Extra Point: A Triangle football weekend to remember
Posted October 8, 2012
Extra Point is a sometimes serious, always sarcastic Monday morning recap of what you missed from ACC football action over the weekend.
It's not often that North Carolina, Duke and NC State all win home ACC games on the same weekend. OK, "not often" may be a bit of a misnomer. It's only happened four times since the schools started playing football.
Prior to this weekend, it hadn't happened since Oct. 15, 1994, a string of nearly 18 years. On that Saturday, Duke beat Clemson, UNC beat Maryland and NC State downed Wake Forest.
Go crazy Triangle football fans! Go crazy!
Bernard powers Heels past struggling Virginia Tech
There isn't a good way to explain why it happens, but every now and then, offensive coaching staffs seem to forget about their best players. In the opening minutes of North Carolina's game against Virginia Tech, someone forgot about running back Gio Bernard.
On their first three offensive possessions (not including Sean Tapley's kickoff return touchdown), the Tar Heels tried to attack the Hokies through the air, resulting in an underwhelming nine plays, 25 yards and three punts. The Twitter chatter at that point even included discussion of how Virginia Tech's defense was finally coming together.
Funny how quickly things change.
Four hours later, Bernard had tallied a career-best 267 yards on 23 carries while helping the Tar Heels score 48 points on Virginia Tech, the most the Hokies have given up since joining the ACC. The career day was part of an impressive effort by the Tar Heels (4-2, 1-1), who racked up 533 yards of offense on what was supposed to be the second-best defense in the ACC.
Defensively, the Tar Heels, who allowed just 40 yards rushing, were great against the run and good enough against the pass. Considering the inconsistent play from nearly every ACC defense so far this season, being good against one or the other is usually more than enough to keep teams competitive.
Moving forward, Saturday's balanced offensive effort (Bryn Renner threw for just 194 yards) should be the blueprint North Carolina employs. Bernard is clearly the league's best back, and he deserves 25-30 touches a week.
Duke dominates in second half, downs Virginia
Another week, another win for the refreshing Blue Devils.
Following a pedestrian first half, Duke allowed just five first downs in the final two quarters, outscoring Virginia 28-0 over the final 36 minutes of the game to move to 5-1 overall and 2-0 in the ACC. At this point, the bowl game discussion isn't if, but where. That's not a joke, folks. Tough schedule or not, this Duke team is good enough to compete with any team in the league.
The Blue Devils didn't miss starting quarterback Sean Renfree one bit, as first-time starter Anthony Boone transitioned from goal line wildcat expert to everyone's favorite gun slinger. Boone finished 18-of-31 for 212 yards and four touchdowns.
Two of those scoring plays went to Conner Vernon, who became the ACC's all-time leading pass catcher midway through the opening quarter. Vernon's second touchdown catch, which covered 45 yards, capped a 7-reception, 93-yard afternoon and was the highlight of Duke's impressive second-half run.
The health of Duke's defense will be a concern as the Blue Devils head toward the tougher part of their schedule, but at this point, it's hard to doubt what the unit has been able to do in spite of all the injuries. Considering Virginia Tech's on-again, off-again offense, this weekend's trip to Blacksburg doesn't look nearly as imposing as it did even three weeks ago.
As for the bowl game discussion, a couple of Sunday projections placed the Blue Devils in Charlotte for the Belk Bowl. Wins over North Carolina (Oct. 20) and Miami (Nov. 24) would all but lock up a trip to the Queen City.
Wolfpack rally to stun third-ranked Seminoles
Following NC State's ugly loss to Miami a week ago, more than a few people floated the "wouldn't it be the most ACC thing ever for the Pack to beat Florida State" idea. Not many of them (myself included) did it with a straight face, but the talking point was acknowledged.
Next time, don't forget to make that joke with a straight face. Signed, Tom O'Brien's grin.
While Florida State (Jimbo Fisher) deserves plenty of blame for NC State's ability to rally from a 16-0 halftime deficit Saturday night, the Wolfpack, who made halftime adjustments on both offense and defense, deserve just as much credit.
Mike Glennon and Co. went uptempo, essentially negating a huge disadvantage up front to allow a patchwork offensive line to more than hold its own against the ACC's best defensive line. In the final minutes, it was that edge – and FSU's inability to cover anyone inside the hashmarks – that allowed the Wolfpack to march down the field and steal a win.
Defensively, NC State was able to put pressure on E.J. Manuel while also slowing down Chris Thompson, who looked unstoppable at times in the first two quarters. Considering how terrible the unit was a week ago in south Florida, Saturday's effort is really the least surprising aspect of the entire game. Look at the rest of the season. Inconsistency is the new consistency.
Following a much-needed bye week, don't be surprised to see the Wolfpack go on one of Tom O'Brien's patented late-season runs. The Wolfpack travel to Maryland, Chapel Hill and Clemson and host Virginia, Wake Forest and Boston College.