TECHnically speaking: Looking back at ACC Week 3
Posted September 17, 2013
The ACC has never staged a championship game that didn’t include a Tech team representing the Coastal Division. Georgia Tech is on track, but Virginia Tech, which has played in the most league title tilts, shows signs of sitting another one out.
OK, the Hokies have the best defense in the ACC and it might be one of the best defenses in the entire country. After holding Alabama to just one offensive touchdown, they allowed East Carolina just one touchdown scoring drive. VT’s secondary play is consistently second-to-none. However…
Offensively, we see question marks. Some other punctuation, too, perhaps, but certainly not exclamation points. The move to bring in Scott Loeffler and the spread offense (costing veteran coach Mike O’Cain his job) has not yet borne fruit. VT gained just 53 yards rushing Saturday on 34 attempts-against an East Carolina defense that gave up 38 points to Old Dominion. The Hokies’ passing attack showed some improvement over the Alabama game, in part because VT’s receivers were able to get open at times, and also because Logan Thomas was able to complete some passes. Analyst Chris Simms said Thomas has the strongest arm in America and the big guy did complete two touchdown tosses. But he also missed on 18 attempts, including two overthrows on swing passes.
If I’m Frank Beamer, I’m concerned about the offense, but alarmed about the kicking game. After allowing Alabama to run both a punt and a kickoff back for touchdowns, the Hokies more or less handed East Carolina a field goal, punting from the 25 and allowing an ECU return to the VT 35. The Pirates did gain eight yards before kicking that field goal, but you can’t pin that on the Hokies overworked defense. Soon after, Tech scored a touchdown, but missed the extra point. And all this was before Tech missed a field goal. Cody Journell simply developed a case of the snap hooks (golfers-you’ve been there). Anyway, the kicking game resulted in a seven-point swing for the Pirates. And then … Tech missed two more field goals. East Carolina was called for roughing the kicker on the last of those. Comically, the Pirates claimed they had touched the ball. A replay showed Journell had hooked the ball so badly the defenders had no shot at deflecting the kick. VIRGINIA TECH LIVES BY THE KICKING GAME!
East Carolina is a good team. The Pirates should have a chance against both Carolina and NC State later this year. But Virginia Tech fans should not be making travel plans to ACC Championship weekend at the present time.
Georgia Tech could well be making a return trip to Charlotte. I picked the Yellow Jackets to win the Coastal, primarily because their division rivals have not yet figured out how to stop Paul Johnson’s offense. The new expanded version of the triple option (yes, it includes multiple dimensions now) was on full display at Wallace Wade Stadium. Durham native Vad Lee, the first quarterback in the Johnson era at Tech who can run the ball, run the offense, and throw with accuracy when the defense is expecting a pass, lit up Duke for four touchdown passes and one running touchdown. GT has other players defenses must account for besides Lee. “A” Back Robert Godhigh gained almost 140 yards on just eight touches (four runs and four passes). And “B” Backs David Sims and Zach Laskey combined for 89 yards on 17 carries.
To beat Georgia Tech, you must win the war of the punt. Or at least be close. Duke punted nine times Saturday. Georgia Tech two. I know someone will point out that Virginia Tech limited the Jackets pretty well in last year’s overtime thriller, forcing seven GT punts. Yes they did. But see above. What are the Hokies going to do for points when the two teams collide Sept. 28?
The Yellow Jacket defense under new (and former) coordinator Ted Roof does not compare with Virginia Tech’s, but played well against Duke. Kicking game is also solid. In fact, Harrison Butker gives the Ramblin’ Wreck a long field goal option they did not have last year.
Duke’s defense had shown improvement over last year in the first two games, and shouldn’t be judged by what happened Saturday. NOBODY in this league seems to stop Georgia Tech’s offense.
Duke’s offense needs work, especially while starting quarterback Anthony Boone recovers from injury. The Blue Devils put together two impressive drives (one in each half) that showcased the running of Jela Duncan. But quarterback Brandon Connette is still getting used to his new role (remember his experience has largely been in goal line situations prior to the Boone injury). Consensus is, Connette must make faster decisions on pass plays and on Duke’s zone read package. And his receivers could get open more quickly.
The Blue Devils face a really important test Saturday against Pittsburgh, and again they will be at home.
Historical note: Duke actually played Pitt at Wallace Wade in 1976. I can still hear the students chanting, “who is Tony Dorsett, who is Tony Dorsett?” Dorsett answered the question, en route to an easy 44-31 Pitt win. Later that year Dorsett won the Heisman Trophy.
Pittsburgh looked strong against New Mexico. The Panthers’ backs, James Conner and Isaac Bennett bring physicality and some speed. Freshman Tyler Boyd broke off a 33-yard touchdown run and caught a 34-yard touchdown pass. Veteran quarterback Tom Savage is not mobile, but if given time, can complete passes, especially to Devin Street who just passed Larry Fitzgerald as the third leading receiver in school history. Pitt’s defense looks a little vulnerable on the edge and in the secondary, but stout in the middle. That does not bode well for Duke which gained much of its yardage between the tackles.
Florida State solidified its ranking with a blowout of Nevada. Actually, the first half gave Coach Jimbo Fisher cause for concern. The Wolf Pack (not be confused with the Wolfpack in West Raleigh) controlled the ball for the first 22 minutes, despite playing with a backup quarterback and a third-string running back. Nevada even led 7-3.
Then Jameis Winston caught fire. He threw a rope to Kenny Shaw, who fought off a defender and made the catch for one score. Then, he put up a floater for Rashad Greene, who soared high to bring in another touchdown. And the ‘Noles got the running game going in the second half, scoring six more touchdowns. Karlos Williams, a former safety, rolled up 110 yards on just eight carries.
Elsewhere in the Atlantic Division, Wake Forest looks to be Florida State’s polar opposite. The Deacons could not generate any running game against Louisiana-Monroe - 15 carries, 15 yards. Worse, the Deacs allowed the Warhawks to drive up and down the field behind quarterback Colton Browning.
Only two great plays by defensive back Merrill Noell even kept the Deacons in contention. At 21-13 in the closing minutes, Tanner Price and Michael Campanaro took the Deacons 97 yards down the field. Price hit Orville Reynolds for a huge touchdown, then on the two point conversion, looked for Campanaro, arguably the best player on the field. Alas, Campanaro dropped the ball. 1-2 Wake must now visit Army, a team that CAN run the ball.
Boston College looked stout against Wake Forest, but now we know the quality of the opposition had something to do with that. Southern Cal manhandled the Eagles up front, limiting Andre Williams to 38 yards (he gained about 200 against Wake), and preventing Chase Retting from doing any damage in the passing game. BC’s defense made two goal line stands against WF, but got steamrolled for five touchdowns by the Trojans, whose fans were still screaming about losing 10-7 to Washington State. The mantra in Chestnut Hill is “Be A Dude.” Coach Steve Addazio needs to find a whole bunch of dudes in the next two weeks before the Eagles play Florida State.