NCF Nation: Clifton Richardson

Let's face it: Not too many preseason Heisman lists in recent years featured Johnny Manziel, Robert Griffin III or Cam Newton. And while there are plenty of returning stars among this year's Heisman hopefuls, it's always safe to bet on at least one or two unfamiliar faces ending up in New York in December.

Who could rise out of nowhere this year? Let's take a look at some candidates in the ACC.

Jameis Winston, Florida State QB: There is an awful lot of hype for a guy who has yet to take a college football snap. Then again, Winston was the No. 1 quarterback recruit from the Class of 2012, eclipses 100 mph on the baseball diamond as a Seminoles reliever, throws footballs over fraternity houses and starred in FSU's spring game. The redshirt freshman steps into an ideal situation, surrounded by experienced guys on an offense that is coming off an Orange Bowl win. And, well, he absolutely owned FSU's media day Sunday.

Taquan Mizzell, Virginia RB: The Cavaliers struggled running the ball last season, finishing 96th nationally in rushing yards per game (128.5). They have also said goodbye to Clifton Richardson, Perry Jones and Phillip Sims. Enter "Smoke" -- or, as coach Mike London has called him since a victorious 1-on-1 hoops game, "Mist." ESPN's No. 9 running back prospect from the Class of 2013 notched 1,231 yards and 39 total touchdowns last season at Bayside (Va.) High, and he figures to make his presence felt early at Virginia.

Anthony Boone, Duke QB: Yes, Boone is a redshirt junior. But he was behind school record-setter Sean Renfree the past two seasons, as he watched Renfree take Duke to a bowl game last year while receiving spot duty here and there. He relived an injured Renfree and rushed for a go-ahead, fourth-quarter touchdown in a win at Wake Forest, then started a week later in a rout of Virginia. For his career, Boone has completed 53.4 percent of his passes in 22 games for 839 yards with six touchdowns and three picks. He also adds another dimension on the ground, having rushed for 211 yards and six more scores. Boone now has the starting job to himself, and teammates have said there is little indication that they are playing with a first-year starter.

Wake Forest holds on to beat UVa

October, 20, 2012
Wake Forest did not have to do much on offense against Virginia, not with the way the defense played on Saturday.

The Deacs got three field goals from Chad Hedlund in his first career start and held on to win 16-10, handing the Hoos their sixth straight loss. Virginia hit a new low point on the season, scoring a season low for points while turning the ball over way too much once again.

Anybody who tuned in knows this game was unwatchable at times. Virginia had plenty of opportunities to win, but Wake Forest came up big time and again. Down 16-10, Phillip Sims had the Hoos driving early in the fourth quarter. But he threw an ill-advised pass down the field that was intercepted by Kevin Johnson near the goal line.

Later in the period, Virginia (2-6, 0-4) had the ball down to the Wake 36, but the Deacs defense came up with back-to-back plays behind the line of scrimmage. The first was a tackle on Clifton Richardson for a 6-yard loss. Nikita Whitlock was forced out of the game because he lost his helmet. His replacement, Tylor Harris, came up with a huge sack on Sims on third down.

Virginia nearly had one final attempt to win, but Khalek Shepherd fumbled a punt with two minutes to go, and Wake Forest recovered.

So on the day, the Hoos had three turnovers and finished minus-3 in turnover ratio, with just 301 yards of total offense.

They actually outgained Wake Forest (4-3, 2-3), which had 215 yards of total offense and only converted one of 14 third-down opportunities. Tanner Price only had 102 yards passing (7-of-19). Its only touchdown of the day was set up because of a terrific return on special teams by Lovell Jackson. But that is a fine formula to win: solid special teams, solid defense and limit your own mistakes.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 13

November, 23, 2011
This is it. Enjoy every minute of it, because it’s the final week of the regular season and it’s going to be a long, long time before these rivalry games come along again. There’s plenty to keep an eye on this weekend, but here are 10 things worth watching:

1. The scoreboard against the SEC. The ACC has not had a winning record against the SEC since 2003. It’s off to a 1-0 start with Clemson’s victory over Auburn, but No. 12 South Carolina and No. 13 Georgia are both ranked higher than the ACC rivals they face Saturday, Vanderbilt will be playing for bowl eligibility against Wake Forest, and Florida, well, the Noles look like the better team in that matchup. Can the ACC finally turn the tables on the SEC?

2. The magic seven. NC State needs to beat Maryland in order to become bowl-eligible. Can the Wolfpack avoid a letdown after knocking off then-No. 7-ranked Clemson? The Atlantic Division was on the line last year when NC State lost at Maryland, and coach Tom O’Brien is 1-3 against the Terps. NC State has only had back-to-back victories once this season. Can the Wolfpack do it again when it matters most?

3. Turnovers for Clemson. The Tigers now have 11 turnovers in the past three games after having just eight in the first eight games. Clemson is 1-2 in those games, and the Tigers can’t afford to continue that trend against a South Carolina defense that is tied for No. 6 in the country in turnovers gained with 29.

4. Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins. Coach Chad Morris said this week that the Tigers needed a spark. Could Watkins’ return to the lineup be it? Watkins said Tuesday that he thinks he will be close to 100 percent by game time, and that the late kickoff should give him even a little more time to heal. While Watkins’ absence last week didn’t entirely explain the Tigers’ meltdown, it did play a role in the second half when Clemson was trying to come from behind and didn’t have him as a vertical threat.

Luke Kuechly
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesBC linebacker Luke Kuechly needs six tackles Friday to set an NCAA record for tackles per game.
5. Florida State’s offense.There have been too many missed blocks in the past two weeks, both by linemen and running backs, and the passing game has gotten out of sync. FSU has just two offensive touchdowns in the past two games. In the victory over Miami, FSU’s best offense was a punt return for a touchdown and three field goals. In the loss to UVa, FSU was just 3-of-13 on third downs. Florida ranks fourth in the nation in third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert just 29.14 percent of the time, the best number that UF has posted since the 2001 season (26.7 percent).

6. BC linebacker Luke Kuechly. Kuechly, who is averaging 16.55 tackles a game, needs only 6 against Miami to set the NCAA’s record for stops per game in a season. He had 14 tackles in Saturday’s 16-14 loss at Notre Dame and now has an ACC-record total of 523 in his career. That is the third-highest on record with the NCAA, which began tracking the statistic in 2000. Kuechly is 22 stops from tying the NCAA record, held by Tim McGarigle of Northwestern (2002-05). This is his last game of the season, but it could also be the last in a BC uniform if he leaves early for the NFL.

7. Georgia Tech’s defense. Six Georgia receivers have more than 200 yards receiving, and four have at least 29 catches. Georgia has also had four different 100-yard rushers this season. This is going to be a big test for Tech defensive coordinator Al Groh, whose defense has been average this season and is allowing 359.5 yards per game.

8. The No. 2s. Georgia Tech ranks No. 2 nationally in rushing offense (323.6), while Georgia ranks No. 2 nationally in rushing defense (81.3). Something’s gotta give.

9. First downs in Charlottesville. UVa has averaged 21.2 first downs per game, which ranks No. 3 in the ACC behind Clemson (23.1) and Virginia Tech (22.3). UVa’s opponents are averaging only 16.5 first downs a game, which ranks as the third-fewest in the ACC and No. 14 nationally. Of Kris Burd’s 53 receptions on the season, 36 have resulted in a first down. That is a rate of 67.9 percent. Clifton Richardson has seven rushes on third down and all seven have resulted in a first down.

10. Virginia Tech’s pressure on quarterback Michael Rocco. The Hokies are averaging three sacks per game, which ranks tied for eighth nationally. UVa’s offensive line has played well this season, and is tied for 16th in the country with one sack allowed per game. Last week against FSU marked the 11th consecutive game that Virginia had the same five starters in the offensive line. UVa hasn’t gone through an entire season with the same starting lineup on the offensive line since 2004.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- The undefeated Jackets are getting a scare here in the first half. If Virginia is having this kind of offensive success against Georgia Tech, Clemson is going to put up even more impressive numbers. Georgia Tech fans have legitimate reason to worry in this game. UVA has looked good on both sides of the ball. Young players are making key contributions all over the field. Georgia Tech's passing game has been nonexistent -- not a good sign for a team trying to come from behind -- and they've struggled to tackle all game.

The first half here has been a shocker. You know, just another day at the office in the ACC. Here's a quick look back at the first half:

Turning point:With the game tied at 14, Virginia tailback Clifton Richardson scored on a 22-yard touchdown run to give the Hoos the lead and the momentum. Richardson, a true freshman, entered the game third on the team in rushing with 207 yards and a touchdown, but a team-high 6.1 yards per carry.

Stat of the half: Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington has thrown five incomplete passes and two interceptions. Earlier this season, Georgia Tech's passing game had been one of its biggest improvements. Over the past three games, though, it seems to have taken a step backward.

Best player in the half: UVA running back Perry Jones. He hasn't scored, but he's keeping the chains moving for UVA and averaging 9.3 yards per carry. He has 10 carries for 93 yards.