NCF Nation: Mike Marscovetra

It was a busy weekend in the ACC. Here's a look back at the highlights from the scrimmages, according to the sports information departments of the teams that provided reports:

BOSTON COLLEGE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Offensive highlights:
  • Backup quarterback Mark Leal led the quarterbacks with 116 yards passing, completing 6 of 13. He also threw an interception. Beamer said Leal is No. 2 on the depth chart behind Logan Thomas. Ju-Ju Clayton, who has dropped to No. 3 on the depth chart, completed 6 of 10 for 51 yards, while starter Thomas completed 4 of 8 for 79 yards, with an interception, in limited action.
  • Tailback David Wilson scored against the Hokies' second-team defense on a 22-yard run. Wilson led all rushers with 57 yards on five carries. Freshman Michael Holmes added 54 yards rushing on a game-high 11 carries.
Defensive highlights:
  • Freshman tackle Luther Maddy led the team with eight tackles, including two for a loss, and a sack. Freshman Michael Cole added six tackles, while Telvion Clark and Jack Tyler each finished with four.
  • Barquell Rivers had three tackles and an interception.
  • Jayron Hosley and freshman Ronny Vandyke also had interceptions. Hosley intercepted a Logan Thomas pass, while Vandyke intercepted a Trey Gresh attempt.
Special teams highlights:
  • The kickers connected on 5-of-6 attempts. Cody Journell hit from 35, 22 and 35 yards, while Justin Myer drilled a 52-yarder and a 28-yarder. "Cody's kicking extremely well," Beamer said. "Myer has a load of potential, and he needs to win some of the kicking contests during the week. That shows consistency, and that's where he is right now. Cody is usually winning it or right in the running at the end."
We’ve already taken a look at the ACC’s Dream Team, which was comprised of the top position groups across the league. Now it’s time to go a little bit deeper and rank every position group for each team. We’ll start with the most difficult position -- the quarterbacks. More than half of the teams in the conference will usher in quarterbacks who are in their first season as a full-time starter, and many of the teams in the ACC are struggling with depth and experience at the position. This is not solely a ranking of the best quarterbacks in the ACC (stay tuned for that, it will look different), so backups are an important part of the equation.

Bottom line: Who's got the depth and talent to make it through a full season -- and win -- if more than one quarterback is needed?

Here’s a look at who’s stocked and who’s not at quarterback this year:

1. Miami: The Hurricanes have a proven albeit embattled option in Jacory Harris, and Stephen Morris also has significant starting experience. Whoever doesn’t win the job will be a more than capable backup. The Canes still need to add depth to the position, but they landed transfer Ryan Williams from Memphis.

2. Boston College: Starter Chase Rettig should be better in his second season as starter, but he’s not the only one on the roster with playing experience. Dave Shinskie has started 13 games, and Mike Marscovetra should be a familiar name to BC fans by now.

3. Duke: It’s possible coach David Cutcliffe could use three quarterbacks this year. He’s got one of the best in the league in starter Sean Renfree, backup Brandon Connette has seen significant playing time, and the emergence of redshirt freshman Anthony Boone this offseason could give the offense yet another option.

4. Wake Forest: Tanner Price is the undisputed starter, but Ted Stachitas had a better spring than coach Jim Grobe had anticipated, and Brendan Cross has always been in the mix to earn some playing time.

5. Florida State: The Seminoles haven’t settled yet on a backup to EJ Manuel, but depth isn’t a problem with both Clint Trickett and Will Secord competing for the No. 2 spot. It’s not like it was last year, though, when there was a Gator Bowl MVP sitting on the bench.

6. North Carolina: Not only is Bryn Renner unproven, so are his backups. Renner clearly distanced himself from the rest of the competition this spring. True freshman Marquise Williams will continue to compete with Braden Hanson and A.J. Blue, who was injured two years ago and redshirted last season, for the No. 2 spot.

7. Virginia Tech: Logan Thomas had an impressive spring and drew rave reviews from those within the program, but the backup situation remains a question. Redshirt freshman Mark Leal really pushed Ju-Ju Clayton for the No. 2 job and that competition will continue this summer.

8. Georgia Tech: It’s Tevin Washington’s job to lose, but Synjyn Days had the better spring game and made the competition a bit more interesting heading into fall camp. True freshmen Vad Lee and Demontevious Smith would have to have stellar performances in camp to make a move, but there’s definitely talent in the wings.

9. Clemson: Tajh Boyd was the only scholarship quarterback even on the roster until the early enrollees, Cole Stoudt and Tony McNeal, joined the team. The good news for Clemson fans is that Cole Stoudt, the son of former NFL quarterback Cliff Stoudt, had a productive spring and earned the No. 2 job.

10. Virginia: If there’s one problem the Hoos don’t have, it’s depth at the quarterback position. Mike London has yet to name a starter, and all of them lack significant game experience. Ross Metheny, Michael Rocco, Michael Strauss and David Watford all have a shot. Since they’re all preparing as starters now, they should all have a good grasp of the offense if needed.

11. Maryland: First-year coach Randy Edsall had five quarterbacks to work with when he was hired, and now he’s down to two. He’s got one of the best quarterbacks in the league to work with in Danny O'Brien, but he’s got to keep him healthy. C.J. Brown and walk-on Troy Jones are the only other quarterbacks on the roster.

12. NC State: If Mike Glennon gets hurt, the Wolfpack is in trouble. Redshirt freshman Tyler Brosius has a strong arm but no experience, and he’s not ready for prime time yet. The departure of Russell Wilson might not affect the win-loss record, but it definitely hurt the depth.
Boston College quarterback Chase Rettig threw two touchdown passes on Saturday in the Eagles' first scrimmage of the spring. It was also the debut for first-year offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers.

Offensive highlights:
  • Rettig completed 11 of 16 passes for 171 yards.
  • Dave Shinskie, who lost the starting job to Rettig last year, completed 8 of 10 passes for 97 yards and three touchdowns.
  • Junior Mike Marscovetra (11-13, 86 yards) and redshirt freshman Josh Bordner (5-13, 32 yards) were also in the quarterback rotation.
  • Sophomore Alex Amidon led all receivers with four catches for 79 yards and a touchdown.
  • Senior Ifeanyi Momah had four catches for 74 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensive highlights:
  • Linebacker Luke Kuechly led the defense with eight tackles.
  • Linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis had seven tackles and a pass breakup.

ACC Power Rankings: Week 7

October, 11, 2010
10/11/10
9:01
AM ET
Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

For the first time since the initial preseason ranking, there has been a change at the top. Florida State left no doubt it was the better team in a convincing 45-17 win over Miami in Sun Life Stadium. And earlier on Saturday, NC State picked apart Boston College, 44-17. The two best scoring offenses are in the Atlantic Division right now, and it’s possible the two best teams in the ACC are, too. There’s only one problem: NC State blew a 17-0 lead to Virginia Tech, which is undefeated in league play. Head-to-head play counts in the final ACC standings. It counts in my Top 25 for ESPN.com (which is why I have South Carolina over Alabama and behind Auburn). And it means something here.

Here’s a look at how the ACC stacks up heading into Week 7:

1. Florida State (5-1, 3-0 ACC; LW: No. 2): The Seminoles ran all over Miami, and quarterback Christian Ponder beat the Canes with a short passing game. Florida State is back atop the Atlantic Division standings just six games into Jimbo Fisher’s head coaching career, and much of that can be attributed to a dramatic improvement on defense since the loss at Oklahoma.

2. Virginia Tech (4-2, 2-0 ACC; LW: No. 3): The Hokies have now won four straight heading into Saturday’s home game against Wake Forest. Their inability to convert a single third down against Central Michigan was nullified by 38 unanswered points after the Chippewas’ opening scoring drive, but it’s an issue Virginia Tech will need to fix against its Coastal counterparts.

3. NC State (5-1, 2-1 ACC; LW: No. 4): The Wolfpack rebounded from their loss to Virginia Tech and took it out on Tom O’Brien’s former team, Boston College. NC State’s defense has shown measurable improvement and has had surprising success in the running game with two rookies leading the way in Mustafa Greene and Dean Haynes.

4. Miami (3-2, 1-1 ACC; LW: No. 1): The Hurricanes were outplayed by Florida State in all three phases of the game. Quarterback Jacory Harris struggled against the blitz and the Seminoles’ defense took away his deep passes. Instead of taking a step forward in the fourth season under coach Randy Shannon, the Hurricanes remain stuck in neutral.

5. Georgia Tech (4-2, 3-1 ACC; LW: No. 5): The Jackets finally got what they needed from B-back Anthony Allen, who scored three touchdowns as Georgia Tech ran for 477 yards against Virginia. Coach Paul Johnson will always find something his team can improve upon, but the Jackets remain in contention to defend their ACC title.

6. Maryland (4-1, 1-0 ACC; LW: No. 6): The Terps remain status quo after their bye week, and should have some confidence heading into Death Valley. Clemson was the one ACC team Maryland was able to beat last year, and they’re catching the Tigers when they’re down. With Danny O'Brien at quarterback, the Terps stand a chance.

7. North Carolina (3-2, 1-1 ACC; LW: No. 8): Somehow, this undermanned team continues to find ways to win. The Tar Heels were missing a total of 15 players against Clemson, but took advantage of the Tigers’ inconsistent defense to earn their first ACC win. UNC’s three-game winning streak speaks volumes about the talent and depth the staff has built on this roster.

8. Clemson (2-3, 0-2 ACC; LW: No. 7): In its overtime loss at Auburn, Clemson looked like a team capable of defending its Atlantic Division title. Now it looks befuddled. The Tigers couldn’t stop UNC running back Johnny White and couldn’t make key fourth-down stops.

9. Wake Forest (2-4, 1-2 ACC; LW: No. 9): For the second straight week, the Demon Deacons lost a heartbreaker in the final minute of the game to a triple-option team. They didn’t learn from their mistakes against Georgia Tech, though, and could pay for it dearly with bowl eligibility. Wake needs to find four more wins in six of its remaining games, and it won’t get any easier on Saturday at Virginia Tech.

10. Virginia (2-3, 0-2 ACC; LW: No. 11): First-year coach Mike London isn’t into moral victories, but he and his staff deserve credit for putting the Cavaliers in position to win some games this year. The defense just couldn’t stop Johnson’s spread-option offense and the Cavs’ offense couldn’t convert on enough third downs against Al Groh’s 3-4 defense.

11. Boston College (2-3, 0-2 ACC; LW: No. 10): The Eagles have problems on offense that are too deep to fix in the second half of the season. The duo of Dave Shinskie and Mike Marscovetra struggled against NC State, and once again BC’s running game was limited. The one thing they can count on is a stingy defense that can get them the ball back.

12. Duke (1-4, 0-2 ACC; LW: No. 12): The Blue Devils had a much-needed bye week to recover from their loss to Maryland, but it won’t get any easier this weekend against Miami. Coach David Cutcliffe said his team wasn’t going to get any major overhaul during the break.

Dave Shinskie benched again

October, 9, 2010
10/09/10
2:35
PM ET
Enter Mike Marscovetra.

After Dave Shinskie's last pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown, it was Shinskie's final pass. This is getting to be routine for the Eagles' offense, as BC trails 34-10 to NC State in the third quarter.

With the way Boston College has been playing offensively, this is too much of a deficit to overcome. Marscovetra isn't the answer. The answer is on the bench, sidelined with an ankle injury.

In the limited time he has played, Chase Rettig has proved to be the best option of the three. The true freshman was able to manage the ball without turning it over against Notre Dame before he was injured.
It was a good homecoming for Brian Kelly and a home wrecking for Boston College, as the Eagles fell 31-13 to Notre Dame. It wasn't exactly a surprise, considering how BC has struggled offensively, and it didn't help that true freshman Chase Rettig injured his ankle early in the game. Mike Marscovetra came in and threw two interceptions, but the Irish dominated the second half and BC didn't help itself with 11 penalties for 114 yards.

The Eagles now have back-to-back losses heading into back-to-back road trips against Atlantic Division opponents. NC State and Florida State are two of the top teams in the division. The good news? BC found a receiver in Bobby Swigert, who had seven catches for 137 yards and a touchdown. The bad news? The Eagles had just four rushing yards. BC needs a quick fix on offense if it's going to rebound in the ACC race.

Irish offense responds

October, 2, 2010
10/02/10
9:57
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Notre Dame didn't even score a touchdown until late in the fourth quarter last week against Stanford.

No such problems this week against Boston College. The Irish went in for a score just four plays into the game and raced out to a 21-0- lead before the first quarter had even expired. The scoring rush finally slowed a bit, but Notre Dame still leads 24-13 at half.

Boston College started true freshman Chase Rettig at quarterback and had to turn to Mike Marscovetra in the second quarter. Clearly, the Eagles are going to have trouble keeping up offensively with the Irish with such inexperience at the most crucial position. If not for a couple of Notre Dame turnovers, this game would already be out of reach.

The Irish are in solid command, but can they actually take control and avoid any late-game drama on the road?

ACC Power Rankings: Week 5

September, 27, 2010
9/27/10
9:07
AM ET
Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

A win is a win, but a lot of the teams in the ACC just aren’t earning many style points these days. Virginia Tech’s D finally came through, but four field goals? And Miami’s D looked spectacular, but two more interceptions? NC State played one of the more complete games but still missed two field goals and had two turnovers. Florida State has rebounded, but against whom? All of that adds up to a lot of status quo in the league, and there was no movement in the top four spots.

Here’s a look at how the ACC stacks up heading into Week 5:

1. Miami (2-1, LW: No. 1) -- The Hurricanes rebounded from their loss at No. 2 Ohio State with a win at Pittsburgh, and while the defense looked capable of winning an ACC title, the offense was again overshadowed by Jacory Harris’ interceptions. The Hurricanes will face an even tougher road test on Saturday at …

2. Clemson (2-1, LW: No. 2) -- The Tigers had the bye week to rest and heal from a physical loss at Auburn. Auburn’s win over South Carolina this past weekend further validated Clemson’s performance on the road. The Tigers weren’t penalized this week for not playing, despite the impressive performance of …

3. NC State (4-0, 1-0 ACC; LW: No. 3) -- The Wolfpack is the hottest team in the ACC right now and will have home field advantage this weekend against Virginia Tech. NC State is off to its first 4-0 start since 2002 and should have a lot of confidence after knocking off the defending ACC champs on Georgia Tech’s home field.

4. Florida State (3-1, 1-0 ACC; LW: No. 4) -- The Seminoles have won back-to-back games after losing at Oklahoma, and the defense has shown significant improvement in both of them. Quarterback Christian Ponder looked more like his old self against Wake Forest after suffering a bruised triceps against BYU.

5. Virginia Tech (2-2, 1-0 ACC; LW: No. 7) -- The Hokies’ offense still looks average at best. The 19-0 win at Boston College was a coming out party for Bud Foster’s defense. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech’s offense struggled in the red zone and had to rely on four field goals. That won’t suffice against Russell Wilson & Co. this weekend.

6. Virginia (2-1; LW: No. 9) -- Marc Verica looked like the quarterback Virginia fans have been waiting for in a romp of VMI, but can he keep it up against Florida State’s defense? The Seminoles haven’t allowed a touchdown in six quarters. Virginia still has something to prove, as its two wins are both over FCS opponents, but if it plays the way it did at USC, it will have a chance to win.

7. Maryland (3-1; LW: No. 11) -- The Terps might have found a new quarterback in freshman Danny O’Brien, but coach Ralph Friedgen isn’t ready to say yet who will start against Duke. Maryland has finished its nonconference schedule as well as expected and is catching Duke at the right time.

8. Georgia Tech (2-2, 1-1 ACC; LW: No. 5) -- The Jackets didn’t look like the defending ACC champs, as there were two lost fumbles, a blocked punt for a touchdown, and the defense allowed 527 yards. They should be able to rebound this weekend against …

9. Wake Forest (2-2, 1-1 ACC; LW: No. 8) -- The Deacs played better on defense, but this time the offense couldn’t get anything going. FSU’s defense deserves a lot of credit for that, but Wake lost starting quarterback Tanner Price to a possible concussion.

10. North Carolina (1-2, 0-1 ACC; LW: No. 10) -- The Tar Heels started to climb out of their hole with a win at Rutgers and will have home field advantage against East Carolina on Saturday. Nothing is a given for this team, though, and UNC can’t afford to continue to turn the ball over, especially when it’s undermanned.

11. Boston College (2-1, 0-1 ACC; LW: No. 6) -- The Eagles’ offensive struggles were exposed in their first ACC game, and quarterback Dave Shinskie was benched as a result of it. Mike Marscovetra and Chase Rettig will compete for the starting job against Notre Dame this week. BC was shut out for the first time in 12 years.

12. Duke (1-3, 0-1 ACC; LW: No. 12) -- Not only did the Blue Devils’ defense struggle against Army, but so did quarterback Sean Renfree, throwing an uncharacteristic three interceptions. Duke had five total turnovers and seemed to have taken a step back from last year’s progress.
1. Boston College coach Frank Spaziani said Sunday that he will replace starting sophomore quarterback Dave Shinskie this week against Notre Dame. Spaziani must decide whether to start sophomore Mike Marscovetra or commit to the offense’s real future, freshman Chase Rettig. Shinskie, the 26-year-old former minor leaguer, has been a disappointment. But don’t forget -- not only did he bail out a team that had no talent at quarterback last year, he led the Eagles to an 8-5 record. That’s worth something.

2. Let’s hear it for the state of New York! Army and Syracuse are both 3-1, the first season that both teams have started that well since 1993. You may say that the Orange has beaten two FCS teams, and that the Black Knights have beaten three teams that went a combined 7-29 last season -- and are 2-10 this season. And you would have a good point. But October isn’t even here yet. Let them throw their parades.

3. Let’s hear it for Washington State! The Cougars led USC, 7-0. OK, so it was the first quarter, and the Trojans needed exactly 15 seconds to erase the deficit. Still, that’s the first time the Cougars have led the Trojans by at least a touchdown in eight years. Wazzu has lost 19 consecutive conference games, which is no surprise. It is a surprise that USC is 4-0 and ranked only 18th. The Trojans no longer own the benefit of the pollsters’ doubt.

ACC: What we learned in Week 4

September, 26, 2010
9/26/10
10:05
AM ET
Not a bad week in the ACC, not at all. Here’s a look at what we learned in Week 4:

The ACC is better than the Big East. If there was any doubt after the league’s 1-1 start with a win over Cincinnati and loss to West Virginia, the ACC erased it this week with wins at Pitt and at Rutgers. Both North Carolina and Miami made enough mistakes that could have cost them the game, but Rutgers and Pitt weren’t able to do anything about it.

[+] EnlargeIrving
Brian Utesch/US PresswireNC State is 13-5 when linebacker Nate Irving is in the starting lineup.
NC State is one of the best teams in the ACC. The Wolfpack proved it by knocking off defending ACC champ Georgia Tech on its home field. NC State is the only undefeated team remaining in the ACC and should be ranked in the Associated Press Top 25. There are only two other teams pushing the Pack for the top spot in the conference, and that’s Miami and Clemson. Florida State has also turned the corner since its loss at Oklahoma, but the other teams have played better on the road against better competition.

North Carolina’s not done yet. A loss at Rutgers would have put a serious dent in the Tar Heels’ bowl hopes, and could have snowballed into a disastrous season, but this team has never quit. Instead, it has been on the verge of breaking through in losses to LSU and Georgia Tech. This time, the team overcame injuries to Johnny White and linebacker Quan Sturdivant. There might be a lack of playmakers on defense, but there’s no shortage of leadership, and quarterback T.J. Yates and linebacker Bruce Carter made sure losing wasn’t an option this past weekend.

BC’s offense is still in need of a quarterback. In two games against Virginia Tech, Dave Shinskie has completed 12 of 37 passes for 134 yards, no touchdowns, four INTs, and one lost fumble. He was benched on Saturday in favor of Mike Marscovetra. The Eagles had three turnovers and were held to just 39 yards of total offense in the second half and couldn’t cross midfield. Yes, a lot of credit goes to Virginia Tech’s defense, but the Eagles won’t be a contender in the Atlantic Division unless there’s improvement at quarterback.

Georgia Tech doesn’t look like defending ACC champs. Not with that defense. It’s not Al Groh’s fault. It doesn’t matter if the Jackets are running a 3-4, a 4-3 or how you line up in your backyard. Georgia Tech is missing Derrick Morgan and is need of a big-time playmaker. The Jackets got beat one-on-one and allowed 45 points and 527 yards. It’s the first time since 2007 that Georgia Tech has lost two September games. Quarterback Joshua Nesbitt is one of the most talented players in the ACC, but he can’t do it by himself.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 2

September, 9, 2010
9/09/10
10:19
AM ET
It’s a big week for the ACC, so there’s plenty to keep an eye on. As the title indicated, here’s what to watch in Week 2:

1. Florida State and Miami’s rise -- or fall. This is it. The weekend that determines which one -- if either -- of the two former powers are ready to make a statement on the national level. The Seminoles have a chance at Oklahoma and Miami takes on No. 2 Ohio State. Both are road trips. If either or both of these teams lose, the buzz around the ACC will disappear faster than Greg Reid on a punt return.

[+] EnlargeGreg Reid
Josh D. Weiss/US PresswireGreg Reid returned a punt 74 yards for a TD against Samford.
2. Florida State cornerback Greg Reid. Samford did its best not to punt to Reid (smart move), but couldn’t avoid him the entire game. He fielded one punt, and that’s all he needed to score. With 8:17 remaining in the second quarter, Reid took a punt back for a 74-yard touchdown.

3. Georgia Tech’s pass defense. Much has been made of the transition up front to a 3-4 defense, but the Jackets’ secondary will be tested. Eight different Kansas receivers caught passes against North Dakota State, including Johnathan Wilson, who had six receptions.

4. How good is Tajh Boyd? FCS school Presbyterian has lost 15 consecutive games, so Kyle Parker could spend the second half of this game across the street in Kingsmore Stadium taking batting practice in preparation for his Colorado Rockies assignment next spring. Boyd should get plenty of playing time in this one.

5. Boston College quarterback Dave Shinskie. He threw two interceptions last weekend against Weber State and his job is in question heading into Kent State. Can he perform well enough to keep it, or will Frank Spaziani give Mike Marscovetra the reins?

6. Virginia’s offense vs. USC’s defense. Nine different UVA receivers caught passes against Richmond, Marc Verica threw for a career-high 283 yards, and the Cavaliers rushed for another 205. UVA rushed for over 100 yards just four times last year. Meanwhile, USC’s defense allowed almost 600 total yards to Hawaii.

7. Defenses in Winston-Salem. Both Duke and Wake Forest were successful in Week 1 under first-year starting quarterbacks, which indicates their offenses are in good hands. Whoever makes the stops in the first conference game will come out on top.

8. Virginia Tech receiver Jarrett Boykin. He’s had over 100 yards receiving in four of his last five games and needs 81 more to climb into eighth place in career receiving yards at Virginia Tech.

9. NC State receiver T.J. Graham. Heading into the season, Graham had just one touchdown reception for his career. After one quarter last weekend, he had three. Graham scored on 26- and 25-yard passes from Russell Wilson, gaining a career-high 96 yards on a career-high six receptions. He also had a 50-yard kickoff return.

10. Maryland’s passing game. The Terps threw the ball just five times against Navy, and coach Ralph Friedgen said it’s possible all three of his quarterbacks could play against Morgan State. Maryland has a deep, fast, talented group of wide receivers -- too good to be ignored.

ACC predictions: Week 2

September, 9, 2010
9/09/10
9:08
AM ET
I was doing so well until Labor Day. And then I went 0-for-2, bringing my season-opening picks record to 10-2. That’s not bad -- if you’re Frank Beamer. But I’m aiming higher. Here’s to a better Week 2:

Boston College 35, Kent State 10: The quarterback competition continues after Dave Shinskie threw two interceptions against Weber State, so Mike Marscovetra should see another opportunity. The Eagles will have home-field advantage again, and have won nine of their past 10 home games. BC has outscored Kent State 55-7 in the previous two meetings.

Clemson 52, Presbyterian 3: Wake Forest was able to handle PC with ease, so Clemson should, too. The Tigers averaged 9.2 yards per play against North Texas, and the defense was outstanding in the red zone. Expect a similar performance. The Blue Hose have scored more than one touchdown against the Tigers just once in the last 14 meetings (a 53-13 loss in 1952) and have been shut out 24 times.

Florida State 31, Oklahoma 21: Florida State’s offensive line will be the difference in this game, as it will pave the way for the running game and the play-action passes. The Seminoles will snap the Sooners’ nation-leading 31-game home winning streak. Christian Ponder will come out of this game with some Heisman hype and the defense will have shaken the ghosts of last year.

Maryland 38, Morgan State 3: The Terps win the unofficial state championship this weekend, but use three quarterbacks in the process. It’s a final chance for coach Ralph Friedgen to develop a passing game before a road trip to West Virginia.

NC State 35, Central Florida 21: It was Tom O’Brien’s first season when the Pack lost to UCF in 2007, but this time the Knights won’t be able to stop Russell Wilson and NC State’s defense will take another small step forward.

Duke 38, Wake Forest 35 (OT): Duke’s offense has improved, and quarterback Sean Renfree will be the difference in this game. The question is whether or not the Blue Devils can slow down the Deacs’ running game, which is ranked No. 2 in the nation after racking up 415 yards against Presbyterian last week. Wake is looking for its 11th straight win in the series -- the program’s longest winning streak against any opponent.

Georgia Tech 38, Kansas 21: The Jayhawks were likely embarrassed by their loss to an FCS opponent during the opening week, so it’s unlikely they’re going to roll over, but they won’t be able to stop this offense. After scoring just three points against North Dakota State, Kansas will continue to struggle against Al Groh’s defense.

Ohio State 21, Miami 17: The Buckeyes’ defense will be the difference in this game -- not Terrelle Pryor, who is a talented athlete but overrated as a passer. Ohio State will pressure Jacory Harris into one too many mistakes and keep him off balance.

USC 28, Virginia 24: Get ready for a heartbreaker, Hoos. USC is only USC by name right now, and it has a lot to prove. The defense gave up almost 600 yards to Hawaii, and Virginia’s offense was rolling against Richmond. This staff is good enough to put the Cavaliers in position to win, but it’s still a difficult road trip against one of the country’s top programs.

Virginia Tech 42, James Madison 7: The Hokies are still hurting emotionally from Monday night’s loss to Boise State, but this staff will get them to rebound and so will the crowd at Lane Stadium. This should be another game for some of the younger players to correct mistakes, as the Hokies lead the series 6-0.

ACC power rankings: Week 1

September, 7, 2010
9/07/10
9:09
AM ET
Virginia Tech had several chances against Boise State to jump ahead of Miami in this week’s power rankings, but the Hokies made too many uncharacteristic mistakes. Yes, Virginia Tech played a much tougher opponent than the Canes did, but the special-teams miscues, the missed tackles and the inability to run the ball leave Virginia Tech with significant room for improvement before conference play begins. Here’s a look at the ACC power rankings after Week 1:

1. Miami (1-0): The Hurricanes looked sharp in their 45-0 thumping of Florida A&M, and only needed quarterback Jacory Harris for one half. There was no sign of looking ahead to Ohio State, but we’ll find out a lot more about where the program is after Saturday’s trip to the Shoe.

2. Virginia Tech (0-1): The Hokies showed their youth in a 33-30 loss to Boise State, with uncharacteristic mistakes on -- gasp! -- special teams, and fell behind 17-0 in the first quarter. This program plays its best ball late in the season, though, and the staff will force it to grow up quickly.

3. Florida State (1-0): The Seminoles dominated Samford 59-6 and looked like the best team in the Atlantic Division, but Saturday’s game at Oklahoma will reveal if Jimbo Fisher’s program is a contender.

4. Georgia Tech (1-0): The Jackets handled South Carolina State 41-10, but coach Paul Johnson said on his Sunday teleconference that there were plenty of areas the team needs to improve upon. They still weren’t as efficient in the passing game as he would’ve liked, and if Kansas figures a way to take out the B-back, Joshua Nesbitt will need some more help.

5. North Carolina (0-1): The question isn’t whether UNC would’ve beat LSU if it were full strength on Saturday, it’s by how much? This is a gritty team that can still contend for the Coastal Division title, even if short-handed -- but only if T.J. Yates continues to lead the offense like he did Saturday.

6. Clemson (1-0): The bend-but-don’t-break defense won’t hold up once conference play rolls around, and the Tigers are still looking for a go-to receiver. Clemson was outgained by North Texas 234-228 in the first 30 minutes. The Tigers have one more tune-up -- Presbyterian -- before traveling to Auburn.

7. NC State (1-0): With quarterback Russell Wilson playing like he did, there’s no reason the Pack can’t be a dark horse candidate in the ACC if the defense maintains and builds upon that improved performance. The Pack never allowed Western Carolina into the red zone.

8. Boston College (1-0): The Eagles slip despite their win for one main reason -- quarterback play. Dave Shinskie is still the starter after throwing two interceptions, but Mike Marscovetra is going to get more time. Until that position becomes more dependable, the Eagles have something to prove in the Atlantic.

9. Maryland (1-0): The Terps hung in for the 17-14 Labor Day win over Navy, an important step in turning around last year’s 2-10 season. They have plenty of talent and speed, but it was a sloppy game for both teams. Maryland’s defense was generous the whole game, but Kenny Tate came up with the big stop when the Terps needed it most.

10. Duke (1-0): The Blue Devils jump up because of the impressive play of quarterback Sean Renfree, who is only going to get better. He could be the difference next week when Duke takes on …

11. Wake Forest (1-0): The Deacs’ strength last week against Presbyterian was their running game. Duke’s defense will be tested, as Wake amassed 509 total yards. There was also a blocked extra point and the first defensive two-point conversion in school history. There is life after Riley Skinner.

12. Virginia (1-0): The Cavaliers won their first season opener since 2005 and the offense was clicking, but it will face a much bigger challenge with a road trip to USC on Saturday.

BC handles Weber State

September, 4, 2010
9/04/10
4:35
PM ET
Linebacker Mark Herzlich made his much-anticipated return, and running back Montel Harris cranked out yet another 100-yard rushing performance in the Eagles' 38-20 win over Weber State.

As expected, the Eagles depended more heavily on their running game and Dave Shinskie threw two interceptions. Does that mean coach Frank Spaziani will turn to Mike Marscovetra? Shinskie led the offense for most of the game, with Marscovetra throwing just three passes. Redshirt freshman Johnathan Coleman was the leading receiver among an inexperienced, depleted group, with three catches for 98 yards, but it seems as if the Eagles might need to depend on their tight ends more than usual this fall.

BC got what it needed -- the win -- but odds are Spaziani will be expecting fewer mistakes next weekend.
Sophomore quarterback Dave Shinskie has been named the starter for the Eagles’ season opener against Weber State, the school announced on Friday.

Shinskie, who started 10 games last season as a freshman, won the job over sophomore Mike Marscovetra and freshmen Chase Rettig and Josh Bordner. Shinskie came to Boston College last season as a 25-year-old freshman after playing professional baseball for seven years. He set BC freshman passing records with 2,049 yards and 15 touchdowns. He completed 149 of 288 passes (51.7 percent) with 14 interceptions.

“Dave had a very good camp,” coach Frank Spaziani said, according to a release from the school. “He is the incumbent, and we won games with him last year. He has improved and he is certainly deserving.”

This decision shouldn't come as a surprise, and it makes sense, as Shinskie has the edge in experience. The Eagles have enough other concerns right now without having to break in another starting quarterback.

Spaziani also announced that redshirt freshman defensive tackle Dillon Quinn will be suspended for the first three games of the season due to an undisclosed violation of team rules.

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