NCF Nation: Mike James

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Over the final four games of 2012, Miami quarterback Stephen Morris was the best quarterback in the ACC nobody was talking about.

He threw for 1,131 yards and 11 touchdowns -- with no interceptions -- against Virginia Tech, Virginia, South Florida and Duke.

“I just think everyone was having fun,” Morris said. “Everything just clicked. The offensive line called out every blitz, protections -- they were all in 110 percent. My receivers were just confident; they had a lot of swag to them. Our running backs – Duke [Johnson] and Mike [James] were making plays. We got Dallas [Crawford] involved through the Wildcat. A lot of things were moving really great for us despite the three losses prior to that.”

Miami finished the season having won three of its last four games, and that offensive momentum has carried over into the offseason. Morris is a quiet, confident leader who has become more vocal in the locker room and in the huddle. He will have nine other returning starters to work with, including every offensive lineman and ACC Rookie of the Year Duke Johnson. Last season, Morris emerged from the shadow of former quarterback Jacory Harris in his first season as the Canes’ full-time starter. This season, he has the potential for a breakout year, thanks to a talented supporting cast and a greater knowledge of the game.

“I just think it’s a complete 180 turn, just seeing how I’ve grown and matured, not only as a football player but as a man,” Morris said. “Football is such a game of life. It teaches you so much. It taught me how to be humble, how to be mature, and calm and poised in situations on and off the field. In terms of football, the Xs and Os, it’s crazy to see how mentally my aspect of the game has completely changed from how I look at it, from how I read defenses, from how I game-plan.”

Morris’ record-setting season last year was overshadowed not only by an ongoing NCAA investigation, but also by the success of Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, who is already being hyped as a potential Heisman candidate for 2013. Boyd was the ACC’s Player of the Year, and deservedly so, but Morris is talented enough to make a run at that title this fall.

After all, he quietly put himself in good company last year when he set Miami’s single-season record for total offense with 3,415 yards, breaking the previous record set by Bernie Kosar (3,412) in 1984. Morris finished 2012 with a career-best 3,345 passing yards and 21 touchdowns, and he completed 58.2 percent of his passes. His 245 completions were the second-most in UM history, while his 421 attempts set a single-season school record.

At the end of the season, he earned the team’s MVP award for offense. Two seasons of learning from Harris and playing part-time paid off.

“I wasn’t scared my freshman year, but I was nervous,” he said. “Now I’m just out there having fun with my teammates. I know every play inside and out. I know where everyone has to be. I know the defenses, what they’re trying to do to me and what they’re trying to do to our offense. It’s just having a better understanding of the whole entire game of football.”

This fall, odds are the rest of the ACC has a better understanding of just how good Morris can be.

ACC at the combine

February, 27, 2013
The poking, prodding, interviews and drills have wrapped up at the NFL combine in Indianapolis. Now let's take a quick look at who stood out from the ACC during the all-important event.

  • The defensive backs were the last group to go, wrapping up Tuesday. And there were some pretty good performances. Miami cornerback Brandon McGee posted one of the fastest 40 times at the combine, running a 4.40 to rank him No. 13 among all participants. He also was a top performer in the bench press and 20-yard shuttle run. Those numbers will not do anything but help his draft stock.
  • [+] EnlargeDavid Amerson
    AP Photo/Dave MartinNC State cornerback David Amerson showed off his speed at the NFL combine, clocking a 4.44 in the 40-yard dash.
  • NC State cornerback David Amerson was out to prove himself at the combine after an up-and-down 2012 season. He definitely opened eyes with his performance, which NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock described as "excellent." Amerson ran a 4.44 in the 40 and was also a top performer in the vertical jump.
  • Those two guys were not the only fast defensive backs at the combine. Of the players with the top 15 times at the position, six have ACC ties. Rod Sweeting of Georgia Tech (4.42), Shamarko Thomas of Syracuse (4.42), Xavier Rhodes of Florida State (4.43) and Earl Wolff of NC State (4.44) were among the fastest.
  • Speaking of Rhodes, his vertical leap was incredibly impressive, at 40.5 inches to tie for first among all defensive backs and rank No. 3 overall. He also was a top performer in the broad jump, and certainly helped himself with his day. So did Thomas, one of the most underrated players in college football last year. Though Thomas made some headlines after he fell at the end of his 40, he had a huge day. He also leaped 40.5 inches and was a top performer in the 20-yard shuttle and broad jump.
  • The ACC had several top performers in the bench press as well. Wake Forest fullback Tommy Bohanon tied for No. 4 overall with 36 reps and was also a top performer in the vertical jump and 60-yard shuttle. Also in the top 15 overall for bench: North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper (35), NC State guard Zach Allen (32) and Virginia Tech offensive tackle Vinston Painter (32). Speaking of Cooper, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said the lineman "had one of the more impressive workouts."
  • Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel had a nice combine himself, though he was inconsistent with his throws. Manuel was a top performer in the broad jump, ranking No. 3 among all quarterbacks after jumping 9 feet, 10 inches. He also was a top performer in the 40 (4.65), vertical jump (34), 3-cone drill (7.08) and 20-yard shuttle (4.21) to rank among the top 5 in each category.
  • The folks at Scouts Inc. had this to say about Clemson receiver DeAndre Hopkins, a top performer at his position in the bench press and vertical jump (36): "His 4.57 in the 40 is about what we expected. His game is more about being physical, though, and Hopkins showed good ball skills. He is was one of the most natural pass-catchers on the field, with good focus in the gauntlet drill and the ability to extend fully for balls." He's got a second-round grade.
  • Virginia Tech receiver Marcus Davis put up some good numbers as well, topping his position with a vertical jump of 39.5 inches, while also posting good numbers in the 40 (4.56) and bench press (19 reps). It's never been about physical talent for Davis, so the numbers aren't much of a surprise. He has to put it all together on the field.
  • Now for running back: North Carolina's Giovani Bernard was a top performer in various categories. He ran a 4.53 in the 40; and was a top performer in the 20-yard shuttle and 60-yard shuttle. Miami running back Mike James also put up some good numbers.

EJ Manuel stars in Senior Bowl

January, 28, 2013
What a great finish for former Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel's collegiate career.

Less than a month after helping lead his team to a Discover Orange Bowl win against Northern Illinois, Manuel was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Senior Bowl. Manuel passed for a touchdown and rushed for another on the South's first two drives in a 21-16 victory over the North on Saturday. He completed 7-of-10 passes for 76 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also had four carries for 10 yards and a touchdown.

Former Miami running back Mike James, a late addition to the roster, also made an impact in the game, scoring a touchdown on a five-yard run with 2:41 left in the game. He also had three catches for 11 yards, and six carries for 10 yards. Former Duke receiver Conner Vernon led the South team with four receptions, and finished with 36 yards.

Defensively, former FSU linebacker Vince Williams had a big day, picking up where he left off in the Senior Bowl practices Insider. Williams was second on the South team with six tackles (four solo). Teammate Everett Dawkins had four tackles and was credited with .5 sack.

A few other stats of note:
  • Former Wake Forest fullback Tommy Bohanon had two catches for six yards.
  • For the North team, former NC State quarterback Mike Glennon completed 8-of-16 passes for 82 yards.
  • Former FSU kicker Dustin Hopkins had his lone field goal, a 52-yard attempt in the second quarter, blocked.
  • Hopkins' four kickoffs averaged 63.2 yards and he had two touchbacks.
  • Former UNC defensive tackle Sylvester Williams had two tackles.
  • Former UNC linebacker Kevin Reddick had two tackles.

Sean Renfree wins Pop Warner award

November, 20, 2012
Duke quarterback Sean Renfree has won the Pop Warner National College Football Award, an accolade presented by Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc., which honors a Pop Warner alumnus who has made a difference on the field, in the classroom and in his community.

Renfree was chosen from a group of four finalists that included Miami running back Mike James, Connecticut wide receiver Nick Williams and Michigan offensive lineman Patrick Omameh.

"I feel very honored to receive this award," Renfree said in a teleconference this afternoon. "I think it's a very prestigious award, and it recognizes not just good football players, but football players who place an emphasis on academics as well. It's a very cool award to receive, especially considering my history with Pop Warner. That was where my career with football started, and also my competitive side of sports in general."

Renfree, a three-year starter and two-year team captain, has led Duke to a 6-5 record this season and bowl eligibility for the first time since 1994. He has also received recognition by being named a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete, a member of the AFCA Good Works Team, and a finalist for the Senior CLASS Award -- all which factor in off-field accomplishments.

Renfree is pursuing a graduate degree in humanities and has a 3.81 grade point average in his graduate program. He earned his undergraduate degree in public policy and is a four-time member of the ACC Academic Honor Roll and a two-time selection to the Academic All-ACC Football Team.

Renfree is also active in the Durham community, volunteering his time with numerous community service projects, including the Duke Children's Hospital, Ronald McDonald House Charities, Read with the Blue Devils, Durham Rescue Mission, the MLK "Million Meals" Event and Active Teens.
Miami running back Mike James has been through good times and bad times during his Hurricanes career. But now, his team is standing on the precipice of making history, and none of that is lost on James.

As one of the few seniors on the team, he has taken it upon himself to remind his younger teammates what is at stake for the remainder of the season, beginning Saturday at Virginia. If Miami beats UVa and Duke, it clinches its first Coastal Division title since joining the ACC in 2004.

"Of course it would be a great honor to go to the ACC championship first and foremost," James said Wednesday in an interview with "My biggest challenge is making sure everybody else knows that. If I can spread the word and make sure everybody else knows that, and they're not looking forward or thinking about what’s going to happen if we win out and if we are allowed to play in it, then I can make sure my head is in the right place, too."

[+] EnlargeMike James
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesSenior running back Mike James vows to keep his young teammates on track as Miami pursues the ACC's Coastal Division title.
Miami is one of the youngest teams in the country, with 21 freshmen (16 true freshmen) having played already this season. James is one of two senior starters listed on the depth chart for this week, and one of just five on the entire two-deep for offense and defense. So one of the biggest challenges for Miami coach Al Golden is to make sure his young players do not lose focus on the ol' one-game at a time mentality.

"Our team understands you’re not guaranteed anything, you’re not promised anything in this game," coach Al Golden said Wednesday on the ACC coaches' call. "You can have the type of team that can go 12-1 next year, and the one game you lost prevents you from having an opportunity to win the Coastal and play in Charlotte. So our guys understand there’s urgency here, and these games are important in November. We’re trying to teach them this process and impart to them that this is the only thing that holds up this time of year, is the discipline and the regimen and the process."

And he has spread that message with the help of his dedicated senior leaders.

"We need that guidance, because it’s something that hasn’t been done," Golden said. "For all the great players that have come through here over the last eight years, we have not won our division. The only thing we can do about it today is practice well, and then obviously play well on Saturday."

Miami comes into the game after an impressive 30-12 win against Virginia Tech last Thursday night that gave it a leg up in the Coastal Division. James said of the win, "To be able to beat them the way we did, it speaks volumes about the guys in the program and the way coach prepared us to play."

But Virginia comes into the game with a little bit of its own momentum after a shocking 33-6 win against NC State last week. Plus, the Hoos have played well against Miami, winning two straight and four of the past six.

That gives Miami even more motivation headed into Saturday.

"They’re a good ball club," James said. "You should get jacked up for this one. They beat us four out of six times we’ve played them. If that doesn’t get you going, I don’t know what does. We’re looking to get that monkey off our back."

What to watch in the ACC: Week 5

September, 27, 2012
Here are 10 things to keep an eye on in the ACC this week, in no particular order:

1. Receivers in Winston-Salem. Duke receiver Conner Vernon needs six catches to set the ACC record for receptions in a career. It is currently held by Clemson’s Aaron Kelly (232).The Deacons are led by receiver Michael Campanaro, who leads the ACC and ranks fifth nationally with nine receptions per game.

2. How teams respond. Georgia Tech is coming off a devastating overtime home loss to Miami and needs to rebound against an improved Middle Tennessee team. Florida State needs to avoid an upset by South Florida in its first road game, and Clemson is trying to avoid “pulling a Clemson” at Boston College after its loss to Florida State.

[+] EnlargeMichael Rocco
Manny Flores/Icon SMI Michael Rocco is coming off a rough game -- 13-of-28, 2 INTs -- but he remains the Cavaliers' starter.
3. Virginia’s quarterbacks. Michael Rocco is the starter -- coach Mike London has repeated that all week -- but backup Phillip Sims has played and will continue to push Rocco for playing time.

4. Running backs at Miami. Miami true freshman Duke Johnson, veteran Mike James, and NC State rookie Shadrach Thornton are all coming off impressive weeks. Thornton rushed for more than 100 yards in his collegiate debut last week against The Citadel, and James scored four touchdowns last week in the win over Georgia Tech.

5. FSU DE Bjoern Werner vs. USF QB B.J. Daniels. Werner is tied for second nationally in sacks, averaging 1.62 per game. He is also averaging 2.25 tackles for loss, which ranks him eighth nationally. South Florida’s offensive line has protected Daniels well, allowing .75 sacks per game.

6. Virginia Tech in the red zone. The Hokies’ offense has taken some heat, but they have scored 10 touchdowns on 14 trips inside the red zone. Cincinnati, though, has the nation’s No. 4 red zone defense, holding opponents to just one touchdown in four trips. The Bearcats have played only two games.

7. North Carolina’s sack attack. The Tar Heels had seven sacks against ECU last week -- after totaling just six in the first three games. It was the most the program has seen in one game since 2000, and tied NC State for the most in the ACC this season. Idaho is allowing 2.25 sacks per game. UNC defensive tackle Sylvester Williams leads the team with 3.5.

8. Georgia Tech’s third-down defense. Miami was successful on 11 of 16 third downs in last week’s overtime win against the Jackets, and Middle Tennessee will try to duplicate that. Middle Tennessee is No. 25 in the country in third-down efficiency, converting 48.72 percent.

9. BC’s linebackers. Nick Clancy leads the nation with 14.3 tackles per game. Clancy’s predecessor, two-time All-American Luke Kuechly, led the nation in tackles per game each of the past two seasons. Clancy is also the national leader in solo tackles per game (9.3), while teammate Kevin Pierre-Louis is tied for fourth with seven.

10. Big plays in Sun Life Stadium. Last year, Miami had only five scoring plays of 50 or more yards all season. The Canes have already matched that through four games. Duke Johnson, who leads the nation this week in all-purpose yardage, has accounted for four of those plays.

ACC weekend rewind: Week 4

September, 24, 2012
Here's a look back at Week 4 in the ACC:

The good: Florida State remained in national championship contention after its come-from-behind 49-37 victory over No. 10 Clemson. The Seminoles went on a tear in the second half, erasing a 14-point deficit with 35 points -- including 28 straight. The last time FSU won after trailing by 14 or more points was at North Carolina on Oct. 22, 2009. In that game, the Seminoles trailed 24-6 before winning 30-27. In the win over Clemson, EJ Manuel got his Heisman campaign going and led Florida State to 667 yards of total offense -- its highest total since racking up 771 yards against Clemson in 2000. For those inquiring minds, West Virginia had only 595 total yards in the Orange Bowl against Clemson.

The bad: Clemson was not the only team that blew a double-digit second-half lead on Saturday. Georgia Tech lost a 17-point lead to Miami, blowing its biggest lead in a loss since the 2007 Toyota Gator Bowl, when Tech led 35-17 and lost to West Virginia. Georgia Tech has now lost two overtime games on the young season. The last time Tech played two overtime games in a season was 2001, when the Jackets lost to Clemson and Maryland. But if you want to know how bad it was on defense for Georgia Tech, let's move on to the next category.

[+] EnlargeStephen Morris
Robert Mayer/US PresswireStephen Morris' sizzling finish to this season is part of the reason why Miami coach Al Golden says he's so optimistic for 2013.
The ugly: Miami was the first team this season to have an offensive play longer than 46 yards against the Yellow Jackets, and the first team to score a rushing touchdown on this defense. Georgia Tech allowed more than 20 points for the first time this season. The Yellow Jackets allowed more than 500 yards in total offense for just the fourth time in Paul Johnson's five seasons and for the first time since 2010. And Miami's 609 yards of total offense is the third-highest total Georgia Tech has allowed all time and the second-highest total in an ACC game. Miami's 30 first downs are the most allowed under Johnson.

The ugly II: Virginia had its second straight disappointing performance, and in back-to-back losses, the Hoos have six turnovers and 650 yards of total offense. That is fewer than Florida State had on Clemson, by the way. In the loss to TCU, Virginia just hurt itself with all the mistakes, not to mention going 3-of-16 on third-down conversions.

The surprise: Miami pulled the biggest surprise of the weekend, winning its fourth straight on the Yellow Jackets behind inspired performances from Stephen Morris and Mike James. I would be remiss if I did not mention Anthony Chickillo, who was terrific up front for Miami. Chickillo recorded career highs with seven solo tackles and three tackles for loss. More on Miami below.

The surprise II: Maryland lost 31-21 to No. 8 West Virginia, but the Terps continued to show signs that they may be all right this year. First area of note: The defense held West Virginia to 1 yard per carry. The Mountaineers had averaged 226 rushing yards per game but against the Terps had only 25 yards on 25 carries. Demetrius Hartsfield, Joe Vellano and A.J. Francis got after Geno Smith, as the Terps totaled nine tackles for loss and two sacks on the day. Meanwhile, freshman quarterback Perry Hills had the best game of his career, going 20-of-29 for 305 yards and three touchdowns, all career highs. His lone interception came on a fourth-down desperation heave late in the fourth quarter. Fellow true freshman Stefon Diggs had his second straight game with 200-plus all-purpose yards. He had a team-high 113 receiving yards and two touchdowns on three receptions. Diggs also had 25 punt return yards and 63 kickoff return yards.

The stat: Miami is 4-0 in road overtime games since becoming a part of the ACC in 2004. In Miami, though, the Canes are just 1-4 for an overall 5-4 overtime record.

The stat II: Morris had a career-high 436 yards passing against Georgia Tech -- the second-highest total in the ACC this year. It was also the most yards by a Miami quarterback since Gino Torretta threw for a school-record 485 yards against San Diego State in 1991.

The stat III: Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd was unable to evade Florida State’s pass rush, completing 20 percent of his passes while throwing under duress. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Boyd completed 1 of 6 passes for minus-5 yards and an interception while facing pressure in the second half.

The record: North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner threw for 321 yards in a win over East Carolina, and set a school record for most passing yards in consecutive games. Renner threw for a career-high 363 yards a week ago at Louisville, giving him 684 yards passing in two straight games. The previous record was 683, shared by T.J. Yates (2007, against East Carolina and Virginia) and Darian Durant (2002, against Arizona State and NC State). Renner also set the total yardage mark in back-to-back games with a total of 713 yards. The previous record was 712 by Ronald Curry against Marshall and Georgia Tech in 2000.

The runners: As noted Sunday, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, NC State and Duke all had season highs in rushing on Saturday. The Deacs had Josh Harris and Deandre Martin go over 100 yards, while the Wolfpack relied on true freshman Shadrach Thornton, Duke got a season-high 88 yards from freshman Jela Duncan and Virginia Tech went for more than 200 yards rushing for the first time this season. Last year, the Hokies hit 200 yards six times, and won all six games.

The overmatched: The Citadel looked pretty strong headed into its game against NC State. But this team was no match for the Wolfpack, trailing 42-7 before losing 52-14. The Bulldogs had 12 first downs and 226 yards of total offense. The Citadel’s first third-down conversion came early in the third quarter. Dating back to the end of the Connecticut game, the Pack has kept opponents from converting on 16 straight third-down attempts.

What we learned in the ACC: Week 4

September, 23, 2012
What did we learn in the ACC in Week 4?

1. FSU is for real. For real, for real, for real! The No. 4 Seminoles proved they were more than just preseason hype in their 49-37 victory over No. 10 Clemson in the marquee game Saturday night. Clemson led 21-14 going into the break as the Seminoles showed some of their same ol' bad habits (too many penalties, turnovers, wide right, eek!). But with the game on the line in the second half, Florida State never panicked. In fact, it was Florida State that produced the best halftime adjustments as the Noles remained as composed as a maestro at an orchestra. EJ Manuel being the maestro, of course. The Noles matched Clemson playmaker for playmaker, but they had Manuel on their side to account for 483 all-purpose yards. Meanwhile, the Florida State D tightened up in the second half. After giving up three touchdowns before the break, the Noles allowed Clemson only one in the second half -- and it came with 2:11 remaining, when the outcome was pretty much decided. FSU gave up its first touchdowns of the season, yes, but did anybody really expect the Noles to totally shut down a Clemson offense with talent everywhere? This was the statement performance Florida State needed. Now the Noles can't let up if they have designs on playing for a national title.

2. Clemson is right behind Florida State. It became clear throughout the course of the game that it is Florida State-Clemson in the top two spots in the ACC, and then everybody else. Yes, the Tigers' defense had its share of problems once again -- giving up 667 yards of total offense. Missed tackles were also plentiful, and there were holes all over the run defense. But this is a group that was physically worn down in the second half because its offense could not sustain any drives. Florida State controlled the clock and the tempo, and you could see the Tigers' defenders were just wiped out at the end of the game. This loss should not spell doom for Clemson. The Tigers might not be in control of their destiny in the Atlantic, but they could still have a special season.

[+] EnlargeMike James
Kevin Liles/US PresswireMike James accounted for four TDs, including the winner, in Miami's OT victory at Georgia Tech.
3. Watch out for Miami. The Hurricanes pulled the stunner of the afternoon, beating Georgia Tech 42-36 in overtime in a wild game that had scoring runs resembling a basketball game. First they led 19-0. Then they fell behind 36-19. Then they tied the game at 36. Then they won. A team that has been much maligned for its porous defense now sits 2-0 in ACC play with a winnable game this weekend against NC State. Stephen Morris delivered in the clutch, setting a career high with 436 yards passing, and Mike James was right there with him, with four total touchdowns. His third score of the day sent the game into overtime; his fourth score won it. For Georgia Tech, it was yet another heartbreaking loss, as it was the second time in ACC play the Yellow Jackets gave up a lead with just seconds to play. It also happened in the opener against Virginia Tech, when Cody Journell made a field goal to send the game into overtime as regulation expired. The Jackets also lost that one in overtime. Three of Tech's past five games have gone into overtime. All three were losses.

4. Rush attack. Boy were the running games working for several teams across the ACC. Virginia Tech had a season-high 246 yards on the ground in a 37-0 win over Bowling Green, featuring carries for a handful of running backs; NC State had a season-high 282 yards rushing in a 52-14 win over The Citadel; Wake Forest had a season-high 296 yards in a 49-37 win over Army; Duke had a season-high 177 yards in a 38-14 win over Memphis; and Florida State had 287 yards rushing to mark the third time in four games the Seminoles have run for 285 or more. Wake Forest and Florida State each had multiple players go for more than 100 yards on the ground.

5. Maryland, UVa can't pull the upset. Even though Maryland lost 31-21, the Terps drew widespread praise for the way they were able to hang with No. 8 West Virginia. The big reason was the defense that has helped Maryland to a .500 record through four games. Maryland hit Geno Smith and flushed him out of the pocket, but the Terps simply had no answer for Tavon Austin, who had 179 yards and three touchdowns. The game was 17-14 in the second quarter until Austin scored right before halftime, and Maryland could not get closer. Meanwhile, Virginia desperately needs to find its offense. The Hoos lost 27-7 to No. 17 TCU and have scored a combined 43 points in the past three games. Michael Rocco was ineffective, and benched in favor of Phillip Sims, who led the only touchdown drive of the game. Will there be a quarterback controversy brewing now in Charlottestville?

ACC helmet stickers: Week 4

September, 23, 2012
Time to give out a few helmet stickers for a job well done.

EJ Manuel, QB, Florida State. Manuel had the best game of his career in a 49-37 win over No. 10 Clemson. Manuel had 482 yards of total offense -- 380 yards passing and 102 yards passing -- to become the first FSU quarterback to throw for 300 and rush for 100 since former Heisman winner Charlie Ward did it against Maryland in 1992, throwing for 395 yards and rushing for 111. He led the team flawlessly when it trailed headed into the second half, kept his cool, and made no bad decisions. It was the third 300-yard passing game of his career, and he most certainly boosted his Heisman buzz after this performance.

Mike James, RB, Miami. What a day for James, who scored a career-high four touchdowns to key a 42-36 overtime victory over Georgia Tech. James had the game-winning 25-yard run in the extra period for his third rushing touchdown of the afternoon. His 10-yard touchdown reception with 27 seconds remaining in regulation sent the game into overtime. James also set new career highs with 89 yards rushing and 15 carries.

North Carolina defense. The Tar Heels did a fantastic job in shutting down East Carolina in a 27-6 win, and a big reason was because of its reinvigorated pass rush. North Carolina recorded seven sacks after tallying six combined in the opening three games of the season. The seven sacks ties the top mark in the ACC this season after NC State posted seven against South Alabama. Kevin Reddick deserves special mention for his performance, as he finished with nine tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.

Shadrach Thornton, RB, NC State. Thornton started the 52-14 win over The Citadel and finished with 145 yards on 21 carries with two touchdowns. He is the first NC State running back to go for more than 100 yards this season, the first freshman to gain at least 100 yards in a game since Andre Brown had 248 against Southern Miss in 2005, and the first freshman to go over 100 yards in his very first collegiate game since Joe McIntosh had 131 yards against Richmond in 1981.

Josh Harris and Deandre Martin, RBs, Wake Forest. Harris and Martin each rushed for more than 100 yards in a 49-37 win over Army. Harris finished with 129 yards on 12 carries and two touchdowns while Martin posted 115 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns. They are the first Wake Forest tandem to rush for more than 100 yards in a game since Chris Barclay (210) and Micah Andrews (142) each ran for more than 100 yards against East Carolina on Sept. 17, 2005.

Miami stuns Georgia Tech in overtime

September, 22, 2012
Look who's 2-0 in the Coastal Division.

Miami, the team that refused to quit, overcame a 17-point third-quarter deficit to beat Georgia Tech for the fourth year in a row, 42-36 in overtime. Mike James had an unbelievable game, scoring the winning touchdown from 25 yards out in the extra period -- his fourth score of the afternoon.

You cannot count out these Canes, who came in as the underdogs but have now won both of their ACC games on the road. Georgia Tech, meanwhile, dropped to 1-2 in ACC play.

It was a game of incredible swings. First, Miami jumped out to a 19-0 lead in the first quarter, behind a 65-yard touchdown throw from Stephen Morris to Phillip Dorsett to open the game, and a later a Mike James touchdown run. But Georgia Tech came storming back and scored 36 unanswered points to go up 36-19 with 10 minutes left in the third quarter.

The Jackets seemed in complete control.

But Miami dominated from there out, and Georgia Tech's defense was powerless to stop the Canes. First, Jake Wieclaw hit a 23-yard field goal to start closing the gap. Then James scored on a 15-yard touchdown run to make it 36-29. Miami nearly tied the game up on the next drive. James appeared to score but the whistles blew just before the ball was snapped because Georgia Tech called timeout.

The score came off the board, and Miami could do nothing. Wieclaw missed a chip shot field goal -- his first of the game -- and Georgia Tech got the ball back. But on fourth-and-1 from the Miami 48, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson elected to punt instead of go for it -- even though he has one of the top rushing offenses in America AND his defense had proven it could not stop Miami.

That ended up being a costly decision. Miami took the ball 91 yards, and Morris tied up the game with a 10-yard touchdown pass to James.

Georgia Tech got the ball first in overtime, and absolutely stunningly -- Tevin Washington was stuffed on fourth-and-1 from the Miami 2. Georgia Tech had 287 yards rushing in the game, but could not come up with half an inch when it needed it. That was the story of the fourth quarter for Georgia Tech, really, as the Jackets were held scoreless for the final 20 minutes of regulation and then overtime.

Miami got the ball, and James scored with ease. Morris ended up going 31-of-52 for 436 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Dorsett had nine catches for 184 yards and a touchdown, and Davon Johnson added seven catches for 107 yards.

Miami had 609 total yards, its most against anyone since gaining 628 against McNeese St. in 2000, and its most against an FBS opponent since gaining 689 yards against UCLA in 1998.

As much as Miami has been maligned for its defensive performances this season, the Canes deserve major credit for shutting Georgia Tech down when it absolutely had to.
When Al Golden left Temple, he made sure to pack the thick, 4-inch binder filled with notes and philosophies on how he wants to run a program -- the expectations, core values, recruiting philosophies, camps, offseason programs, practice plans and priorities. This book doesn’t have a title. Unofficially, Golden called it his “master plan.”

Believe it or not, Miami still has one.

“It’s really important to refer to it from time to time,” Golden said, “just to make sure we’re not getting off course.”

[+] EnlargeAl Golden
Robert Mayer/US PresswireMiami coach Al Golden is embracing some philosophies carried over from his time at Temple.
A little detour, though, might be mandated by the NCAA.

At 42 and in only his second season as Miami’s head coach, Golden has already been through more trials and tribulations as a head coach than some encounter in their entire careers. Nowhere in his “master plan,” though, is there a page dedicated to navigating your way through an NCAA investigation. What Golden does have, however, is plenty of experience to draw from during his days in inner-city Philadelphia, where he patiently built Temple into a respectable football program. While many on the outside look at the current state of Miami’s football program and see more questions than answers both on and off the field, Golden remains steadfast in his belief that despite it all, the Hurricanes are still headed in the right direction.

“For those of us on the staff that inherited the herculean task at Temple, it provided a great challenge for us, and what it did is create pattern recognition in how to resolve problems, and not let it get in the way of achieving your goals or developing a team,” Golden said. “From that standpoint, we’re following the blueprint.”

The blueprint -- aka the solution at Miami right now -- is recruiting, and Golden has done well in that regard since he was hired. The 2012 class was ranked No. 8 in the country by, and his current class is ranked No. 18. The Canes have 10 commitments, and the class is almost complete, as the staff will bring in only about 15 or 16 in 2013. The current class of true freshmen has little choice but to contribute immediately, as Miami must replace 12 starters from last year’s roster, including seven on offense. The Canes lost their leading rusher, leading receivers, starting quarterback and three starting offensive linemen from a year ago.

Following the departures of five players who left early for the NFL draft, there are only two senior starters left on offense and three on defense.

“Those decisions didn’t change the way we go about our business as an organization or a team,” Golden said, “but certainly when you lose guys in December after you’ve been recruiting for a whole calendar year, it did obviously change our recruiting needs very late in the game.”

Miami’s youth movement this year includes 14 freshmen in its most recent two-deep depth chart, including only one redshirt freshman. Their introduction to college football features four road trips in the first six weeks, including two ACC games and a trip to Soldier Field in Chicago to face Notre Dame.

Golden still hasn’t flinched.

“I’m excited about the energy our team has and these young guys are bringing,” Golden said. “Let’s go play. Let’s go find out how good we can be. Why does inexperience or youth have to equate to losses? Let’s go see what we’ve got.”

Despite the ongoing NCAA investigation and the inexperience that has infiltrated the starting lineup this summer, there are reasons for Miami fans to be encouraged about the near future.

Only four projected starters won’t return in 2013. The schedule is more forgiving next year. The team will be more mature. The players will have a better grasp of the coaches, schemes and terminology in Year 3. The most difficult task could be simply playing the waiting game with the NCAA. There is no timetable for when the program might get some closure.

Golden’s patience, though, has been tested before. Before he was hired at Temple, the Owls had had only two winning seasons in the previous 26 years. In 2010 he led them to eight wins. In 2009 Temple finished 9-4 overall and tied for first place in the MAC East Division. It was the program’s first winning season since 1990 and first bowl appearance in 30 years.

“There’s more that mirrors Temple than anybody on the outside could ever have imagined,” Golden said. “Obviously the fact we’re in the middle of some adversity, I think that what we went through at Temple has prepared us for that. I hope when our student-athletes come to work every day, they see the same coaches and the same process, and guys who are consistent in their teaching and core values and not willing to compromise that.”

Cornerback Brandon McGee said that’s the message the staff has sent.

“I don’t think he’s handled anything any differently,” McGee said of Golden. “He’s handled it as a professional. He’s the same guy every day. I don’t think he wavers at all.”

Running back Mike James agreed.

“I don’t think nothing bothers that man,” James said. “He’s like a steel pole. He won’t be moved.”

Instead, Golden continues to go by “the book.”

Weekend rewind: Scrimmage reports

August, 20, 2012
Not every school in the ACC gives scrimmage reports, but for those that do, we will gladly post the highlights. Here's a look back at what happened in the ACC this weekend, according to each school's report:

Boston College

Offensive highlights: Junior receiver Alex Amidon had seven catches for 84 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown reception, in the situational scrimmage Sunday. The scrimmage featured six end-of-half/fourth-quarter situations with limited time on the clock and a limited number of timeouts. Chase Rettig went 18-of-32 for 168 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

Defensive highlights: Justin Simmons had two interceptions off second-team quarterback Josh Bordner. Manuel Asprilla intercepted Rettig at the goal line, and linebacker Nick Clancy intercepted a Rettig pass that was deflected by Mehdi Abdesmad a few plays later.

Special teams: Gerald Levano punted four times and averaged nearly 48 yards per punt. His first punt landed at the 2-yard line, while his second attempt went 60 yards. Kicker Nate Freese made his only field goal attempt, from 40 yards, and is now 6-for-6 on field goal attempts in the preseason.

Quotable: “We got a lot of nice young guys on this football team, and if they come through and play well, good things can happen, and Justin [Simmons] is one of them,” coach Frank Spaziani said. “He’s as advertised. We did our homework and everything that you do on kids. He’s a good prospect.”


Offensive highlights: Tajh Boyd threw for 218 yards and three touchdowns Saturday, while Martavis Bryant had four catches for 97 yards and had two touchdowns. Boyd was 13-of-22 for 218 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Backup Cole Stoudt went 4-of-9 for 61 yards and led a touchdown drive on his first possession. Andre Ellington had an 8-yard touchdown run, while Roderick McDowell led all running backs for a second straight scrimmage with 65 yards on four carries.

Defensive highlights: Coach Dabo Swinney praised the defensive line, where Josh Watson, Grady Jarrett and DeShawn Williams made plays. Xavier Brewer made a brilliant breakup of a long pass and added five tackles. Jonathan Meeks added an interception. Tony Steward made a big play with a 25-yard interception return.

Special teams: Williams had a blocked a field goal. Backup kicker Spence Benton made a 53-yard kick that could have been good from 63 yards.

Quotable: “We have two weeks to get dialed in,” Swinney said. “We are going to turn the page on Monday after our last two-a-day (practices) and start getting ready for Auburn. We will have our guys penciled in on where they need to be.”


Offensive highlights: Quarterback Brandon Connette caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Sean Renfree and ran for another in a 95-snap, controlled scrimmage Friday night at Wallace Wade Stadium. Renfree went 14-of-21 for 116 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Freshman Shaquille Powell had eight carries for 30 yards, while Jela Duncan had 28 yards on nine attempts. Garrett Patterson, who moved from defensive back to receiver this week during practice, had five receptions for 80 yards.

Defensive highlights: Cornerbacks Lee Butler and Tony Foster each had interceptions while linebacker Deion Williams recovered one fumble. Freshman defensive end Michael Mann had one sack and one forced fumble.

Special teams highlights: Freshman kicker Ross Martin made field goals of 43 and 48 yards and converted his only extra-point attempt.

Georgia Tech

Offensive highlights: Broderick Snoddy had a 70-yard touchdown run on the second series, while quarterback Vad Lee threw two touchdowns to A-back B.J. Bostic. Lee later added a touchdown run as he continues to work at quarterback and A-back. Synjyn Days and freshman Justin Thomas also took snaps at quarterback, and each led scoring drives.

Defensive highlights: Nick Menocal had an interception he nearly returned for a touchdown. Jimmie Kitchen recovered a fumble, while defensive lineman Anthony Williams had two sacks.

Special teams highlights: Justin Moore had a 29-yard field goal, while David Scully made a 31-yard field goal and all five of his extra-point attempts. There was no punting on Saturday.

Quotable: “The guys are ready to play someone else,” quarterback Tevin Washington said. “We’ve been hitting each other for two weeks and all summer doing drills against each other. Guys are just ready to go and get some new faces in front of us.”


Freshman Stefon Diggs continued to impress, as he had three first-half touchdowns -- a 68-yard punt return, a 98-yard kickoff return and an 11-yard reception. Quarterback Perry Hills ran the first-team offense and led Maryland to scores on three of his five drives.

On the opening drive, Hills took the Terps on an 18-play, 76-yard touchdown drive, He went 5-of-6 for 27 yards on the drive and also rushed for 36 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown run.

"I thought Perry [Hills] had a good day," coach Randy Edsall said. "I thought he did some good things. Of course there's going to be plenty of things that he could learn from, and get better, but I think that we didn't have any issues with delay of game, really didn't have any false starts. When you talk about the mechanics and the operation of the offense I thought he handled it really well."


The Hurricanes' scrimmage Saturday was cut short in the middle of the second quarter because of lightning in the area. Among the highlights in the abbreviated scrimmage: Mike James and Duke Johnson each had touchdown runs, and Kelvin Cain recorded a sack in the end zone for a safety.

Virginia Tech

Offensive highlights: Logan Thomas went 8-of-15 for 112 yards and a score, while backup Mark Leal went 6-of-16 for 111 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. Kevin Asante led all receivers with four catches for 79 yards, while Corey Fuller caught three passes for 68 yards. The Hokies also rushed for 174 yards. J.C. Coleman played with a broken hand and had 54 yards -- 52 coming on one run -- and Trey Edmunds added 45. Tony Gregory rushed for 36 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown run. Projected starter Michael Holmes had three carries for 21 yards.

Defensive highlights: The projected first-team defense allowed a little more than 120 yards in four series (24 plays) and gave up just two field goals. Walk-on Zach Snell had six tackles, while Ronny Vandyke had five. Desmond Frye and Antone Exum each recorded four. The defense had five total sacks and Bruce Taylor had an interception.

Special teams highlights: Cody Journell made two field goals and missed one, while Brooks Abbott made one and had a 37-yarder blocked by Kyle Fuller.

Quotable: “I thought it was one of the more productive offensive first scrimmages we’ve had around here,” coach Frank Beamer said. “I think we did some good things, and I think we’ll see some things we can improve. Overall, I think the effort was good. I always say this, but it’s hard to come out pleased because if the offense makes plays, you’re worried about your defense. If the defense makes plays, you’re worried about your offense. Overall, I thought it was a good first scrimmage.”
Andrea Adelson had a chance to sit down with Miami coach Al Golden during a recent visit to Coral Gables. Here is a little of what he had to say.

I know depth is an area of concern. How are you working to address that this spring?

Al Golden: Any time you’re bringing in a class of 33, that’s three starting units. Obviously, those guys are going to have an impact somewhere on your depth. You never want to have a year where you take six receivers or seven defensive backs, but the symmetry at those positions was not good. It was not vertical depth. It wasn’t fifth-year seniors, fourth-year seniors, juniors, sophomores, freshmen, then incoming guys. It didn’t exist. So that was a blanket approach of trying to bring in a lot of guys to fix a depth issue. Between the depth and those guys challenging for playing time as starters, that’s going to improve our team. I’m not worried about playing young guys. We’ll find a way to get them in a game if they’re talented and they learn it and they’re in good condition. I don’t care whether they’re freshmen or seniors, I just need guys who want to execute.

You lost some senior leaders. How is that aspect of your team developing?

[+] EnlargeAl Golden
Robert Mayer/US PresswireCoach Al Golden has been impressed with the physicality of the linebacking corps this spring.
AG: So far it’s been good. Mike James and Eduardo Clements at running back, Stephen Morris at quarterback. (Brandon) Linder on the offensive line has been very good. David Perry at tight end has been a nice surprise for us. Allen Hurns at wideout has done a nice job with the leadership. Defensively, (Ramon) Buchanan will be a leader for us, Ray Armstrong will be a leader for us, Jimmy Gaines has been and will be a leader for us. It’s been positive in terms of that. We just have to continue to develop leaders and give them opportunities to lead.

How about some questions that have been answered about your defense so far?

AG: I think the one thing that jumped out in the (first scrimmage) is we had a lot of linebackers that played physical. So that part of it was good. Even the young guys, [Raphael] Kirby was physical, Gionni Paul was physical, Denzel [Perryman] was physical on top of [Tyrone] Cornileus and Jimmy Gaines and those guys. Seeing that was good. We tackled a lot better in Scrimmage 1 this year than Scrimmage 1 a year ago, which was important, and we’re still trying to develop our depth on the defensive line and at cornerback. Those are two positions we need to bolster this spring.

Speaking of the defensive line, you don't have many players with starts or experience. What do you want to see out of that group this spring?

AG: I want to see, like Curtis Porter, I’d like to see him take his game to the next level. Darius Smith has got to continue to improve. Then we’re going to have a host of other guys at the defensive tackle position that need to compete and improve their game. At defensive end, Shayon Green’s had a good spring for us so far, and really at defensive end, we’re going to have in addition to what we have right now, we’re going to have three defensive ends coming in that are going to have to compete for starting jobs and also add depth.

Right now, do you have any idea of what team you will have in the fall?

AG: We have a long way to go. I just think before these other 23 players come in, because 10 are here now, you have to assess where you are at every position and see how they come out of it. We have a long way to go to get through spring ball, and then from April 14 until Aug. 5 there’s a great opportunity for them to grow and develop. It’s too early to assess where we are right now as a team.

A year into the job, what are your impressions of coaching at Miami, a place where championships are always expected?

AG: We’re not at that level right now. The first order of business when you’re trying to fix something or you’re trying to build something is to recognize where you are and then to not only plot a course but then to follow that path, follow that strategy and execute it. I’m glad the standards are where they are, and I’m glad we produce NFL players, and I’m glad we have so many things to offer young people. It’s the reason why you take the job. But we can’t jump from where we are right now to there without taking all the steps we need to take in between. We’re just trying to implement our schemes and our system and follow the process on a daily basis.
Andrea Adelson had a chance to sit down with Miami coach Al Golden during a recent visit to Coral Gables. Here is a little of what he had to say.

I see Ryan Williams has had a nice spring with Stephen Morris out. Will he or any of the other quarterbacks you have competing this spring really push Stephen in the fall?

[+] EnlargeRyan Williams
AP Photo/Kerry SmithRyan Williams, a transfer from Memphis, has had a nice spring and could push presumptive starter Stephen Morris this fall.
Al Golden: We want to see how these guys develop this spring. Certainly, Ryan, because he has game experience at the Division I level, is a little ahead of those guys but they’re all going to continue to get reps with the ones and we’ll see how they develop in the summer. Someone, if not all, will challenge Stephen between now and summer camp.

How is the situation playing out at running back with Lamar Miller gone?

AG: Mike James is doing a good job. He’s had a good offseason. Eduardo Clements has done a good job. We’ll work Dallas Crawford in there as well, and then we have two guys coming in. In that group, we have to see who emerges and obviously design plays to match their skill set.

Receiver is a position where you only have a handful of scholarship players this spring. How are they doing?

AG: Tired.

I’m sure.

AG: They’re taking a lot of reps. We just didn’t have any symmetry at that position and we didn’t have the type of depth that we needed so those guys are shouldering the majority of the reps. It’s good exposure and good experience for them, and we just have to be careful to change the personnel groups enough so they’re not getting overworked.

What questions about the offense have been answered so far?

AG: I think Michael and Eduardo -- Lamar is obviously a very talented player to replace -- and so I think those guys have answered the bell so far this spring. And hopefully the offensive line, although we’re not experienced beyond the starters right now or that deep, so far they’ve looked like they’ve been able to have some continuity and some ruggedness about them, which we need to continue to develop. Then, Rashawn Scott at receiver has done a nice job so far. Not that that’s been a surprise, but he’s brought his off-field and offseason program work ethic to spring ball, which has been nice.

Weekend ACC scrimmage notes

March, 26, 2012
Three ACC schools held scrimmages over the weekend. Here's a roundup of the good and bad from a busy weekend.

Sean Renfree completed 14 of 17 passes for 220 yards and three touchdowns. Tight ends David Reeves and Issac Blakeney had scores of 31 and 70 yards, respectively.

Corey Gattis led all pass-catchers with six receptions for 81 yards and a 42-yard touchdown catch from Thomas Sirk. Sirk did a bit of everything, completing 5 of 9 passes for 75 yards, carrying it four times for 54 yards and hauling in two receptions for 25 yards.

The Blue Devils' spring game is March 31.

No Stephen Morris, no problem. At least on Saturday at Ted Hendricks Stadium in Hialeah. With Morris out recovering from back surgery, Ryan Williams completed 14 of 21 passes for 228 yards and four touchdowns. Early enrollees Gray Crow and Preston Dewey were behind the Memphis transfer, going a combined 11-for-26 for 64 yards in action that was more situationally simulated than a typical spring game, which Miami will hold April 14.

Mike James and Eduardo Clements combined for 134 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 31 carries, with James accounting for three of those scores.

The Hurricanes will hold another scrimmage at 6:45 p.m. ET this Friday at Bishop Verot High School in Fort Myers.

Also, defensive back Keion Payne was dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules, UM associate athletic director for communications and marketing Chris Freet told reporters. Payne had appeared in just two games.

Michael Campanaro impressed as the Demon Deacons' top receiver, catching 10 balls for 116 yards to lead the offense, which got off to a rough start.

After misfiring on seven of his first eight pass attempts, Tanner Price finished strong, completing 17 of 30 passes on the day for 169 yards and a touchdown on six drives. Nikita Whitlock had an 87-yard interception return for a score on Price.

Reserve signal-caller Patrick Thompson finished 5-for-6 passing for 79 yards with a touchdown, and Wake's defense finished with five sacks from five different players.

“I think we’ve improved quite a bit from the first day of practice when we didn’t look very good,” coach Jim Grobe said of the offensive line. “I thought Thursday we improved a little bit and I thought today we got a little better. It’s going to take time before these guys are really comfortable.

"We’ve got guys who like to play, who like to get after it but they’re just making too many mistakes right now and you can’t do that up front. We just play against too many good people. You want to get to the point where when they beat us, they beat us physically and not because we didn’t block the right guy.”

Wake Forest's spring game is April 14.