Hopkins is FSU's silent headliner
Notebook: Rivalry games set to dot holiday weekend
Dustin Hopkins strode into the heated, white press tent outside Byrd Stadium and greeted members of the media warmly. “What’s up, ya’ll,” he said.
The senior place-kicker had plenty to smile about. Earlier that afternoon, Hopkins broke the FBS all-time scoring record for kickers.
He was one of myriad Noles to contribute in Florida State’s 41-14 win at Maryland, a victory that clinched the Atlantic division title for the team.
“Breaking the record, it doesn’t surprise you one bit,” coach Jimbo Fisher said of Hopkins, who wore a beige suit with white stripes and cowboy boots after the game. “That guy just keeps going. Steady Eddy, boy. He’s just a phenomenal player and I’m blessed to have been able to coach him.”
Hopkins is not your average kicker. He runs a 4.5 40-yard dash, can dunk a basketball and was a two-year starter at safety in high school.
“Each and every week, he does a great job,” quarterback EJ Manuel said of Hopkins. “Dustin’s not a guy who’s just about Dustin.”
That was apparent from listening to Hopkins for just a few minutes.
“A lot of people see it as an individual award, but the way I see it, it speaks a lot about a lot of people,” Hopkins said. He made sure to credit his long snapper, Dax Dellenbach, and his holder, Chris Revell, for their contributions to the field goal unit.
Florida State will play in the ACC championship game on Dec. 1 in Charlotte, N.C. Their opponent will be Georgia Tech, which became clear after Miami (Fla.) announced Monday that it will self-impose a second consecutive bowl ban and take itself out of contention to represent the Coastal Division in the league title game. Miami had the tiebreaker against Georgia Tech because it beat the Yellow Jackets, 42-36, in overtime on Sept. 22, but it will not matter now.
Either way, the team that faced Florida State in the championship game was bound to be the underdog. The Seminoles' defense allows the fewest yards per game in the nation (236.3), its quarterback is one the most efficient and accurate in the country and its kicker just broke the NCAA scoring mark.
“When was the last time we had 10 wins?” defensive end Bjoern Werner, who has 9.5 sacks in 11 games, said. “To be a part of this is just amazing.”
If you include only the regular season, 2003 was the most recent year to answer Werner's question.
Hopkins was not the only player to write his name into the record books last weekend. Duke wide receiver Conner Vernon broke the ACC mark for most receiving yards against Georgia Tech and Tahj Boyd’s eight touchdowns (five by air, three by foot) set a school and conference record.
Florida State will now turn its attention to the Gators for a Sunshine State showdown this Saturday. It should have no problem getting amped up to play No. 6 Florida at Doak Walker Stadium.
“It’s a great accomplishment,” Manuel said of securing a berth in the ACC Championship game. “But we’re looking forward to [Saturday].”
Boston College (2-9, 1-6 ACC)
• Eagles quarterback Chase Rettig dropped to a knee with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter to ensure overtime against Virginia Tech. Coach Frank Spaziani still had two timeouts, but decided against trying for a last-minute score. Boston College, however, was unable to win in OT.
“We could have done some positive stuff,” Spaziani said after the game. “We were backed up and we felt our better chance was to go into overtime.”
• NC State's high-powered offense could hand Boston College its 10th loss this weekend. The Eagles have won at least four games every season since 1990. In 1989, the squad went 2-9.
Next Game: at NC State Nov. 24
No. 12 Clemson (10-1, 7-1 ACC)
• A contest against North Carolina State morphed into another scoring party for the Clemson offense, which struck early and often. Tajh Boyd had eight touchdowns — five passing and three rushing — as Clemson downed the Wolfpack 62-48. Boyd’s eight scores set a school and ACC record.
• With conference play finished, Boyd has his sights set on a rivalry game against the Gamecocks. “Beat South Carolina,” Boyd said of the next item on his to-do list. “We have not defeated them in three years. It is one of those deals where it has to happen.”
• If Clemson can beat No. 13 South Carolina, coach Dabo Swinney feels his team deserves to play in a BCS game. The Tigers must protect Boyd this weekend, as the Gamecocks' defense averages an SEC best 3.09 sacks per game.
Next Game: vs. South Carolina Nov. 24
Duke (6-5, 3-4 ACC)
• Following a loss to Georgia Tech that denied Duke a chance at winning the Coastal Division, coach David Cutcliffe had a positive message for his squad.
“I told our seniors that I’m not down, I’m not frustrated,” Cutcliffe said after the game. “Sometimes the best efforts in life don’t pay off. We prepared well, you played hard, you didn’t play poorly, but we didn’t win.”
• One positive for the Blue Devils was the play of receiver Conner Vernon, who became the ACC’s all-time leader in receiving yards. Vernon had five catches for 38 yards to pass former Florida State star Peter Warrick’s mark of 3,516 yards. Vernon now holds the ACC records for receptions and receiving yards.
Next Game: vs. Miami (Fla.) Nov. 24
No. 10 Florida State (10-1, 7-1 ACC)
• The Seminoles had little trouble dispatching the Terps last weekend. In the second quarter, Dustin Hopkins connected on a 26-yard field goal that made him the FBS all-time scorer as a place-kicker. The rout clinched the Atlantic Division title for the Noles, who will play Georgia Tech on Dec. 1 in Charlotte, N.C.
Before any hoopla about the ACC championship game begins, the Seminoles have Florida week and a big game against an in-state rival. No. 6 Florida has one of the premier defenses in the nation and allows fewer points per game (11.7 compared to 13.1) than the Seminoles.
Next Game: vs. Florida Nov. 24
Georgia Tech (6-5, 5-3 ACC)
• Paul Johnson’s squad beat Duke in an important Coastal Division game. The Yellow Jackets scored on their first three possessions and Tevin Washington had a great game on Senior Day, passing for three touchdowns and running for another
• Georgia Tech did not control its own destiny to play in the ACC Championship game until Miami (Fla.) announced it's postseason ban on Monday, effectively pushing the Yellow Jackets to the title game. Without the succession from the Hurricanes, the Yellow Jackets would have needed Duke to beat Miami on Saturday in order to represent the Coastal Division against the Seminoles on Dec. 1. Now the point is moot.
Next Game: at Georgia Nov. 24
Maryland (4-7, 2-5 ACC)
• Like Georgia Tech, the Terps celebrated Senior Day on Saturday and honored its 17 seniors. The festivities ended, however, once the game began. One statistic proved telling: Florida State scored 27 points in the first half, while Maryland gained 27 yards.
• Randy Edsall’s second year steering the Terps will conclude in Chapel Hill on Saturday. The Terps' passing defense is ranked second in the conference and will need its defensive line to pressure junior quarterback Bryn Renner, who throws for an average of 277.4 yards per game. In addition, Giovani Bernard leads the conference in rushing (1,065 yards in nine games) and is the only back in the ACC to average more than 100 yards rushing per game (118.33).
Next Game: at North Carolina Nov. 24
Miami (Fla.) (6-5, 4-3 ACC)
• Quarterback Stephen Morris was 21 of 32 and threw for 413 yards and three touchdowns as the Hurricanes never trailed South Florida, smashing the Bulls 40-9. Receiver Phillip Dorsett had a dozen catches for 111 yards in the win.
• There was early speculation that Miami would self-impose a bowl ban, something that came to fruition when the athletic department and school president announced the ban Monday. Still, coach Al Golden said he was not involved in that process.
“I’m not part of it, and most of that is to protect me from the legal side of it,” Golden said after the game. “I’m not privy to that the president is privy to.”
Next Game: at Duke Nov. 24
NC State (6-5, 3-4 ACC)
• “You have to give credit to Clemson,” coach Tom O’Brien said following his team’s loss last weekend. “That’s a really good offensive football team; not a good matchup for us.”
Following an upset win against an undefeated Florida State squad at home, the Wolfpack have struggled. The team is 2-3 since it took down the Seminoles.
• NC State’s struggles have been apparent on the road. The team lost three road conference games this season in which it scored at least 35 points and it barely held on to beat the Terps in College Park, Md.
• Senior Mike Glennon will look to win his last home game this weekend against a reeling Boston College team. Glennon’s 309.4 passing yards per game leads the ACC.
Next Game: vs. Boston College Nov. 24
North Carolina (7-4, 4-3 ACC)
• Just four days after it allowed 68 points to Georgia Tech, the Tar Heels’ defense buckled down and limited Virginia to 13.
“I think our defense played exceptionally. I think they were hurt by what happened last week and they have a lot of pride,” coach Larry Fedora said after the team beat UVa. “It wasn’t going to be physical at this point in the season. It was mental, and I think our defensive staff did a great job getting those guys back.”
• The Tar Heels' defense will have an opportunity to take advantage of an inexperienced starting quarterback on Saturday. Maryland has not scored more than 20 points in a game since Oct. 13 and averages the fewest points per game (18.9) in the ACC.
Next Game: vs. Maryland Nov. 24
Virginia (4-7, 2-5 ACC)
• The Cavaliers had a chance to make a bowl game, but North Carolina’s Thursday night visit to Scott Stadium ended any such hope. The Wahoos converted only two of 15 third down chances.
• Mike London said the opportunity to play on ESPN on Thursday night was an “honor and privilege.” His squad, however, was crushed in the prime-time outing 37-13.
• Instead of playing for the chance to go to a potential bowl game, the Cavaliers will try to deny in-state rival Virginia Tech of such an opportunity. “We didn’t make the plays we needed to,” running back Kevin Parks said after the loss. “It hurts right now, but we’ll bounce back. We still have one game left in Blacksburg.”
Next Game: at Virginia Tech Nov. 24
Virginia Tech (5-6, 3-4 ACC)
• The Hokies’ postseason hopes were nearly extinguished Saturday in Chestnut Hill. Frank Beamer’s team, however, managed to escape with its fifth win and still has a chance to become bowl-eligible for the 20th consecutive season. On Saturday the team will have a chance to even its record when Virginia Tech hosts rival UVa.
• The Hokies will need to win the turnover battle against Virginia. The Cavaliers have the worst turnover margin (minus-13) in the conference, but have won when they have limited their turnovers.
Next Game: vs. Virginia Nov. 24
Wake Forest (5-6, 3-5 ACC)
• The Fighting Irish scored three touchdowns in the first quarter and never allowed the Demon Deacons offense to get going as Notre Dame blanked Wake Forest 38-0. Notre Dame got a pleasant surprise after the game when the two undefeated teams ranked ahead of it -- Kansas State and Oregon -- lost.
“We’ve played three top 10 teams,” coach Jim Grobe said after the loss. “All of them great teams: Clemson, Florida State, Notre Dame. I can’t imagine anybody from what I saw today, playing better than Notre Dame.”
• For Wake Forest, bowl eligibility hinges on the outcome of Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt. The Demon Deacons' defense will need to lock down senior Jordan Rodgers — who is the younger brother of Packers QB Aaron. The younger Rodgers averages 220.2 passing yards per game and has thrown 11 touchdowns and four interceptions this year.
Next Game: vs. Vanderbilt Nov. 24