NCF Nation: Shadrach Thornton

Instant Analysis: NC State 34, UCF 27

December, 26, 2014
12/26/14
11:58
PM ET
video
NC State secured its best season since 2011 after a 34-27 win over UCF in the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl on Friday night. Here is how the Wolfpack won:

It was over when: Tyler Purvis recovered the onside kick with 1:42 to go after UCF cut the lead to 34-27. NC State had built a 31-13 lead on Matt Dayes' second touchdown of the third quarter. But in typical UCF fashion, the Knights started chipping away at the lead, scoring two fourth-quarter touchdowns to make the game a little too close for comfort for the Wolfpack. Justin Holman threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Josh Reese that cut the gap to a touchdown, but Purvis ended up saving the day.

Game ball goes to: NC State QB Jacoby Brissett. Taking a sack to close the second quarter and miss a chance at a short field goal attempt was one of the few mistakes Brissett made in the game. NC State showed terrific balance in running and throwing. Brissett had 262 yards passing and 31 yards on the ground, and kept countless plays alive with his feet. He looked confident and comfortable as the leader of the NC State offense, a player who has grown into the job after one year behind center. A few of his passes were dropped, and NC State called a few option passes for other players, otherwise Brissett may have had 300 yards passing himself. According to ESPN Stats & Information, he became the first quarterback in NC State history to finish the season with at least 20 touchdown passes and 5 or fewer interceptions.

Stat of the game: 187. The biggest reason why the Wolfpack were so effective was because NC State completely dominated the line of scrimmage, opening big holes in the run game. UCF went into the game ranked No. 5 in the nation in run defense, allowing an average of 97.4 yards per game. When it was tough to run in the first half, Brissett found wide-open receivers in the pass game. That helped open up the run game, especially in the second half. Dayes ended up with 78 yards rushing, Shadrach Thornton had 96 and the Wolfpack finished with 187 total yards rushing.

What it means: NC State made big, big strides in Year 2 under Dave Doeren, finishing 8-5 -- five more victories than a year ago. This program has clearly surpassed rival North Carolina. If the head-to-head win to close the season was not evidence enough, then check the bowl scores after the Tar Heels had a miserable showing in a Quick Lane Bowl loss to Rutgers. The 2015 schedule is a piece of cake in the nonconference, and the Wolfpack get Clemson and Louisville at home. NC State's second Coastal opponent is Virginia Tech. So there may very well be an opportunity for even more with a much more experienced team returning.
NC State has used the hashtag #PacktheBay to get its fans to support the Wolfpack in St. Petersburg, Florida, over the holidays. Given where their opponent is from, they are hoping for all the support they can get.

UCF only had to take a bus a few hours west to make its bowl trip, and its fans are sure to be out in full force -- the way they were in taking over Raymond James Stadium when they played USF in Tampa to close the season.

Here are three key storylines to watch when the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl kicks off at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.

1. NC State run game vs. UCF run defense. It's a matchup of strength against strength in the trenches. NC State has posted consecutive 300-yard rushing games and is averaging 206 yards per game on the ground behind the collective efforts of quarterback Jacoby Brissett and running backs Shadrach Thornton, Matt Dayes and Tony Creecy. UCF, meanwhile, ranks No. 5 in the nation in rush defense and is only allowing 97.4 yards per game. UCF's past three opponents had a combined 85 yards rushing and averaged 1.2 yards per carry. How NC State runs could very well determine the outcome. Not surprisely, its five losses featured its five lowest rushing totals of the season.

2. Holman to Perriman. Justin Holman and Breshad Perriman have developed quite a connection, especially on the deep ball. Nine of Holman's 13 longest throws this season have gone to Perriman, including the classic 51-yard Hail Mary to beat East Carolina. Of Perriman's 41 receptions this year, 17 have gone for 20 or more yards. Perriman ranks No. 4 in the nation in receiving yards per game (22.1) and has caught a touchdown pass in seven straight games. The NC State secondary must find a way to limit big plays, or it could be a long night.

3. Brissett vs. Jacoby Glenn. NC State has only thrown six interceptions this season. That's the fewest picks for a Wolfpack offense since 1967. Five of them belong to Brissett, who played his best game of the season in the regular-season finale against North Carolina. But what awaits him is a veteran secondary starring Co-AAC Defensive Player of the Year Jacoby Glenn, one of the best cornerbacks in the country. Glenn ranks third in the nation with seven interceptions and tied for fourth with 18 passes defended. The UCF starting secondary has played in a combined 171 games and should have a matchup edge on the relatively young NC State receiving group.
The ACC announced its 2014 all-conference selections Monday, with a handful of noteworthy winners and snubs.

Florida State once again led the way with 17 players named, including 10 named first-team All-ACC. Duke had nine players named, Virginia had eight, and Coastal Division champ Georgia Tech had seven.

The most noteworthy first-team selection was FSU quarterback Jameis Winston, who has led the Seminoles to a second straight undefeated season, but also leads the league in interceptions. The battle for the top spot at quarterback was particularly close, with UNC's Marquise Williams (second team), Georgia Tech's Justin Thomas (third team), Miami's Brad Kaaya, Clemson's Deshaun Watson and NC State's Jacoby Brissett all having strong seasons, too.

Here's the first-team All-ACC selections:

QB: Jameis Winston (FSU)
WR: Rashad Greene (FSU)
WR: Jamison Crowder (Duke)
WR: Tyler Boyd (Pitt)
RB: Duke Johnson (Miami)
RB: James Conner (Pitt)
C: Andy Gallik (Boston College)
G: Laken Tomlinson (Duke)
G: Tre Jackson (FSU)
T: T.J. Clemmings (Pitt)
T: Cameron Erving (FSU)

DE: Vic Beasley (Clemson)
DE: Mario Edwards Jr. (FSU)
DT: Eddie Goldman (FSU)
DT: Grady Jarrett (Clemson)
LB: Denzel Perryman (Miami)
LB: David Helton (Duke)
LB: Stephone Anthony (Clemson)
CB: Kendall Fuller (Virginia Tech)
CB: P.J. Williams (FSU)
S: Jalen Ramsey (FSU)
S: Gerod Holliman (Louisville)

K: Roberto Aguayo (FSU)
P: Wil Baumann (NC State)
Ret: Jamison Crowder (Duke)

To see the full roster, click here.

Among the biggest snubs in the ACC:

Miami tight end Clive Walford is a Mackey Award finalist and has more yards, touchdowns and first downs and caught a higher percentage of his targets than fellow Mackey Finalist, Nick O'Leary. Still, O'Leary was named to the first team.

Louisville wide receiver DeVante Parker was a third-team selection thanks to missing the first seven games of the season, but he ranks seventh in the league in yards in spite of just playing five games.

NC State's Shadrach Thornton is third among running backs in yards (811) but was not named to any of the All-ACC teams.

BC's Josh Keyes has 11 tackles for loss — good for 12th in the conference — but was not one of the 10 linebackers named to All-ACC teams.

Wake Forest's Marquel Lee ranks 10th in the league with 12 TFLs and ninth in tackles with 101 but did not even earn an honorable mention.

Georgia Tech's Shaq Mason has anchored one of the best offensive lines in the country, helping pave the way for the nation's No. 4 rushing offense, but he was not a first-team selection.

ACC helmet stickers: Week 14

November, 30, 2014
11/30/14
9:00
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Well, as rivalry weeks go, this is about as good as it gets for the ACC. And with that in mind, there’s plenty of competition for the helmet stickers.

Virginia Tech DL Dadi Nicolas: The Hokies needed a win to continue a decade-long streak of wins over rival Virginia, but more importantly, to get bowl eligible. Michael Brewer, Bucky Hodges and the offense did just enough to get the win in the end, but it was the defense that set the stage, and Nicolas was the star. He racked up nine tackles, including two for a loss, a sack and five QB hurries in the game, and Nicolas helped stifle the UVA running game to the tune of just 38 yards allowed.

Clemson QB Deshaun Watson and WR Artavis Scott: Watson’s passing numbers certainly looked a lot better Saturday thanks to his roommate. Scott took three short throws and raced downfield for big gains, finishing with seven catches for 185 yards and two touchdowns. Watson played on a torn ACL, as Dabo Swinney admitted after the game, but still accounted for four touchdowns. And most importantly, for the first time since 2008, Clemson toppled its in-state rival.

Georgia Tech RB Zach Laskey: The senior had never beaten Georgia, but he did his part to ensure it happened Saturday. Laskey ran 26 times for 140 yards with three touchdowns, including a 2-yarder that proved to be the difference in overtime. Of course, a big hat tip still goes to kicker Harrison Butker, whose 53-yard field goal as time expired sent the game to OT, and to D.J. White, who picked off Hutson Mason to seal the win.

Louisville WR DeVante Parker: Down both of its top two QBs, Louisville didn’t need to worry. Parker makes everyone look good. Kyle Bolin came on in relief of Reggie Bonnafon and connected with Parker three times for scores. Overall, Parker caught six passes for 180 yards to help the Cardinals knock off Kentucky. But a special helmet sticker also goes to Gerod Holliman, who sealed the game with an INT -- his 14th of the season, tying the NCAA record.

NC State QB Jacoby Brissett: Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was the Wolfpack thumping North Carolina, and Brissett was the star. He completed just nine passes for 66 yards, but threw three touchdowns and added another on the ground, while rushing for 167 yards in the win. Teammate Shadrach Thornton chipped in with another 161 yards and a TD, too.

Florida State RB Dalvin Cook: The storyline is getting awfully familiar. FSU falls behind early. Jameis Winston coughs up some costly turnovers. And then the freshman tailback saves the day late. It was more of the same against Florida as Winston slumped through four INTs, but Cook was spectacular. He rushed 24 times for 144 yards and caught two passes for 28 yards. Overall, Cook had eight plays of 10 yards or more in the win.

Pitt receiver Tyler Boyd: The Panthers needed a win in Miami to get bowl eligible, and Boyd did all he could to ensure it happened. He caught five passes for 72 yards and scored on an all-out dive for the end zone. He also added 190 yards in the return game to set Pitt up with terrific field position throughout the game. The end result? Two 6-6 teams headed in completely opposite directions.

NC State Wolfpack season preview

August, 14, 2014
8/14/14
10:30
AM ET
» More team previews: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Previewing the 2014 season for the NC State Wolfpack:

Key returners: RB Shadrach Thornton (768 yards, 4 TD), WR Bryan Underwood (32 catches, 382 yards), OT Joe Thuney, DE Art Norman (9 TFL, 4.5 sacks), DT Thomas Teal (10.5 TFL, 3 sacks), S Hakim Jones (61 tackles, 2 INT), LB Brandon Pittman (63 tackles, 8 TFL, 3 sacks)

Key losses: WR Rashard Smith, WR Quintin Payton, DB Dontae Johnson, LB D.J. Green, LB Robert Caldwell

Most important games: Sept. 27 versus FSU, Oct. 4 at Clemson, Oct. 18 at Louisville, Nov. 29 at North Carolina

Projected win percentage: .479

Vegas over/under: 5.5 wins

[+] EnlargeShadrach Thornton
MCT via Getty ImagesShadrach Thornton rushed for 768 yards and four touchdowns last season.
Instant impact newcomers: Jacoby Brissett sat out 2013 after transferring from Florida. He’ll now be counted on not just as the team’s starting quarterback, but as its offensive leader and, in many ways, the program’s savior. Freshman wideout Bo Hines had a huge spring game and has quickly emerged as one of Brissett’s favorite targets. Defensive end Kentavius Street and tackle Justin Jones could add some serious physicality to a defensive line that was often boom-or-bust in 2013.

Biggest question mark: For a team that went winless in ACC play last year, there are plenty of question marks. Brissett’s emergence is chief among them, but coach Dave Doeren seems more than pleased with his QB. Who will emerge among the young receivers for Brissett to throw to? Can the offensive line protect better than it did a year ago? Can the defensive line be more consistently disruptive? Can injured veterans like Underwood, Rob Crisp and Jarvis Byrd come back to make an impact? The list goes on and on, but there’s certainly hope that the Wolfpack have far more answers than they did a year ago.

Best-case scenario for 2014: Brissett proves to be the answer to many of last year’s offensive woes and instantly transforms the Wolfpack into a more dynamic team. The running game proves a strength and the defensive line routinely disrupts the opposition’s game plan. Injured veterans return and young depth emerges. NC State improves as the season progresses, pulls off an upset or two, and returns to postseason play with seven or eight wins.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: Brissett isn’t the answer State’s fans had hoped for, and he struggles with a shaky supporting cast. The offensive line never comes together and the defensive front can’t stop the run. Early tests against FSU and Clemson sink the season, and the Wolfpack limp to another lowly finish in an increasingly difficult division.

Number to know: 100, 100, 100. State tailback Matt Dayes is one of just four returning ACC players to accumulate 100 yards rushing, receiving and in the return game last year. He’s not exactly entrenched atop the Wolfpack’s depth chart now, but Doeren did show a propensity for utilizing his most versatile talent last season, when Rashard Smith topped 100 yards rushing (121), receiving (530), on kick returns (310) and punt returns (240). Dayes could easily fill a similar all-purpose role this year.

They said it: “He wants to win, and it's personal. He's got to go do it. We've got to get players around him to help him and all those things, but he has the skill set and the intangibles that you look for when you recruit that position.” - Doeren on Brissett’s role as the team’s leader

ACC predictions: Week 2

September, 5, 2013
9/05/13
8:04
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Not a bad start to the season for the ACC or us bloggers. Heather Dinich and I each went 11-1 with our picks. Hopefully another strong week awaits.

FRIDAY

Wake Forest (1-0) at Boston College (1-0), 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2. The Eagles opened as an early favorite, which is somewhat surprising considering the Deacons have the better team. Both squads had some ups and downs in their openers against FCS competition last week, but from my seat, the Wake defense looked much better than BC's. The Deacs produced six turnovers, including an interception return for a touchdown. That is why I give Wake the advantage in this game.

AA picks: Wake Forest 20, Boston College 17

HD picks: Wake Forest 24, Boston College 20

SATURDAY

No. 12 Florida (1-0) at Miami (1-0), noon, ESPN. The Hurricanes have an excellent opportunity to make a statement against their former archrivals in the final scheduled regular-season meeting between the programs. Miami has the best offensive player on the field in Duke Johnson, but he will be playing against a formidable defense -- perhaps the best he will see all season. I do not think Miami can physically match up on the offensive and defensive lines and will get worn down as the game goes on. Florida might not have as many explosive players on offense, but its defense will rise to the occasion.

AA picks: Florida 23, Miami 17

HD picks: Florida 31, Miami 24

Middle Tennessee (1-0) at North Carolina (0-1), 12:30 p.m., ESPN3. The Tar Heels had a disappointing performance in a loss to South Carolina, especially from their defense. UNC's defensive front got no pressure on the quarterback and could not stop the run. The secondary got beat on several long passes downfield. Middle Tennessee upset Georgia Tech last season, but I don't see a similar outcome in this one. North Carolina will get a much better game out of Bryn Renner and its defense.

AA picks: North Carolina 44, Middle Tennessee 20

HD picks: North Carolina 42, Middle Tennessee 21

South Carolina State (0-1) at No. 4 Clemson (1-0), 12:30 p.m., ESPN3. The Tigers have to guard against the letdown factor after such an emotional win over Georgia last week. They now have their highest ranking since 1988, and the nation will be expecting a blowout against an FCS team. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris wants the offense to play faster, so that is one key to watch.

AA picks: Clemson 63, South Carolina State 7

HD picks: Clemson 55, South Carolina State 0

Western Carolina (0-1) at Virginia Tech (0-1), 1:30 p.m., ESPN3. The Hokies have all sorts of issues to work out on offense and special teams. Coach Frank Beamer promises changes to correct the mistakes that allowed Alabama to score twice on kick returns last week. Receivers have got to do more to help out Logan Thomas. One injury note: Virginia Tech hopes to have running back J.C. Coleman available. This is a team the Hokies should dominate. Now, they have to do it.

AA picks: Virginia Tech 41, Western Carolina 3

HD picks: Virginia Tech 35, Western Carolina 3

No. 2 Oregon (1-0) at Virginia (1-0), 3:30 p.m., ABC. Oregon makes its first trip to ACC country on Saturday, becoming just the third top-three nonconference team to play in Charlottesville. The UVa defense looked strong in its Week 1 win over BYU, but the Ducks present quite a different challenge given the pace and production they get out of their offense. Oregon rolled up 772 yards last week in a win over Nicholls State. Gulp. Simply put, the Hoos just do not have the personnel on offense and defense to keep up.

AA picks: Oregon 45, Virginia 17

HD picks: Oregon 45, Virginia 17

Old Dominion (0-1) at Maryland (1-0), 4 p.m., ESPNews. The Terps hope to build off an impressive performance in Week 1. C.J. Brown was terrific in his return to the field, and we all saw what this offense is capable of with Stefon Diggs and Deon Long. Taking a peek ahead, the schedule sets up for Maryland to go 4-0 in nonconference play.

AA picks: Maryland 48, Old Dominion 10

HD picks: Maryland 42, Old Dominion 7

Duke (1-0) at Memphis (0-0), 4:30 p.m., ESPN3. This is not going to be a walk-over for the Blue Devils. Memphis is a much improved team than it was several seasons ago. And much improved over the team Duke beat at the start of last season. The Tigers have a new quarterback but return a majority of their starters, including two standouts on the defensive line in Johnnie Farms and Martin Ifedi. This will be a good early road test for the Blue Devils.

AA picks: Duke 35, Memphis 20

HD picks: Duke 38, Memphis 24

Syracuse (0-1) at No. 19 Northwestern (1-0), 6 p.m., Big Ten Network. The Orange dropped a heartbreaker to Northwestern to open last season. Now they hit the road to face them again after a disappointing loss to Penn State. Syracuse has some problems to fix on offense, and it needs a better effort out of quarterback Drew Allen in this game. The Orange also have to do a better job of establishing the run if they are going to have any chance to win.

AA picks: Northwestern 28, Syracuse 21

HD picks: Northwestern 35, Syracuse 17

Richmond (1-0) at NC State (1-0), 6 p.m. ESPN3. The Spiders are one of the best teams in FCS and have notched wins over Duke in the past, so this is not a team that should be taken lightly -- especially after the FCS upsets in Week 1. Quarterback Pete Thomas gets his shot to start, but keep an eye on the running back rotation now that Shadrach Thornton returns to the lineup. Freshman Matt Dayes had a big game last week against Louisiana Tech, so coach Dave Doeren says he will use a three-man rotation with Tony Creecy, Thornton and Dayes.

AA picks: NC State 38, Richmond 13

HD picks: NC State 41, Richmond 10

ACC predictions: Week 1

August, 29, 2013
8/29/13
9:05
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The most anticipated post of Week 1 has finally arrived: Prediction time! Heather and I both got out our crystal balls and looked into the future. Here is what each of us sees for opening week in the ACC:

Thursday

North Carolina at No. 6 South Carolina, 6 p.m., ESPN. #UNCvsSC. The headliner in this game is Jadeveon Clowney, for obvious reasons. If North Carolina still had its offensive line from a year ago, I would like its chances in this game more. But with two redshirt freshmen starting on the offensive line and a new starting running back, the Tar Heels have major questions at the two strongest positions on the team in 2012. Defensively, North Carolina is thin at linebacker, so that is a concern, along with replacing Sylvester Williams up front. Bryn Renner will be able to keep North Carolina in the game, but South Carolina will ultimately win because it is stronger on the offensive and defensive lines.

AA picks: South Carolina 34, North Carolina 21

HD picks: South Carolina 24, North Carolina 21

Presbyterian at Wake Forest, 6:30 p.m., ESPN3. #PREvsWAKE. Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe goes into the season needing four victories to become the all-time winningest coach in school history. After this game, that number should shrink to three. Presbyterian won only two games last season, so I am not sure how much of a challenge a bad FCS team will present. Still, a few things to keep an eye on: the Wake Forest running game -- both Josh Harris and the offensive line. How much more will Tanner Price be used in running situations? Wake has a big game in Week 2 against BC, so Grobe is going to want to see what he can build on.

AA picks: Wake Forest 50, Presbyterian 3

HD picks: Wake Forest 45, Presbyterian 10

Friday

FAU at Miami, 8 p.m., ESPNU. #FAUvsMIA. The Hurricanes open the season without a resolution from the NCAA. Shocking, right? But that should not be a distraction. The bigger distraction could be the "look-ahead factor," with Miami playing rival Florida the following week. FAU has a long way to go if it wants to compete with Miami. Simply put, this won't be much of a test for the Hurricanes. The talent gap is too wide. Coach Al Golden just has to make sure his team remains focused on FAU.

AA picks: Miami 45, FAU 10

HD picks: Miami 42, FAU 17

Saturday

Elon at Georgia Tech, noon, ESPN3. #ELONvsGT. This is the schools' first meeting in football. It is not much of a matchup, either. Elon only won three games last year, so the Jackets should not have many problems in this game. They do have some injuries at a few spots, but with a bye the following week, Georgia Tech should be much healthier for its Sept. 14 game at Duke. It will be good to see how Vad Lee plays, what type of backs rotation Paul Johnson uses and how Ted Roof's new defense looks.

AA picks: Georgia Tech 55, Elon 3

HD picks: Georgia Tech 55, Elon 0

Villanova at Boston College, noon, ESPNews. #VILLvsBC. Coach Steve Addazio is pretty familiar with Villanova. When he was head coach at Temple in 2011 and 2012, the Owls opened the season against Villanova and won both games easily. This will be a good early test for the Eagles with Addazio in charge. First priority is to see how much better the offensive line and running game do. Second priority is to see more physicality from both sides of the ball. Both will be important, with the league opener against Wake Forest the following week.

AA picks: Boston College 35, Villanova 13

HD picks: Boston College 35, Villanova 17

FIU at Maryland (12:30 p.m., GamePlan/ESPN3. #FIUvsMD. Maryland has a very favorable nonconference schedule to open the season and kicks things off against an FIU team that took a big step back in 2012. The Panthers have a new head coach and only eight returning starters, to boot. Maryland, meanwhile, has a healthy C.J. Brown ready to open the season and the best player on the field in Stefon Diggs. Three keys to watch for the Terps: 1. How does the retooled offensive line hold up? 2. Will the running game be better? 3. How does the retooled defense with six new starters fare?

AA picks: Maryland 33, FIU 10

HD picks: Maryland 38, FIU 21

Louisiana Tech at NC State, 12:30 p.m., GamePlan/ESPN3. #LATECHvsNCST. The Dave Doeren era begins against one of the better teams from outside the power conferences a year ago. Louisiana Tech has a new coach in Skip Holtz and a first-year starting quarterback, but it also returns 1,000-yard rusher Kenneth Dixon and defensive end IK Enemkpali, a first-team WAC selection a year ago. NC State has not named a starting quarterback yet, and running back Shadrach Thornton is suspended for this one. Plus, the Wolfpack will have new offensive and defensive schemes and return only 11 starters. I expect for it to take some time to work out the kinks. Louisiana Tech upset Virginia a year ago, so this is not a team to overlook. This will be a good first test for Doeren.

AA picks: NC State 35, Louisiana Tech 24

HD picks: NC State 42, Louisiana Tech 7

Syracuse vs. Penn State, 3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2. #CUSEvsPSU. Neither team plans on naming a starting quarterback going into this one, so the big unknown is who will be under center when the game kicks off. What is known is that Syracuse should have a powerful running game going into the season with 1,000-yard rusher Jerome Smith returning, along with Prince-Tyson Gulley. There are definite questions for the Orange not only at quarterback, but at receiver, offensive tackle and along the defensive line. But I like what coach Scott Shafer has preached so far. His team is going to be hard-nosed and physical, and I believe it will be able to eke out a very close win.

AA picks: Syracuse 24, Penn State 21

HD picks: Penn State 31, Syracuse 21

BYU at Virginia, 3:30 p.m., ESPNU. #BYUvsUVA. There is no doubt the Cougars go into the game with a stout defense, led by outstanding linebacker Kyle Van Noy. But I am going with the Hoos in this game for a few reasons. First, they are at home and should have an advantage with BYU traveling from the Mountain time zone. Second, I think they will be a much more sound team on offense and defense. David Watford's mobility should help against the Cougars' D. Third, BYU has not been as good on offense in recently. If the Hoos can establish the run the way they did in 2011 and be more aggressive on D, they win. One more note: In his career as a head coach, Mike London has won all five of his openers. This will be his first as UVa coach against an FBS team.

AA picks: Virginia 21, BYU 20

HD picks: BYU 28, Virginia 21

NC Central at Duke, 4 p.m., ESPN3. #NCCUvsDUKE. The Blue Devils should have a relatively easy time against NC Central, the way they did last season. What they want to see is how Anthony Boone plays in his first game as starting quarterback and what types of strides the defense has made since last season. Both are going to be big keys for Duke if it wants to get back to a bowl game.

AA picks: Duke 48, NC Central 13

HD picks: Duke 48, NC Central 10

No. 1 Alabama vs. Virginia Tech, 5:30 p.m., ESPN. #BAMAvsVT. A few months ago, I thought the Hokies might have a fighting chance in this game. But I just don't think they have the personnel to do so now that game week has arrived. Given the uncertainty on the offensive line, at running back and in the secondary, it is going to be tough sledding for Virginia Tech to score more than two touchdowns against one of the best defenses in America. If Virginia Tech finds a way to win, it will be because it was able to establish the run, control the clock and pressure AJ McCarron into mistakes. Not out of the question. But it appears improbable at this point.

AA picks: Alabama 31, Virginia Tech 13

HD picks: Alabama 45, Virginia Tech 20

No. 5 Georgia at No. 8 Clemson, 8 p.m., ABC. #UGAvsCLEM. The game of the year, or at least the game of the week, has finally arrived after months and months of buildup. We finally get to see whether the Tigers can continue the momentum they established in the bowl win over LSU last season. Georgia has a veteran quarterback and the best rushing duo in the country. How Clemson handles Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall is the biggest key for an improving defense. But this is why Clemson wins the game: Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and a veteran offensive line have the upper hand over a defense that only returns three starters, including just one up front.

AA picks: Clemson 35, Georgia 31

HD picks: Clemson 38, Georgia 35

Monday

No. 11 Florida State at Pitt, 8 p.m., ESPN. #FSUvsPITT. A big opening week concludes with a huge game for both teams. Pitt begins its first season in the ACC with a marquee opponent at home, while Florida State begins its quest for another ACC title with a freshman starting at quarterback. Heather put Florida State on preseason upset watch last month, but it's hard for me to see the Panthers pulling the upset for two reasons: 1. They are banged-up at running back and have no depth at the position. 2. Florida State has a big-time advantage on the offensive and defensive lines. Pitt will give Florida State all it can handle, but the talent disparity is too wide for the Panthers to overcome in the opener.

AA picks: Florida State 27, Pitt 17

HD picks: Florida State 31, Pitt 21
You want to find a good quarterback in the ACC? Plenty of places to look.

A solid receiver? Plenty of places to look.

A game-changing running back? Well, let's just say this is not a position of strength for the ACC headed into 2013.

Both 1,000-yard rushers from a year ago are gone. So are five of the top 10 rushers in the league. Now factor in recent developments from the offseason:

  • Virginia Tech back Michael Holmes was kicked out of school following his arrest after the spring game.
  • Pitt Rushel Shell decided to transfer, to hated rival West Virginia no less.
  • Maryland back Wes Brown has been suspended for the season after an offseason arrest.
  • Wake Forest leading rusher Josh Harris is not with the team while the Deacs wait for an answer from the NCAA on his eligibility.
  • NC State running back Shadrach Thornton was suspended one game after being charged with misdemeanor assault on a female following a June 6 arrest.
[+] EnlargeRushel Shell
Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Running back Rushel Shell left Pitt for rival West Virginia.
Holmes and Brown were expected to be significant contributors this year; Shell and Harris were expected to start; Thornton led the Wolfpack in rushing last year.

So let us take stock of who remains. Essentially, the ACC has one big-time headliner in Duke Johnson at Miami, and several teams with talent and depth.

Take Florida State. The Noles have a great duo in James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman. Syracuse has a 1,000-yard rusher returning in Jerome Smith, plus more depth than nearly everyone in the league. Duke has its top six rushers back from a year ago.

Still, the league overall has improving to do in this important category. In 2012, the ACC had the fewest 1,000-yard rushers of the five biggest conferences. It also only had two teams ranked in the Top 30 in rushing offense (Georgia Tech and Florida State), tied with the SEC for fewest among the top five conferences.

But here is the big distinction between the two. The SEC only had one team ranked in the bottom 30 in rushing offense last season: Arkansas. The ACC had a whopping six -- Virginia, Duke, NC State, Maryland, Wake Forest, Boston College -- the most among the power five.

Will fortunes improve this season? Let us take a look at one key statistic that could have some bearing. I broke down how many returning carries there are per team headed into 2013.

DUKE

  • Top returners: Jela Duncan, Josh Snead
  • Percent carries returning: 87 percent
  • What it means: Duke has perhaps the best opportunity of any team in the league to boost its rushing numbers this year, with its top six rushers back, a more mobile quarterback in Anthony Boone and four starters returning on the offensive line.
SYRACUSE

  • Top returners: Jerome Smith, Prince-Tyson Gulley
  • Percent carries returning: 82 percent
  • What it means: Syracuse has had a 1,000-yard rusher in five straight seasons, and has pretty terrific depth going into the season. It is a pretty safe bet the Orange will make it six straight 1,000-yard rushers.
BOSTON COLLEGE

  • Top returners: Andre Williams, Dave Dudeck
  • Percent carries returning: 75 percent
  • What it means: Though the Eagles don’t have much in the way of depth, they do have experienced players returning in Williams and Dudeck. Given the way Steve Addazio likes to run the football, expect to see the Eagles much better than No. 115 in the nation in rushing.
VIRGINIA TECH

  • Top returners: Logan Thomas, J.C. Coleman
  • Percent returning carries: 70 percent
  • What it means: Even though this was a weak spot for the Hokies, they do return their top rushers even with Holmes gone. Thomas led the team in carries and rushing last season. Virginia Tech wants to change that this year.
GEORGIA TECH

  • Top returners: Zach Laskey, David Sims
  • Percent returning carries: 68 percent
  • What it means: Tevin Washington and Orwin Smith take nearly all the missing carries (176), meaning the Jackets have plenty of experienced players and depth to fill all their running back spots. Shouldn’t be a drop-off here.
NC STATE

  • Top returners: Shadrach Thornton, Tony Creecy
  • Percent carries returning: 63 percent
  • What it means: Once he returns from suspension, Thornton will carry the load with Creecy, the way they did last season. Given the emphasis Dave Doeren puts on the run in his offense -- Northern Illinois ranked No. 12 in rushing offense last season -- the Wolfpack should not be in the bottom 30 again.
CLEMSON

  • Top returners: Tajh Boyd, Rod McDowell
  • Percent returning carries: 62 percent
  • What it means: Interesting stat here, considering the Tigers lose 1,000-yard rusher Andre Ellington. He is one of the biggest losses this team has to replace on offense. Having Boyd run as much as he does certainly helps these numbers, but there’s no question Clemson has to find a way to replace Ellington’s production.
MIAMI

  • Top returners: Duke Johnson, Eduardo Clements
  • Percent returning carries: 59 percent
  • What it means: Miami loses Mike James, but that just means Johnson moves into a starting role and will get more carries. If he continues the work he did last season, Johnson should be the leading rusher in the ACC this season.
WAKE FOREST

  • Top returner: Deandre Martin
  • Percent returning carries: 57 percent
  • What it means: Wake Forest is still waiting to see whether Harris will be eligible this season. There are serious concerns about this position right now, as coach Jim Grobe has said he still hasn’t seen anybody step up and prove they can be an every-down back.
NORTH CAROLINA

  • Top returners: A.J. Blue, Romar Morris
  • Percent returning carries: 56 percent
  • What it means: The prevailing storyline in Chapel Hill has centered around replacing Giovani Bernard, the other 1,000-yard rusher in the ACC last season. Blue and Morris combined for 151 carries a year ago, so there might not be as big a drop-off in total production as some might anticipate. Each averaged more than 5 yards per carry.
MARYLAND

  • Top returners: Brandon Ross, Albert Reid
  • Percent returning carries: 48 percent
  • What it means: The Terps lost significant carries from Brown (90) and Justus Pickett (69). I also did not count Shawn Petty’s 58 carries, because he went back to defense. Overall, Maryland feels good about Ross and Reid being able to carry the load, but questions still remain about whether this group can be consistent.
FLORIDA STATE

  • Top returners: James Wilder Jr., Devonta Freeman
  • Percent Returning carries:45 percent
  • What it means: This one is the most misleading among all ACC teams, because the Noles do return two terrific talents and expect contributions from a third in Mario Pender. Those lost carries are from Lonnie Pryor and EJ Manuel, along with Chris Thompson (who was out for the second half of the season anyway). Florida State should continue to be an excellent running team.
VIRGINIA

  • Top returners: Kevin Parks, Khalek Shepherd
  • Percent carries returning: 44 percent
  • What it means: UVa lost carries from Clifton Richardson, Perry Jones and Phillip Sims, but the Hoos believe they will be better running the ball this season -- especially if Taquan “Smoke” Mizzell is as good as advertised. He could be a breakout star.
PITT

  • Top returners: Isaac Bennett, Malcolm Crockett
  • Percent returning carries: 9 percent
  • What it means: I thought this number would be low with Shell and Ray Graham gone. But this is actually worse than anticipated. Pitt has little in the way of experienced players or depth at running back, and we are talking about a team that relies heavily on the run.
On Wednesday we started an interview with first-year NC State offensive coordinator Matt Canada. Here is the second part of our interview:

How is the running game looking? Who’s coming back?

Matt Canada: We’ve got Shad, [Shadrach Thornton] Shad’s coming back.

Right, he was a nice surprise last year.

MC: Yeah, he had a very good freshman year. And Tony Creecy is a great kid, a very durable, solid guy who had a very, very good spring. Those two guys certainly carried most of the load this spring. And we’ve got some guys coming in here in the fall, so there will be some freshmen at the skill positions who might be able to have an impact a little faster than the linemen, those types of spots. You never know.

[+] EnlargeRob Crisp
David Scearce /Icon SMIAfter losing four offensive linemen from last season, NC State will be relying on Rob Crisp for leadership.
And how do you look up front?

MC: That’s the key to everything. Rob Crisp, he’s a guy who played a lot of football. He’s a guy coming back, and we’re certainly counting on him to be a leader in every way, starting with his play and the way he leads that group. I think he understands that. When you lose four linemen, there’s a lot of leadership that left the room. You work through that and understand that. The other guys have played, Tyson Chandler has played, [Duran] Christophe, everyone is still competing. Competition is a great thing, and we’re going to continue to have it every day until the opener.

Just in general, what was the most challenging thing for you guys this spring?

MC: I don’t know. Putting in a new offense is fun, it’s exciting. Spring is the best time of year to do those things. You go out, you just ball. Changing the tempo, we’ve done it a couple times now -- once at Northern and once here now. Those are things you see and have to work through, those things have been good.

How has Pete [Thomas] done in the no-huddle?

MC: Very good. He’s a smart quarterback, understands it, and has done a good job.

What’s your main priority to get done this summer?

MC: We’ll just continue to evaluate the spring film, look at what we did well, decide exactly where we’re going to head, and how we’re going to attack the season with the players we have. We’ve got 15 days of film.

You mentioned Asa Watson, what kinds of things can he do in this offense? How does he fit in?

MC: He can do it all. He blocks well, he can catch the football. I think he’s a very versatile player, so I’m excited about him and watching him develop. … He’ll be full strength in camp. He’s a leader. He’s a very good person, a great kid, and a guy we’re looking to to lead us.

If you love offense, well, the ACC is the league to be this season.

No. 11 Clemson and NC State participated another wild shootout on Saturday, playing a game of scoring see-saw just like Georgia Tech and North Carolina did last weekend. In the end, the Tigers held on to their at-large BCS hopes, winning 62-48, avoiding an upset despite a defense that was plenty exposed despite its recent improvement.

The numbers are simply jaw dropping:
  • Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd accounted for eight touchdowns, setting a new ACC record. He threw for more than 400 yards and ran for more than 100 yards to set Clemson's single-game total offense record with 529 yards, passing Woody Dantzler (517 in 2001 against NC State).
  • Not to be outdone, NC State quarterback Mike Glennon found holes all over the Clemson secondary, throwing for 493 yards and five touchdowns.
  • NC State receiver Tobais Palmer accounted for 496 all-purpose yards -- second most EVER in college football history.
  • Running backs Shadrach Thornton and Andre Ellington each went over 100 yards; Palmer, Mario Carter, Sammy Watkins and Brandon Ford each went over 100 yards receiving.
  • Clemson ended up with over 700 yards of offense; NC State got nearly 600 yards, and both teams combined to run almost 200 plays on offense.

Whew.

This was a game of runs. Clemson (10-1, 7-1) jumped out to a 13-0 lead. Then NC State (6-5, 3-4) scored 24 straight. Then Clemson scored 42 straight. Then NC State ended the game on a 24-7 run. We all knew Clemson had some deficiencies in the secondary -- given inexperience and some major depth questions. Leave it to a quarterback as talented as Glennon to take advantage and find the openings.

But the Tigers have some talent of their own on offense, and simply had too many playmakers for the Wolfpack to stop.

Now Clemson closes the season against in-state rival South Carolina, which struggled in a win over FCS Wofford on Saturday. A win over the Gamecocks, and Clemson could very well find itself in the BCS again.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 5

September, 27, 2012
9/27/12
10:15
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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.
It took one game for NC State true freshman running back Shadrach Thornton to accomplish something Wolfpack fans haven’t seen in 31 years.

Not since 1981 has NC State had a true freshman rush for more than 100 yards in his first collegiate game. Thornton hadn’t even taken so much as a snap in a game prior to last week’s win over The Citadel. In fact, he wasn’t even on the depth chart heading into this season.

And then boom -- Thornton finished with 145 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns last weekend. He became the school’s first running back to rush for over 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.

[+] EnlargeDuke Johnson
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesMiami's Duke Johnson leads the nation in all-purpose yards with 838.
“It was obviously a coming out party,” said Miami coach Al Golden, whose team will host the Wolfpack on Saturday. “He not only got 145 yards on 21 carries, but he showed explosion and burst and did a great job of pressing the line of scrimmage and hitting the powers and zones really good. Obviously he’s running behind an excellent offensive line, too.”

Miami freshman phenom Duke Johnson is going to have some company on Saturday.

Saturday’s game in Sun Life Stadium will feature two of the ACC’s rising stars at running back. Johnson has accomplished enough through the first four games to position himself for the ACC’s Rookie of the Year award, while Thornton appears to be just getting warmed up. His opportunity last weekend came at the expense of injured teammates, as coach Tom O’Brien said none of the other running backs were healthy.

Thornton took the opportunity and literally ran with it.

He had 35 yards on four carries on the Pack’s first series, including a 19-yard touchdown run. He also caught four passes for 26 yards to finish with 171 all-purpose yards.

“I’ve always said about injuries, one man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity, and he made the most of his opportunity, so going forward, he’s going to be able to play,” O’Brien said.

Injured NC State running back Tony Creecy didn’t return to the practice field until Thursday last week, but O’Brien said Creecy and Thornton will carry the bulk of the load against Miami. Golden said he will be ready for all three of NC State’s running backs, including James Washington.

NC State, of course, has to be ready for Miami’s top rookie.

Johnson has 838 all-purpose yards through four games and is the national leader in that category. He is on pace for 2,514 yards in 12 games.

“He’s really a talented athlete,” O’Brien said. “He has good vision. He really has good speed. The thing he does is, he reads his blockers very well for a kid that is a freshman, understanding the schemes and putting himself in position. He’s run through some tackles, too. He’s a complete guy and somebody I don’t think one guy can bring down. We’re going to have to get a lot of guys on the football on Saturday if we’re going to stop him.”

ACC weekend rewind: Week 4

September, 24, 2012
9/24/12
10:00
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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.

Duke, NC State come out on top

September, 22, 2012
9/22/12
9:29
PM ET
Recapping the early-evening games ...

NC State 52, Citadel 14: True freshman Shadrach Thornton stole the show for NC State in its victory over the Citadel.

Thornton not only played in his first collegiate game, but he got his first collegiate start and he made the most of it, running for 145 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. Thornton started in place of the injured James Washington and Tony Creecy and the suspended Mustafa Greene and gave this running game a huge jolt.

Do I need to remind you that Creecy went into the game as the team's leading rusher with 130 yards? Thornton was the only healthy running back to practice all week, and became the first NC State freshman to go over 100 yards rushing in his first game since Joe McIntosh did it against Richmond in 1981. NC State finished with 282 rushing yards, its highest team total since 297 against Southern Mississippi in 2005.

Meanwhile, Mike Glennon went 19-of-24 for 233 yards with a touchdown, and Quintin Payton had five catches for 100 yards.

David Amerson recorded an interception in his third consecutive game and now is in a tie for the school record with 16 for his career.

Duke 38, Memphis 14: It was not the prettiest game for the Blue Devils, who struggled to put away one of the worst teams in college football. But they absolutely dominated the second half and are now 3-1 headed into their game at Wake Forest last week.

Turnovers and missed opportunities plagued this team -- there were fumbles at the Memphis 14 and at the goal line, and a muffed punt, too. Duke finished at minus-four in turnover margin (four turnovers to zero for Memphis) and found itself trailing 14-7 midway through the second quarter. But Sean Renfree found his groove, and so did the defense -- which ended up holding Memphis to nine first downs and 1-of-11 on third down for the night.

Renfree ended up going 26-of-37 for 314 yards with four touchdown passes and one interception. Conner Vernon had eight catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns for the 11th 100-yard game of his career.

Duke now opens the season with three consecutive home wins for the first time since 1994.

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