ACC Winners and Losers: Week 7
Posted on: October 16, 2011 2:00 am
Edited on: October 16, 2011 5:01 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.
WINNER: Sammy Watkins
Best freshman in the game? Best freshman in the game.
With 345 all-purpose yards, Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins broke C.J. Spiller's single game school record. Spiller re-wrote most of the offensive record book for the Tigers, and seven games into his collegiate career Watkins is already making a dent. The special teams play may become a non-factor as teams learn to kick away (as they did with Spiller), but there is just not an answer for a player of Watkins' caliber and potential at this point in the ACC. The freshman's combination of physical attributes and understanding of the game have been well documented, mostly by his coaches. Swinney started singing his praises days after his arrival on campus in the offseason, and never has his ability come in handy more than in leading the Tigers' greatest comeback in program history. Clemson still has plenty of challenges left between now and their ultimate goal of an ACC title, but I struggled to find a newcomer that has made a more significant impact on his team than Watkins.
LOSER: Clemson's not-so-kind reputation
Until proven otherwise, the Tigers' comeback has silenced Clemson's "watch them pull a Clemson" critics. The Tigers have started plenty of seasons with a talented roster that wows fans and experts alike, only to fall to an opponent they should defeat. Saturday night in College Park was the perfect opportunity to "pull a Clemson." But thanks to outstanding play of Boyd, Ellington, Watkins, and enough plays by the Brandon Thompson and the defense; they pulled a 2011 Clemson. The 2011 Clemson is an act that is not so dissimilar from a 2010 Auburn. They just find a way to win. Expecting a similar result to the Tigers' national title run is outrageous. But expecting a comparable finish (ACC title and BCS bowl win) might not be so crazy at this point.
WINNER: Jacory Harris
The oft-criticized Harris has been silencing the nay-sayers with his most recent performances against two talented defenses. Ever since halftime of Miami's loss to Virginia Tech, Harris has been sharp and on point with his delivery. Against North Carolina on Saturday, Harris got off to a fast start thanks to big plays from Allen Hurns and Tommy Streeter. The senior signal-caller torched North Carolina's secondary for 233 yards in the first half, a new career high. But even with an impressive production, the most important improvement has been his lack of turnovers. Harris' most frequently detrimental fault has been his tendency to misread a route and toss the ball to the opposing defense.
But since getting picked off in Miami's 28-24 loss to Kansas State, Harris has been perfect in the interceptions column. Miami could not afford to fall to 0-3 in the conference, and the Hurricanes got the fast start they needed to ensure it didn't happen in Chapel Hill. The win was a huge step forward for first-year head coach Al Golden, and another building block in Jacory Harris' final season with The U.
LOSER: Maryland's confidence
Quarterback controversies, suspensions for team rules, reports of locker room unrest - it's all been present in Maryland's roller coaster start to the Randy Edsall era. As the Terrapins pushed Clemson to the brink and had Byrd Stadium rocking like it was Labor Day all over again, it seemed like all of the issues were evaporating. A win over No. 8 Clemson could have been the jolt of positivity this team in transition has needed, but instead they suffered a deflating loss. Blowing an 18-point lead is no moral victory, and now the onus will be on Edsall to spin this into the best possible learning experience for Maryland. Sitting at 2-4 with plenty of ACC play left, the Terps are now in jeopardy of missing the postseason. Such a finish would not send great vibes through a program looking to rebrand around their new coach.
WINNER: The Mike London Movement
Throughout the offseason, there was a definitive buzz around second-year coach Mike London at Virginia. The former Richmond head man took the job as one of the touted young coaches in the game, but London's fast impact on the recruiting trail raised eyebrows across the nation. After a slow start, the happy feelings of hope around Virginia football seemed to have turned from a bubble to a fizz until the Cavaliers' upset win over No. 12 Georgia Tech on Saturday.
The Cavaliers got it done by winning the battle in the trenches, physically dominating the Yellow Jackets on the offensive and defensive line. That physical attitude is embodied in London's steadfast attitude towards his football team, and it showed on the big stage against the undefeated Yellow Jackets. With an off-week to prepare, the Cavaliers entered the game with an unwavering confidence defensively and held Georgia Tech to a season-low for rushing yards and total yards of offense. As the fans rushed the field, London celebrated the big win with his players. This might not be THE year for Virginia, but Cavs fans have to feel like they have found THE coach moving forward.
The Blue Devils walked into a losing situation facing Florida State after three straight losses. After losing three straight games over a four week span, the talented Seminoles roster was angry and looking for redemption. EJ Manuel got his first start since the Oklahoma game, and got to work early with three 50+ yard passes in the first quarter. The junior quarterback finished with 239 yards and two touchdowns on the day, sharing the spotlight with freshman running back Devonta Freeman. The lack of a consistent rushing attack has been the most common criticism of Florida State this season, and Freeman's 109 yard outing led the way for an impressive 242 team rushing yards. Duke never really had a chance against this angry Florida State team.
WINNER: Logan Thomas' maturation
The only for Thomas to follow his 23 for 25 outing against Miami with a game-winning touchdown was to repeat the routine again in a crucial road game against a surging Wake Forest team. Thomas was not as accurate statistically, but he was just as effective in providing the big plays needed for the Hokies to bounce back from an early 14-0 deficit. Star receiver Jarett Boykin was the target of choice for the big redshirt sophomore, snagging in seven catches for 149 yards and a touchdown. In addition to his 280 yards and two touchdowns through the air, Thomas once again was a threat on the ground and punched in two goal line scores.
Thomas' maturation as a passer and rushing threat has forced defenses to focus less on running back David Wilson. Focusing less on Wilson is a bad thing, as he demonstrated on Saturday with a 136 yard outing against the Demon Deacons. After another slow start and early season loss, Virginia Tech is hitting their rhythm at the right time. If things continue to progress in Blacksburg, a rematch against the Tigers in Charlotte could be in the cards for Virginia Tech.
LOSER: Bryn Renner
After starting as one of the ACC's most efficient passers, Renner seems to have regressed since starting conference play. There were only eight incompletions on the stat sheet, but the sophomore looked uncomfortable under center against Miami on Saturday. He was uncharacteristically off-target on a few routine throws, and seemed unhappy with his pass protection throughout the entire game. The numbers may look sharp from Saturday's game, but many of the completions were screen passes and check downs to star running back Gio Bernard. Renner knew he was going to face an uphill battle against Miami's defense, now he needs to help his team bounce back on the road against an undefeated Clemson team.
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Tags: ACC, Al Golden, Allen Hurns, Andre Ellington, Brandon Thompson, Bryn Renner, C.J. Brown, C.J. Spiller, Chad Morris, Chip Patterson, Clemson, Dabo Swinney, Danny O'Brien, David Wilson, Devonta Freeman, Duke, EJ Manuel, Everett Withers, Frank Beamer, Gio Bernard, Jacory Harris, Jarrett Boykin, Jim Grobe, Josh Harris, Logan Thomas, Maryland, Miami, Mike London, North Carolina, Randy Edsall, Sammy Watkins, Tajh Boyd, Tommy Streeter, Virginia, Wake Forest, Winners and Losers, Winners and Losers Week 7