at the end."
One of Boston College’s biggest obstacles in recent seasons has been finding a dependable quarterback. Dominique Davis transferred to East Carolina, and his backup, Justin Tuggle also transferred. Dave Shinskie, who came in as a 25-year-old minor league baseball player, was benched last season in favor of a true freshman, Chase Rettig. It’s not the only factor, but how much progress Rettig made between Year 1 and Year 2 will go a long way in determining how seriously the Eagles should be taken in this year’s Atlantic Division race.

Rettig is hardly the only player in the conference, though, whose improvement should be noticeable – and needed. Clemson lost five games by a touchdown or less last season, including the overtime loss to Auburn, which slipped away with a missed field goal in overtime. How much more consistent can kicker Chandler Catanzaro be?

At Miami, the Hurricanes are most in need of improved quarterback play, and Jacory Harris will have to make better decisions in order to win his job back this summer. North Carolina tailback Ryan Houston will be expected to carry the running game this season, but can he break out of the mold of a short-yardage back and become the every down guy for the Heels? At Georgia Tech, quarterback Tevin Washington completed only 41 percent of his passes (25 of 61) for three touchdowns and two interceptions. He, too, must show improvement this summer as there are several eager young quarterbacks waiting in the wings.

Exiting the spring: Clemson

April, 8, 2011
4/08/11
12:51
PM ET
Spring game: 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, ESPN3.com.

Questions answered: The Tigers have bought into first-year offensive coordinator Chad Morris' up-tempo offense and they like it. Clemson installed about 60 percent of the offense this spring, and has embraced first-year starting quarterback Tajh Boyd as its new leader.

Questions unanswered: How the Tigers will replace some big names on defense remains a question. Malliciah Goodman is next in line to replace Da'Quan Bowers, but both he and the coaches have said he can still reach another level. The Tigers are young but talented in the secondary, where stars Marcus Gilchrist and DeAndre McDaniel have graduated. And there will be plenty of more options this summer when a top-10 recruiting class arrives on campus.

Spring stars: Bashaud Breeland, a redshirt freshman defensive back, looks to move into the role of all-purpose defensive back formerly held by Gilchrist.

Of note: Entering the spring game, kicker Chandler Catanzaro has finished the spring strong by making seven of his last eight field goals in scrimmages. While he made 14 of 22 field goals last year (including just 3-of-7 from the 30-39 range), he did make six of his last seven kicks last year and appears to have picked up where he left off.

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