NCF Nation: DeVon Edwards

ACC all-bowl team

January, 16, 2015
Jan 16
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It wasn’t the finest bowl season for the ACC, which won just four games, but there were still some strong performances. Here’s our 2014-15 all-bowl team for the ACC.

OFFENSE

QB: Justin Thomas (Georgia Tech)

Thomas thoroughly dominated the Mississippi State defense in the Orange Bowl, accounting for 246 yards of offense and four touchdowns. Credit. though, to Clemson’s Cole Stoudt, who was pressed into action with Deshaun Watson out with injury and threw for 319 yards with four total touchdowns, too.

[+] EnlargeSynjyn Days
Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsSynjyn Days scored three of Georgia Tech's seven touchdowns against Mississippi State.
RB: Synjyn Days (Georgia Tech)

His 171 yards on the ground led all ACC runners during bowl season to cap off an extraordinary second half of the year for Days. He scored three times on the ground versus Mississippi State, as the Bulldogs never stood a chance against Georgia Tech’s dominant rushing attack.

RB: J.C. Coleman (Virginia Tech)

The running game was a problem all year for Virginia Tech, but once the Hokies were down to their fourth option at tailback, things got figured out. Coleman finished up a strong final four games with his best performance of the year, carrying 25 times for 157 yards and a touchdown in Tech’s win over Cincinnati.

WR: DeVante Parker (Louisville)

Louisville’s quarterback play was dreadful against Georgia in the Belk Bowl, and it cost the Cardinals a chance to win. But Parker, as usual, was excellent. He had eight catches, six of which went for first downs, and he led all ACC receivers with 120 yards. He also had one of the most impressive touchdown grabs of the season called back because he stepped out of bounds before the catch.

WR: Mike Williams (Clemson)

There’s plenty of competition for the second receiver spot, with six players chiming in with between 96 and 114 yards through the air during bowl season, but we’ll give Williams the slight nod. He had nine catches (tied for most in the ACC) for 112 yards and a touchdown, and six of his catches went for first downs.

TE: Jack Tabb (North Carolina)

It wasn’t a sterling season for tight ends in the bowl games despite so many fine performances during the regular season. Still, Tabb hauled in five catches for 51 yards and a score, which easily set the pace at the position.

OL: T.J. Clemmings (Pittsburgh)

Pitt’s defense couldn’t hold a big lead in its bowl game against Houston, but no blame goes to the offensive line, which was strong. Pitt ran for 227 yards and three touchdowns and allowed just one sack on 37 attempts, with Clemmings grading out once again as the Panthers’ top blocker.

OL: Shaq Mason (Georgia Tech)

Georgia Tech ran for 52 more yards than any other team during bowl season. Credit goes to the entire offense for the strong performance, but there’s no question Mason has been the on- and off-field leader of the offensive line all season.

OL: Joe Thuney (NC State)

NC State’s 3.82 yards-per-carry average wasn’t great, but the ground-and-pound approach against UCF did the trick. The Wolfpack scored twice on the ground and had eight runs of 10 yards or more, with Thuney grading out as their top performer.

OL: Tre Jackson (Florida State)

It’s easy to dismiss Florida State’s Rose Bowl performance, but the offensive line had nothing to do with the five turnovers the offense coughed up. In fact, Dalvin Cook and Karlos Williams were cruising through a stellar outing thanks to the blocking of Jackson and his linemates before the bottom fell out.

C: Andy Gallik (Boston College)

The Eagles’ problems with PATs haunted them again in bowl season, but the ground game that paced the offense all season was once again terrific. BC ran for 285 yards and two scores against a Penn State defense that had been among the best in the nation against the run. Ample credit to the whole group, but Gallik has been a star all season.

DEFENSE

DE: Tyriq McCord (Miami)

McCord had five tackles, including one sack, in the loss to South Carolina, and while his secondary couldn’t cover Pharoh Cooper, the Hurricanes’ front did manage to keep the Gamecocks’ powerful ground game in check, holding Mike Davis to just 55 yards.

[+] EnlargeGrady Jarrett
AP Photo/John RaouxGrady Jarrett's performance in the Russell Athletic Bowl helped Clemson limit the Sooners to just six points.
DT: Grady Jarrett (Clemson)

Perhaps the ACC’s best defensive player during bowl season, Jarrett was a beast in thwarting Oklahoma’s high-octane offense. Jarrett had 3.5 tackles for loss, one quarterback hurry and a forced fumble as Clemson dominated the Sooners’ through the first 3½ quarters of action.

DE: Vic Beasley (Clemson)

Beasley’s early sack against Trevor Knight was a harbinger of a long day to come for the Oklahoma quarterback, who mustered just 2.8 yards per attempt in the game. Beasley was at the heart of the pass rush, tallying five tackles, including three for a loss.

LB: Rodman Noel (NC State)

Led NC State’s defense with eight tackles, including two for a loss, and helped hold UCF to just 2.9 yards per carry on the ground and disrupting the Knights’ passing game throughout. UCF quarterback Justin Holman completed just 43 percent of his throws.

LB: Ben Boulware (Clemson)

Boulware had five tackles and a fumble recovery in the win over Oklahoma, but it was his 47-yard interception return for a touchdown to give Clemson a 17-0 lead late in the first quarter that made the biggest impact.

LB: P.J. Davis (Georgia Tech)

Davis led all players in the Orange Bowl with 11 tackles, and while Mississippi State’s offense did manage to move the ball to the tune of 605 yards, the game was never particularly close because Davis helped prevent big plays -- just three of 20 yards or more through the first three quarters -- and held Dak Prescott to just 4-of-10 passing on third down.

LB: Deon Clark (Virginia Tech)

Clark led all Virginia Tech defenders with 11 total tackles, including a sack and a forced fumble, as the Hokies thwarted Cincinnati’s high-flying offense in the Military Bowl.

S: DeVon Edwards (Duke)

The Blue Devils’ defense was hardly great against Arizona State, but Edwards did lead the pack with 14 tackles, including one for a loss, a forced fumble and a sack.

S: Chris Milton (Georgia Tech)

Milton’s eight tackles and support against the run were crucial for Georgia Tech’s defense against Mississippi State, but his interception on Prescott’s second throw of the game set the tone for a dominant Yellow Jackets win.

CB: Jack Tocho (NC State)

While NC State’s defensive front tormented the UCF passing game, the defensive backs did their part, too. Tocho had three tackles and two pass breakups, while UCF’s passing game mustered just 4.85 yards per attempt through the first three quarters as the Wolfpack built a 31-13 lead.

CB: Kendall Fuller (Virginia Tech)

Fuller had four tackles, broke up a pass and had and an interception against Cincinnati, as quarterback Gunner Kiel, one of the nation’s most dangerous passers, completed just 14 of 26 throws.

SPECIAL TEAMS

P: Bradley Pinion (Clemson)

Pinion’s net punting average against Oklahoma was 43.4 yards -- just one-tenth of a yard shy of tops in the conference. He had two punts downed inside the 10, and none of his five boots were returned.

K: Joey Slye (Virginia Tech)

Slye connected on all four field goal attempts, including two outside of 40 yards, and was 3-of-3 on PATs in Virginia Tech’s win over Cincinnati.

KR/PR: Jamison Crowder (Duke)

Crowder has been a star on special teams for much of his career, and he ended it on a high note by returning a punt 68 yards for a touchdown against Arizona State -- his second of the season. He accounted for 66 percent of all the punt returns in the ACC in 2014.

ESPN.com's All-ACC team

December, 12, 2014
12/12/14
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Presenting the 2014 ESPN.com All-ACC team:

Offense

WR Rashad Greene, Florida State: Whenever FSU was in trouble, Greene was there to save the day. He made big catch after big catch, took big hit after big hit, and ended the season with 93 catches for 1,306 yards, helping him break both FSU's records for receptions and receiving yards.

WR DeVante Parker, Louisville: The senior caught 35 passes for 735 yards and five touchdowns, the latter two numbers among the top 10 in the ACC. Oh, did we mention he missed the first seven games?

TE Clive Walford, Miami: Was there a more complete tight end in the country? The numbers say there might not be: 44 catches (third nationally), 676 yards (third), 7 TDs (third nationally). Walford did this all with a true freshman QB, too.

OT Cameron Erving, Florida State: Erving repeated as the ACC's blocking trophy winner, moving from left tackle to center in Game No. 10 this season and staying there, further showing his value to a unit that had dealt with interior injuries but came on strong late to help running back Dalvin Cook bloom into one of the country's finest freshmen.

OT T.J. Clemmings, Pittsburgh: Clemmings ought to get at least a piece of James Conner's player of the year trophy. The converted defensive end was among the nation's most improved players, starting every game for the second season in a row while using his athleticism to ace a position switch he had resisted earlier in his career.

C Andy Gallik, Boston College: BC lost a Heisman finalist at running back and actually improved its rushing totals this season. A dual-threat QB explains part of that, but so, too, does a powerful offensive line, led by Gallik in the middle, who helped pave the way for the league's No. 2 rushing attack.

OG Shaquille Mason, Georgia Tech: The only ACC team that rushed for more than BC? The only one that kept its QB unscathed more than Duke? The Yellow Jackets are the answer to both, with Mason captaining an oft-overlooked unit that was absolutely integral to the program's resurgence this season while running its famed triple-option attack.

OG Laken Tomlinson, Duke: The future pro turned in his best season yet, helping a Blue Devils offensive line that anchored a balanced offensive attack and kept QB Anthony Boone upright all season long, as Duke surrendered just 13 sacks, tied for 11th-best nationally.

QB Jameis Winston, Florida State: The reigning Heisman winner was not as sharp as last season, but he once again put up big numbers (3,559 yards, 24 TDs) while leading FSU to another perfect mark. Winston is 26-0 for his career as a starter. You simply cannot beat that.

RB James Conner, Pitt: The ACC player of the year rewrote the Pitt record books -- no easy feat for a place that boasts names like Tony Dorsett, Curtis Martin and LeSean McCoy. Conner rushed for 1,675 yards and 24 TDs, responding to each defense's best shot game after game.

RB Duke Johnson, Miami: Like Conner, Johnson set himself above his peers at a program that has produced plenty of great running backs. Coming off an injury-shortened 2013 season, the junior ran for 1,520 yards and 13 TDs, becoming Miami's all-time leading rusher and its career leader in all-purpose yards.

Defense

DE Vic Beasley, Clemson: The ACC's defensive player of the year has seen his decision to return for his senior season pay off, as Beasley led the ACC in sacks (11) and tackles for loss (18.5) while making Clemson's defense the top-ranked unit nationally.

DT Eddie Goldman, Florida State: Who can forget Goldman forcing a Clemson fumble late to keep FSU's perfect season alive? The junior was in the right place at the right time often, a versatile threat who moved back inside this season after playing end. He dominated the line of scrimmage, and one just needs to look at how FSU fared without Goldman -- giving up 331 rushing yards to Georgia Tech as he went down early -- to see his value.

DT Grady Jarrett, Clemson: Ends might get all the stats and glory, but Jarrett's impact on offenses might have been as big as Beasley's, as he helped form arguably the top defensive line in the country. Jarrett had 6.5 TFLs and 11 QB hurries, freeing up those around him and making running the ball next to impossible down the stretch for opponents.

LB David Helton, Duke: The senior led the ACC in tackles (125) and ranked 11th nationally. Helton helped Duke overcome the preseason loss of linebacker Kelby Brown and led a unit that continued its ascension under coordinator Jim Knowles, finishing fifth in the ACC in scoring average (20.6 ppg), and 20th nationally.

LB Lorenzo Mauldin, Louisville: A step-up in competition for Mauldin and the Cardinals meant even better results, as the hybrid notched a career-best 45 tackles and led the team in tackles for loss (13), while notching 6.5 sacks. Louisville's defense was one of the most surprising units in the country this season in its first year under coordinator Todd Grantham, ranking No. 6 nationally.

LB Stephone Anthony, Clemson: The leading tackler (73) on the nation's top defense, Anthony impacted games in a number of ways for the Tigers, making 9.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage while forcing two fumbles and picking off one pass.

LB Denzel Perryman, Miami: The senior led the Hurricanes in virtually ever major category: Tackles (102), TFLs (8.5) and forced fumbles (3) among them. He validated his decision to return after last season, recording yet another 100-tackle season and making his case as perhaps the top linebacker in the ACC.

S Gerod Holliman, Louisville: Fourteen interceptions. Fourteen! What more needs to be said? Holliman broke the ACC record and tied the NCAA mark. He had four multi-pick games, including a three-pick performance at BC. And he did this all after transitioning from corner to safety under Grantham's tutelage.

S Jalen Ramsey, Florida State: The sophomore made big play after big play, giving FSU's D an edge at the star position. He clinched the Miami game with a late pick and had two on the season to go with two forced fumbles, 11 break-ups, 13 passes defended and 9.5 TFLs. He blocked a kick, too.

CB Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech: The last in line of the storied Fuller family to come through Blacksburg, the sophomore showed plenty of the same NFL promise that has guided his older brothers. One of only a handful of Hokies to start every game, Fuller finished second in the ACC in passes defended (15), recorded 4.5 TFLs and recovered one fumble.

CB Garry Peters, Clemson: As overlooked as one can be on a defense loaded with stars, Peters quietly executed his job to a T, picking off one pass, breaking up 11 and defending 12. He forced a fumble and managed eight TFLs as well on a pass defense that ranked No. 3 nationally.

Special teams

K Roberto Aguayo, Florida State: Just another year at the office for Aguayo: 25-of-27 on field-goal attempts, perfect on extra points and a number of crucial kicks, which wasn't always required last year when he first stepped into the national spotlight. Aguayo is a whopping 46-of-49 for his career on field-goal attempts.

P Will Monday, Duke: Monday averaged 43.4 yards per punt, with 12 of his boots going for 50 or more yards. Eight of his punts were touchbacks, 19 were fair caught and 17 were inside the 20-yard line.

KR DeVon Edwards, Duke: Edwards averaged 25.4 yards per kick return, including a 99-yard touchdown in a high-scoring affair at Pitt, which the Blue Devils ended up winning in OT.

AP Tyler Boyd, Pitt: Boyd was a jack-of-all trades for Pitt, catching 69 passes for 1,149 yards and eight touchdowns. He was also the ACC's top punt returner, averaging 10.8 yards per return, which ranked 15th nationally.

ACC helmet stickers: Week 10

November, 2, 2014
11/02/14
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It was another wild week in the ACC, with some of the league’s elite players turning in vintage performances while some young guns began to emerge. Here are our helmet stickers for Week 10.

Florida State’s freshmen: Jimbo Fisher has been bringing in big hauls on the recruiting trail for years, but it’s been rare that so many have paid such instant dividends as his 2014 signing class did against Louisville. Dalvin Cook, Ermon Lane and Travis Rudolph had 284 of FSU’s 574 yards of offense and scored three times. Cook’s 110 yards rushing on nine carries was the difference as the Seminoles pulled away late after trailing by 21 in the first half. Since Oct. 1, Cook leads FSU in rushing with 265 yards, and Rudolph is second on the team in receiving with 268 yards.

Miami RB Duke Johnson and Pitt RB James Conner: We’re lumping the two together not as a slight, but to point out that we’re witnessing two of the truly great seasons by ACC running backs at the same time. Conner was tremendous in a losing effort against Duke, racking up 263 yards -- the most by a Power 5 running back this season -- and three touchdowns. Meanwhile, Johnson had 226 yards from scrimmage and scored three times to lead Miami to a win. Through nine weeks, Conner has racked up 1,342 yards and Johnson 1,213. BC’s Andre Williams -- a Heisman finalist in 2013 -- is the only ACC running back to account for more rush yards through nine games in the past decade.

Duke WR Jamison Crowder: How crazy have the past two Duke-Pitt games been? The combined score of last year’s and this year’s game is Duke 106, Pitt 106. The Blue Devils managed to eek out the win in two overtimes this season after the Panthers botched a late field-goal try, but it was Crowder who kept Duke in the game all along. The senior had nine catches for 165 yards and two scores — his first touchdowns of the year against an FBS team. Add a 99-yard kick return for a score by DeVon Edwards, and Duke’s faint playoff hopes remain intact.

NC State DE Pharoah McKever: The Wolfpack offense continues to struggle to find the end zone, but the defense was up to the task against Syracuse. NC State forced three turnovers in the game, and none were more significant than McKever’s 82-yard interception return for a touchdown that turned a 14-9 deficit into a 17-14 lead. It was McKever’s first career INT, the first NC State defensive touchdown in an ACC game since 2012, and more importantly, it was Dave Doreen’s first conference win as the Wolfpack’s head coach.

Georgia Tech RB Synjyn Days: In the two games since Zach Laskey went down with an injury, Days has been a revelation. One week after racking up 110 yards on 22 carries - both career highs -- Days led the way to a win over Virginia by running for 147 yards and adding another 17 through the air, scoring twice. The Cavaliers entered the game with the No. 9-ranked rush defense in the nation, but Days became the first player to rush for 100 against them this season.

Boston College QB Tyler Murphy: The Eagles are bowl eligible for the second straight season, and Murphy is a big reason why. He threw for two touchdowns and ran for a third, racking up 122 yards on 18 carries on the ground. Murphy’s 57-yard TD run with 2:59 to play effectively sealed the win over Virginia Tech, and he’s now just 35 yards shy of becoming the first ACC quarterback to run for 1,000 yards since Georgia Tech’s Josh Nesbitt in 2009.

Duke Blue Devils season preview

August, 6, 2014
8/06/14
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» More team previews: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Previewing the 2014 season for the Duke Blue Devils, the defending Coastal Division champs.

[+] EnlargeAnthony Boone
Kevin Liles/USA TODAY SportsAnthony Boone playing with a chip on his shoulder could be good for Duke's ACC Coastal Division title hopes.
Key returners: QB Anthony Boone (64 percent completions, 13 touchdowns), RB Josh Snead (670 yards, 2 touchdowns), WR Jamison Crowder (108 catches, 1,360 yards, 8 touchdowns), TE Braxton Deaver (46 catches, 600 yards, 4 touchdowns), LB David Helton (133 tackles), S Jeremy Cash (121 tackles), LB Kelby Brown (114 tackles), CB Breon Borders (4 interceptions)

Key losses: QB Brandon Connette (27 touchdowns), RB Jela Duncan (573 yards, 11 touchdowns), LG Dave Harding, CB Ross Cockrell (3 interceptions, 16 passes defended), DE Kenny Anunike (13.5 tackles for a loss, 6 sacks), DE Justin Foxx (4 sacks)

Most important games: Sept. 27 at Miami, Nov. 1 at Pitt, Nov. 15 versus Virginia Tech, Nov. 20 versus North Carolina

Projected win percentage: .645

Vegas over/under: 8.5 wins

Instant impact newcomers: As freshman backups in 2013, corners DeVon Edwards, Breon Borders and Bryon Fields combined for seven interceptions and broke up 20 passes. All three are projected starters this season. Redshirt freshman Quay Mann could see time in the secondary this season, too. Redshirt sophomore Thomas Sirk has never seen game action but figures to play a big role taking over for departed quarterback Brandon Connette, who was a key figure in the red zone last year.

Biggest question mark: Can the defense take a step forward? The unit made big plays last season and there’s plenty of talent returning. But this was still a defense that ranked 12th overall in the ACC, allowing 418 yards per game, and a unit that coughed up 30 or more points five times -- including a combined 97 points in its final two games against FSU and Texas A&M. With turnover on the defensive line and youth in the secondary, Duke needs to prove it's ready to take the next step on that side of the ball.

Number to know: 174. That’s the number of times Crowder was targeted in 2013, by far the most among any ACC receiver (the next closest was Clemson’s Sammy Watkins, who was targeted 134 times). Crowder’s targets accounted for a whopping 37 percent of all of Duke’s passing attempts. He is one of only three receivers nationally (and the lone representative from a Power Five conference) to have a chance at a third straight 1,000-yard receiving season in 2014.

They said it: "The biggest danger is in changing who we've been. We are a good program because we have great habits. What we want to become is a great program with great habits. We're still a work in progress." -- Duke coach David Cutcliffe
In three years at Duke, Jamison Crowder has blossomed into one of the ACC’s best receivers, while helping the Blue Devils’ offense become one of the most feared in the conference. As Crowder prepares for what could be his third straight 1,000-yard season, we caught up with the Duke senior for his thoughts on what awaits in 2014.

You came to Duke when the program was a perennial loser, and you’ve seen it grow exponentially since your arrival. Did you envision this type of success from the beginning?

Jamison Crowder: As any recruit going to a new place, you have second thoughts about certain things. But I had confidence in what Coach [David] Cutcliffe pitched at me. We had guys coming in and some young guys already here that had good talent. Coach Cut said in the next few years, we’d be a program on the rise, and that was the mindset I had coming in. Now, that’s what’s happening. My career has escalated as well as the program, and right now, I couldn’t have made a better choice.

[+] EnlargeJamison Crowder
Ellen Ozier/USA TODAY SportsReceiver Jamison Crowder is looking to help Duke win a second straight ACC Coastal Division title.
How do you think people’s perceptions of Duke have changed since you’ve been here? And what did losing those last two games against Florida State and Texas A&M last season mean for where the program is?

JC: People saw we were for real, but for a lot of people, we still have a lot to prove. And for ourselves. We had a team meeting yesterday, and one of the things we talked about, obviously our program is headed in the right direction, but at the end of the year, both years, we didn’t win bowl games. We made it to the ACC championship and that was a good marker, but we failed to win. I think everybody on the team has that determination to continue the success, but now, win the championship games and bowl games. From the outside, I think we still have a lot to prove. A lot of people still think last year was a fluke, but I think we’re going to be pretty good again this year.

You’re back, Anthony Boone is back, Braxton Deaver, Josh Snead, several key linemen — can this year’s offense be even better than last season?

JC: We’ve got a lot of experience coming back. We’ve lost a few linemen and one of our running backs, but we have a lot of playmakers coming back. We have a pretty good running back in Shaquille Powell that is going to come on the scene a lot this year. Coach Mo [Scottie Montgomery] is a guy that’s fired up and puts players in the right position to make plays. Expectations are high. Last year, we left a lot of plays on the field. That’s in the back of our minds. We don’t want to leave any plays behind.

Is it fair to compare expectations for QB Thomas Sirk to what Brandon Connette did last year? Can he handle that role?

JC: Sirk is — Brandon had a little more of a built frame, but Sirk is taller and I think he’ll come in a lot on the goal line to run the wildcat. Sirk is very athletic and he can come in and fill that role. One thing he has to work on is in the open field, but I think he can overall come in and do what Brandon did, if not better, on the goal line and in short-yardage situations.

You had a very young secondary last year, including a lot of playing time for freshmen. Have you seen that group improve over the spring and summer?

JC: Most definitely. Those guys have a good work ethic. I lift with Bryon Fields and Quay Mann. Those guys have been working. Last year, they were thrown in the fire. They handled it well. They gave up some big plays, but they made some big plays. For a freshman to come in, that’s a difficult task, and they did real well last year. And this year, you can see they’re more comfortable and bigger and stronger and faster.

What do you need to accomplish this year to convince people at the next level that you’re a legit prospect?

JC: I just have to have another good season. My status, as far as the league, is still unsure because of my size or because I’m not the fastest. So I just want to have another good season, not get complacent. You hear a lot of people telling you you’re going to make it, but those same people are the ones making the decision whether I’m playing on Sundays. Only thing I can work on is me, and I’m staying hungry and continuing to work. I want to go out and make plays, score touchdowns and definitely have a better year as a returner this year. Last year I had two returns [for touchdowns], but I feel like I left two or three on the field.

You mentioned special teams, and the ACC has some very talented return men, including your own teammate, DeVon Edwards. Do you compare your game to any of those guys? Is there anyone who you particularly like to watch play?

JC: Most definitely, DeVon. It’s fun to have teammates that make the game easier. I’ve realized that scoring on special teams takes a load off the offense. That one play is a whole possession. DeVon and me, we joke that I’m going to have more. Last year, we both had two. So this year I said I’m going to have more returns, and he says, ‘You’re crazy.’ But you’ve got to go out there and perform. Aside from my teammate, I like [North Carolina's] Ryan Switzer. I’ve watched a few highlights on YouTube, and I like his game.

What would a third straight 1,000-yard season mean for you?

JC: It’s great to get 1,000 yards in two years. But I want to be able to play at the next level, and the numbers hold some weight, but if you’re not performing at the highest level it doesn’t mean anything. The numbers are great, it shows I’m working, but I can do better and I know I’m going to have to do better to have a chance to play at the next level. And as long as we’re winning ballgames, that’s the main thing.

Is this the most talented Duke team since you’ve been here?

JC: Most definitely. We lost a few guys, but we have a lot of talent — raw talent. We’re getting better. We’re adding talent on talent. We’ve got a lot of confidence and talent that Duke hasn’t had in recent years. Now we’ve just got to get ready to play.
David Cutcliffe placed the call while he was on the treadmill. DeVon Edwards tried to play it cool when Cutcliffe offered him a scholarship, asking whether he could talk with his mom first.

But the truth is, Edwards knew all along what he would say. Five minutes later, Edwards accepted the only scholarship offer that came his way.

[+] EnlargeDeVon Edwards
Peter Casey/USA TODAY SportsDuke return man DeVon Edwards joined the track team to help improve his speed for the 2014 season.
Incredible now to believe only one school believed in him. Edwards is going into his sophomore season at Duke as one of the top kick returners in the country.

So how did he get virtually no interest in high school?

Edwards played at a relatively new school in Covington, Georgia, that opened in 2006. Nobody from that school had ever received a football scholarship to an FBS program. So the school itself was off the map. And so was Edwards, after a broken collarbone sidelined him for his junior season.

His high school coaches sent out game tape from his sophomore season, but nobody seemed interested. With no interest and no offers, Edwards began to face reality. He turned his focus to basketball, where he played on AAU teams and was an all-region selection for his school.

If nobody wanted him as a football player, maybe they would as a basketball player.

"It was a tough feeling, not knowing if you were going to get to play at the next level and then your friends were getting scholarships," Edwards recalled recently. "I figured I was not doing something right, maybe I was too small or too short or something. I had a high GPA, so I knew I could get into college but playing football was something I like doing and I was just starting to cope with the fact that I might not get a scholarship."

Enter Cutcliffe. He saw something in Edwards in those old game tapes. He asked for senior year game tape. At this point, the football season was over. But Edwards was playing basketball. Cutcliffe took a trip to see him during practice.

He was sold, and offered Edwards in December -- just two months before signing day.

"I guess God just told me I need to play football," Edwards said.

Edwards came into Duke with little fanfare. He was the only player in the class of 2012 without any stars or ranking from ESPN Recruiting. Edwards redshirted his first season, then went into fall camp last year hoping for playing time at cornerback. But he was moved to safety and admitted frustration over his undetermined role.

With the help of former star Duke CB Ross Cockrell, Edwards tried to look ahead, waiting for his shot. It came on defense and special teams around the same time.

Cutcliffe had always promised Edwards a chance to return kicks. It happened after Johnell Barnes broke his hand in late September. Edwards started at kick returner in the sixth game of the season, against Navy, and held on to the role the rest of the season. He also started the final seven games of the season at safety.

Edwards started to make a name for himself soon enough. He ended up returning two kickoffs for touchdowns and two interceptions for touchdowns. Three of those scores came against NC State (two INT returns and a 100-yard kickoff return).

"It didn’t hit me how well we played until the next morning when I was watching 'SportsCenter' and people kept talking about it and I was like, 'Wow, that was a big deal,'" Edwards said.

He ended the season ranked No. 3 in the nation in kickoff return average (30.2 yards per return) and was one of seven players to return multiple kickoffs for touchdowns. Edwards has worked on his speed this offseason in order to get better, and joined the track team for the outdoor season with several other football players. Edwards says he is a much better runner now than he was when spring football ended.

That will only help him build off his impressive first season. After all, he's no longer an unknown.

"I’m going to keep playing how I was playing and keep on working hard. I knew who I was when nobody else knew who I was," Edwards said.
Tommy Tuberville has never been one to hold back. Whether you want to hear it or not, brutal honesty is all you are going to get.

So when Derek Jones asked his former coach for a bit of advice about whether to join the Dallas Cowboys for a minicamp tryout, Tuberville laid it down: Forget about playing in the NFL, he told him. You need to be a coach.

[+] EnlargeDerek Jones
Courtesy of Duke University PhotographyDerek Jones is beginning his seventh season as a Duke assistant, and is on a path to being a head coach someday.
Jones had never given coaching a thought. He figured after his playing career was over, he would become a lawyer. But Tuberville made a convincing argument: Jones was a team leader, a hard worker and knew how to sell the Ole Miss program to incoming recruits while he was still playing.

Tuberville presented him with an opportunity, offering him a graduate assistant job on his Ole Miss staff in 1998. Try it, Tuberville told him. If you hate it, at least you will be on your way toward law school.

Jones considered the possibilities. He realized what Tuberville said was right. He was a 5-foot-8 cornerback with some CFL experience, but would he really have a future in the NFL? Jones gave up on his NFL dream and accepted the job. Now, 16 years later, he is going into his seventh season as a Duke assistant.

But more than that, Jones is headed down a path that could lead him toward a head coaching job. Jones recently participated in the NCAA Champion Forum in Orlando, Florida, where minority assistants identified as potential head coaches participate in sessions designed to prepare them to take the next step in their careers.

"I get it now, and I really appreciate Coach Tuberville seeing something in me that I didn’t see in myself," Jones said. "If he hadn’t given me that hard love and that advice, I may not have had a chance with Coach [David] Cutcliffe when he came to get in the door. Who knows where I would be now."

Indeed, one decision often becomes life-changing. Jones had a chance to work with Tuberville for one year before Cutcliffe took over at Ole Miss in 1999. Cutcliffe retained Jones, and they each left impressions on the other. Jones went on to become a full-time assistant at Murray State and spent time at Middle Tennessee, Tulsa and Memphis.

Jones' phone rang shortly after Cutcliffe became head coach at Duke in December 2007. Cutcliffe wanted Jones to join him with the Blue Devils.

“When he offered me the job, I had three other job offers on the table at some pretty big football-playing schools,” Jones said. “He said something that stuck with me. He said, ‘I know you’ve got some other things going on, and you can go to those places and you’ll probably be successful, but I think we have a chance to do something significant at Duke.’

“Going to place a like that, where the odds were against you, I knew I’d have a chance to make a difference not only in the lives of young men and on the football field, but also proving to myself that I’m actually good at this. It was more of a personal thing and believing in him. I saw what he was able to do at my alma mater. I knew if he could go into Ole Miss and do the things he’d done there, I knew there was a chance we could get it done at Duke.”

Cutcliffe sold his vision to incoming players, too, and has turned Duke into a division champion because everybody inside the program bought in. Jones has had opportunities to leave Duke, but he has stayed, largely because of Cutcliffe.

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Grant Halverson/Getty ImagesDerek Jones believed in David Cutcliffe's vision for Duke football.
“The ability to work under Coach Cutcliffe is good for my growth,” Jones said. “He’s as good as any coach I’ve been around at so many things. The more knowledge I can obtain from him, the better I’m going to be long term. I can’t think of many other situations outside of the situation we’ve been in that compares to anything.”

Jones has aspirations to become a head coach, which is why attending the Champion Forum was so important to him. Assistants go through mock interviews with current athletic directors, have opportunities to network and learn everything that goes into becoming a head coach -- because it goes way beyond coaching. Jones has never interviewed for a head coach job, but when that opportunity comes, he will be much better prepared.

“Now I have a background on what it takes for me,” he said. “I can start to work on the things I don’t have in my arsenal right now.”

Jones does have the coaching. As defensive backs coach, he helped cornerback Ross Cockrell earn first-team All-ACC honors in 2012 and 2013. Cockrell was picked by Buffalo in the fourth round of the NFL draft in May. Duke returns a young but very talented secondary in 2014, led by All-ACC second-team safety Jeremy Cash, DeVon Edwards, Bryon Fields and Breon Borders.

They remain his focus, thanks in large part to the brutal honesty of a coach who believed.

The secrets to Duke's success

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David Cutcliffe earned plenty of praise for the job he did revitalizing Duke in 2012, but even the most optimistic Blue Devils fans had to be surprised by the leap their team took in 2013 — winning 10 games and playing for a conference title. So, how did they do it?

Obviously Cutcliffe’s efforts installing an offseason program, improving recruiting and installing his system have worked wonders in Durham, but dig into the numbers and there were a few key areas that proved crucial to Duke’s run in 2013 and could make the difference once again as the Blue Devils try to defend their Coastal Division title this fall.

Strong offensive line play

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Jeremy McKnight/Icon SMIDespite some personnel losses, Duke's offensive line, led by the experience of Laken Tomlinson, can be successful again in 2014.
Last season: It’s no secret that strong play in the trenches can cover a lot of other blemishes, and Duke’s offensive line was exceptional in 2013. The Blue Devils mustered 29 dropbacks per sack, the 10th-best mark in the country and by far the best in the ACC (Miami was next at 23.5). Duke also averaged 4.6 yards per carry (up nearly a yard from 2012) and had 28 rushing TDs (10 more than the previous season).

2014 outlook: Last season’s success shouldn’t have been a shocker. Duke returned the third-most experienced line in the country for 2013 (113 career starts), which translated to a unit that gelled quickly. Now, Duke must replace its two most veteran starters in Dave Harding and Perry Simmons, but the Blue Devils still have plenty of experience on the line. Still, Duke’s line isn’t exactly green. Laken Tomlinson (39 career starts), Matt Skura and Takoby Cofield are all seniors, while Lucas Patrick and Sam Marshall are juniors with ample game experience. With another year in Cutcliffe’s strength and conditioning program, the 2014 line could be every bit as good as 2013's.

A workhorse on offense

Last season: No receiver in the country was more relied upon more than Duke’s Jamison Crowder. Blue Devils QBs threw the ball 472 times in 2013, with Crowder the target on a whopping 174 of them (37 percent). Crowder hauled in 62 percent of the balls thrown his way and was exceptional on both short passes and as a deep threat. Most importantly, however, he was consistently good. The only game in which Crowder finished with fewer than five catches was the win over Virginia Tech.

2014 outlook: The case can be made that Crowder won’t be a secret in his senior campaign, but ACC defenses had to have known what was in store last fall, too. In the past two seasons, with three different starting QBs throwing to him, Crowder has racked up 184 catches, 2,434 yards and 16 touchdowns. He’ll be among the best in the country -- and an ideal security blanket on offense -- once again in 2014.

Dynamic QB play

Last season: Anthony Boone and Brandon Connette combined for nearly 4,000 yards of offense (551 rushing, 3,472 passing) with 45 total touchdowns. As a point of comparison, Heisman winner Jameis Winston had 4,276 yards of offense and 44 total touchdowns. And thanks to the threat Connette posed with his legs, Duke was among the most successful teams in the country in the red zone, scoring TDs on 40 of 58 trips and 27 percent of its red-zone rushing attempts.

2014 outlook: Boone has another year of experience under his belt and is the ACC’s second-most veteran QB, but Connette’s transfer to Fresno State is a big blow. Only Navy’s Keenan Reynolds and Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch had more rushing TDs among quarterbacks last year than Connette, and they did so with nearly three times as many attempts. No player in the country with at least 30 red-zone rushing attempts scored at a higher rate than Connette in 2013 (42 percent), and while the Blue Devils are high on Thomas Sirk as Boone’s new backup, those are some enormous shoes to fill.

A playmaking defense

Last season: The easy knock on Duke last season was its defense. After all, twice Duke topped 48 points and still lost (Pitt, Texas A&M). Overall, the Blue Devils’ D ranked 82nd nationally, and it allowed nearly 8 yards per play in four losses. But the great equalizer were the big plays. Duke’s D recorded 26 takeaways (tied for 26th nationally) and 18 interceptions (tied for 13th nationally). The capacity for big plays helped offset too many bad ones defensively.

2014 outlook: The Blue Devils could be in for some rough patches on D again this fall. The secondary features four sophomores likely to see extensive playing time, while the defensive front gets a significant makeover from last season. Still, 14 of the 18 INTs from last season return, and DeVon Edwards, Breon Borders and Bryon Fields have the talent to blossom quickly.

Scoring on D, special teams

Last season: Thanks to Edwards and Crowder, Duke scored six non-offensive touchdowns last season, tied for the eighth-most nationally. The 16 teams that had at least six non-offensive touchdowns were a combined 130-66 (.653) in 2013, with eight of them winning at least 10 games (including both teams that played for the national title).

2014 outlook: Big plays on D and special teams can be maddeningly inconsistent. When they happen, they can be game-changers, but they’re notoriously tough to predict. Still, Duke returns athleticism in the return game and in the secondary, which should open up options, and if the Blue Devils’ offense can force opponents into shootouts, the D will have its chances to take a few more INTs to the house.

Five things: Florida State vs. Duke

December, 7, 2013
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It’s certainly not the matchup most fans expected way back in August, but Florida State and Duke will face off Saturday night in the ACC championship game. At stake for Duke is history, its first trip to a BCS bowl game and its first conference title since 1961. For Florida State, however, there’s even more on the line. With a win, the Seminoles are all but guaranteed a shot to play for a national championship. The pundits heavily favor Florida State, but there’s still plenty to watch for when the Seminoles and Blue Devils kick off in Charlotte.

1. Big game or business as usual? For Florida State, ACC championship game weekend is old hat. The Seminoles were here just last year, after all, and this marks their third trip in Jimbo Fisher’s four years as coach. Fisher even began tweaking the team’s travel schedule earlier this season to prep for the distractions this weekend would bring. For Duke, however, its division title comes as a mammoth surprise, and none of these players had played in a game of this magnitude. Experience is clearly on Florida State’s side, but Duke has managed to live up to big moments all season, and while players might be new to a conference championship game, David Cutcliffe is not. He’ll have the Blue Devils prepared.

2. History as a guide: The numbers are ugly for the Blue Devils: In 18 previous meetings with Florida State, they’ve gone 0-18, lost by an average of 34 points, and never finished a game within two scores of a win. Yes, Duke already has had a history-making season, so perhaps a little more history is in the works. But if that’s the case, Florida State will need to buy into the conventional wisdom and come out slow, while Duke will need to forget everything that has come before.

3. Winston vs. Duke’s DBs: Jameis Winston looks poised to win a Heisman Trophy, and he has been spectacular all season. He’ll be a focus for Duke, but the Blue Devils’ secondary has shown a propensity for big plays. After allowing 10 pass touchdowns in its first two ACC games of the year, Duke’s secondary has allowed only six more in its next six games, while racking up 12 interceptions. Ross Cockrell and DeVon Edwards have led the charge, but they’ve not faced a challenge as immense as Winston. Florida State has four receivers ranked in the ACC’s top 11 in yards per catch, and Winston loves going for the big play.

4. Crowder vs. FSU pass defense: Asked earlier this week about the danger presented by Duke’s Jamison Crowder, the ACC’s leading receiver, FSU safety Terrence Brooks smiled. The Seminoles’ secondary isn’t afraid of anyone, he said, and it will take more than one weapon to beat them. It might sound a bit overconfident, but Brooks has the numbers to back up his boasts. Florida State ranks No. 1 in the nation in pass defense, and its 23 interceptions are tops in the country.

5. Ground gains: Florida State’s backfield rotation is running wild, averaging 9 yards per rush with nine touchdowns in its last three games. Devonta Freeman is now just 148 yards shy of rushing for 1,000 yards, and he has been stellar in two previous games against Duke. Meanwhile, the Blue Devils will want to establish the run, too, but might face a tough obstacle in doing so. Florida State’s first-team defense hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown all season, and on first down, the Seminoles are allowing just 3.2 yards per carry -- the sixth-best rate in the country.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 15

December, 5, 2013
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So it comes down to this. No. 1 Florida State and No. 20 Duke square off in Charlotte, N.C., with the ACC title on the line, and with much more at stake for the Seminoles, who are a win away from a berth in the national title game. Here are a few things to keep an eye on Saturday night (8 ET, ABC) when both teams take the field:

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Ellen Ozier/USA TODAY SportsDavid Cutcliffe and Duke are out to shock the college football world and upset No. 1 Florida State.
1. The noise factor. No, we're not talking about the volume of the crowd here. We're talking about the external factors going into this game for both teams. Duke has been written off as a four-touchdown underdog, has been criticized for its allegedly easy path to the Coastal Division title and has been told over and over again that it has no business being in this game. Florida State, meanwhile, will know the outcome of the Jameis Winston saga by kickoff. How each responds emotionally once the game is underway is worth watching.

2. Red zone efficiency. Florida State ranks at or near the top of the ACC in most statistical categories, including red zone efficiency (No. 1 in offense, No. 2 in defense). Duke, on the other hand, is ranked near the middle of the pack in most categories, but the Blue Devils are No. 4 in red zone defense, which does not exactly underscore just how good they have been in recent weeks when pressed inside their own 20 (six touchdowns allowed in their last five games, after surrendering 15 in their first seven). If the Blue Devils can hold the Seminoles to some field goals on what are likely to be several trips into their territory, or even force a turnover or two, they will give themselves a chance to pull off a monumental upset.

3. Special teams. What will help Duke even more? Big special-teams plays. And the Blue Devils have excelled in that department. They are No. 2 in the ACC in punt return average (13.6), yards and touchdowns (two), and they lead the conference in kickoff return average (26.2) and touchdowns (two). Can DeVon Edwards and/or Jamison Crowder come through again for Duke? It certainly would not hurt to steal a few points in the third phase of the game if the Blue Devils want to crash the BCS and help re-shape the national title picture.

AA put some distance between herself and HD with the picks last week. HD admits she choked with the vaunted predictions trophy on the line, going 4-5 in Week 14. AA kept chugging, going 7-2 to open up a four-game lead on HD in the overall standings. AA stands at 85-23 as we head into the postseason. Seems like a pretty insurmountable lead at this point.

No headway to be made this week, either -- not when the easy choice to win the ACC championship game is Florida State. Here is how we both see the game playing out.

AA picks: Exactly zero media prognosticators had Florida State playing Duke in the ACC championship game when the season began. Of the 120 ballots tabulated, only 15 declared the Seminoles their preseason choice to win the ACC. That handful of voters will turn out to be right after Saturday comes to a close. Florida State is too talented and too deep to have much of a problem with the Blue Devils. Duke has been such a terrific story to watch unfold throughout the course of the season, and the Blue Devils do have some rising stars in Jamison Crowder, Kelby Brown, DeVon Edwards and Jeremy Cash. They deserve an inordinate amount of credit for turning around a moribund program. But they still have a ways to go to match the upper echelon not just in the ACC, but in the nation. Florida State lost 11 NFL draft picks off last season's team; Duke has had eight players drafted in the last 20 years. So you see the talent disparity. Duke has never beaten Florida State and has lost by an average margin of 34.5 points per game. The Blue Devils are a much better team than they were the last time these teams played last season. But the problem for Duke? Florida State is a much better team, too. Florida State 48, Duke 10.

HD picks: The magic ends here, where good meets great. Duke will play better than many expect, as it has an opportunistic defense and the ACC’s coach of the year, but it won’t be enough to overcome the matchup problems the Noles’ elite talent will create. This won’t be as ugly as it was last year during the regular season, but it won’t be pretty, either. Duke has recruited talent and speed, but not enough to match the likes of wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin or quarterback Jameis Winston. Florida State will win the turnover battle, and Duke’s defense will give up too may big plays and struggle to get FSU off the field on third down. FSU has given up more than 17 points just once this season (to Boston College). Duke’s preparation, discipline and determination will get it to 20, but it will only be good enough for a moral victory. Florida State 45, Duke 20.

ACC weekend rewind: Week 14

December, 2, 2013
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That does it for the ACC regular season, which has left us with Duke and Florida State to play for the league's crown Saturday in Charlotte, N.C. Before we get there, however, we will take one look back at the week that was in our weekend rewind.

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Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsOnly Duke stands in the way of Kelvin Benjamin and FSU playing for the national title.
The good. There is a new No. 1 in town, as Florida State tops the latest BCS standings after taking care of business in Gainesville, Fla., before watching previously top-ranked Alabama fall at Auburn. While the politicking between the now-No. 3 Tigers and No. 2 Ohio State will wage over the next week (and likely beyond), the Seminoles are now left with a simple formula: Beat Duke on Saturday, and they will close their season in Pasadena, Calif., playing for all the marbles. (Oh, and Kelvin Benjamin had himself a pretty nice day for the Noles, too.)

The bad. It was a weekend of blown opportunities for the ACC against the SEC, which got the upper hand in three of four matchups. After FSU beat Florida -- as it should have -- Georgia Tech blew a 20-0 first-half lead and fell at home in double overtime to an Aaron Murray-less Georgia 41-34. Wake Forest let a four-point lead late get away at Vanderbilt, which kicked a pair of fourth-quarter field goals to escape with the victory. And then, for the cherry on top, Clemson turned the ball over six times to drop its fifth straight to rival South Carolina.

The ugly. Virginia fell to Virginia Tech 16-6, a fitting margin of defeat for a team that has now dropped 10 straight to the rival Hokies in the Commonwealth Cup, and one that has now ended the season on a 10-game slide. NC State did not fare much better, as Maryland beat the Wolfpack 41-21, in the Terrapins' final ACC game, meaning NC State also finishes winless in conference play under first-year coach Dave Doeren, losing its last eight and nine of its final 10. Kudos to Florida State for carrying the ACC flag to the top overall ranking this year, but the bottom of the league was as ugly as ever in 2013.

Now what? These last few years are tough to put in perspective for Clemson. Dabo Swinney and Tajh Boyd have, in some ways, taken the Tigers to new heights, amassing great recruiting classes and breaking records. At 10-2, Clemson has its third straight season with double-digit wins; it had not posted consecutive 10-win seasons since 1989-90. At No. 13 in the BCS standings, a second Orange Bowl berth in three years remains a real possibility. Yet Swinney and Boyd are 0-5 against rival South Carolina, and just 2-3 against top ACC competitor Florida State -- including an 0-4 mark against those teams in the last two years while going 21-0 against everyone else. The Tigers deserve credit for taking a sledgehammer to the word "Clemsoning" and erasing it from everyone's vernacular in recent years, but knowing that it still came up short against its toughest foes during a historic run has to be a tough pill to swallow, especially with no sign of the Seminoles slowing down.

Happy Thanksgiving. Pitt might have had a Black Friday to forget, as it lost at home to Miami,41-31. But the Panthers can be forgiven if they were in an extra-festive mood Thanksgiving night. That's because Mississippi State topped Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl, assuring the SEC of 10 bowl-eligible teams and, more importantly, eliminating the potential vacant spot in the BBVA Compass Bowl, where Pitt has closed its last three seasons in Birmingham, Ala. Happy Thanksgiving, indeed.

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Kellen Micah/Icon SMITerrel Hunt came up big to get Syracuse bowl eligible with a win over Boston College.
Bowl-bound. Syracuse extended its season by the slimmest of margins, as Terrel Hunt hit Josh Parris for an 8-yard touchdown pass with six seconds remaining to deliver a 34-31 win over Boston College for victory No. 6. Hunt played his best ACC game yet, completing 29 of 43 passes for 270 yards with two touchdowns and one pick. He also ran for 90 yards and another score. And now both newcomers, Syracuse and Pitt, are bowl-eligible in their first seasons in the ACC. Not too shabby.

Heisman hopes hurting. While it was a day of celebration for the Orange, it might have also been a blow to Boston College's hopes of getting its first Heisman Trophy winner since Doug Flutie. Andre Williams left the game with an injury in the third quarter, meaning his final impression on the voters was a line of nine carries for 29 yards and a touchdown. Syracuse and Ohio State now remain the only teams in the nation not to allow a 100-yard rusher this season. Williams still has a solid chance of making it to New York for the Heisman ceremony, but you have to think his chances of winning the trophy now are slim.

DeVon, again. DeVon Edwards can change a game in an instant, as evidenced by his consecutive pick-sixes -- and kickoff returns for a touchdown -- in Duke's win over NC State earlier this month. But the versatile 5-foot-9 redshirt freshman was not done for the month, as he made it a November to remember by returning a kickoff 99 yards for a score and then coming up with the game-sealing interception in the Blue Devils' 27-25 win at North Carolina to clinch a spot in the ACC title game. Coach David Cutcliffe was carried off the field after the win, Duke's record 10th of the season. It will now take aim at the Seminoles as it goes for its first ACC title since 1989.

ACC helmet stickers: Week 14

December, 1, 2013
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The 2013 regular season is officially in the books, and if you had Florida State and Duke playing for an ACC championship way back in August -- well, you’re probably lying. But both the Seminoles and the Blue Devils finished strong in Week 14, and they weren’t alone in wrapping up the regular season on a high note.

Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin: In the last five seasons, 44 teams haven’t mustered as many yards through the air against Florida’s defense as Benjamin racked up by himself Saturday. The FSU sophomore caught nine passes for 212 yards and three touchdowns, becoming the first Seminoles receiver to crack the 200-yard mark in 11 years. What’s more astounding is that Benjamin might’ve had an even bigger day. He dropped two passes that could’ve gone for big gains and QB Jameis Winston narrowly overthrew him on a third that appeared a sure touchdown.

Duke CB DeVon Edwards: The redshirt freshman has been astounding in 2013, leading Duke’s defense all year, but Saturday’s performance was a perfect finishing touch on a historic regular season. Edwards returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown (his fourth TD of the year) and picked off a pass from UNC quarterback Marquise Williams to secure the win -- the 10th of the season for the Blue Devils, who will now advance to the ACC championship game against Florida State. Edwards finished with eight tackles in the game.

Maryland QB C.J. Brown: In the final game Maryland will play as a member of the ACC, Brown provided a spectacular send-off. In sending NC State to a winless season in conference play, Brown was dominant, completing 13 of 25 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns through the air, while adding another 138 yards on 15 carries with three more touchdowns on the ground. Saturday marked Brown’s fourth 100-yard rushing day this season and the third time he’s tallied at least four TDs in a game.

Miami WR Stacy Coley: The Hurricanes played on Friday, with lingering Coastal title hopes still on the line, and Coley put on a show. The freshman receiver hauled in a pair of touchdown receptions and added a 73-yard end-around for another score. For the game, Coley racked up 171 all-purpose yards as Miami edged Pitt for its ninth win of the season. Coley finished the regular season with 1,428 all-purpose yards, the third-most by any true freshman in the country.

Syracuse QB Terrel Hunt: With bowl eligibility on the line and Syracuse trailing by 4 points with six seconds to play, Hunt hit tight end Josh Parris for an 8-yard touchdown pass -- just his third TD pass in conference play this year. Hunt wasn’t perfect Saturday, but he turned in his best ACC game to date, completing 29 of 43 passes for 270 yards -- hooking up with nine different receivers -- with two TDs and an interception. He added another 90 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground.

Video: Impact Performance of the Week

November, 14, 2013
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Duke DB DeVon Edwards is the winner of the Capital One Cup Impact Performance of the Week.

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.

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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.

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