ACC faces big end-of-season changes
Notebook: Maryland heads to Big 10, NC State's O'Brien let go
On Saturday, NC State beat Boston College, 27-10, won its seventh game and ensured that it would finish with a winning record in 2012. That, however, was not enough to save the job of coach Tom O’Brien, who was fired the next day.
It was a surprising move, considering the Wolfpack will soon compete in its third consecutive bowl game.
Just last week, O’Brien spoke of the success the program had enjoyed over the past three years and highlighted his senior class.
“They’re a special group of kids,” he said of his 16 seniors. “It’s the first group that we had a full year to recruit.”
Little did O’Brien know that the Boston College game would be his last coaching the Wolfpack at Carter-Finley Stadium.
ACC football has had its share of bizarre circumstances this season, especially considering that the two teams atop the Coastal division --UNC and Miami (Fla.) -- will not play in the postseason due to sanctions imposed by the NCAA and Miami.
Hence, Georgia Tech will represent the division in the conference championship game.
Maryland, by no means a football powerhouse, decided last week to leave the ACC for the Big 10. For the Terps, the chance to have a financially stable athletic department was too attractive an offer to pass up.
Last weekend was also a chance for the ACC to showcase its best football teams against some of the best in the SEC.
Saturday’s results were probably not what ACC Commissioner John Swafford had hoped for.
No. 3 Georgia crushed Georgia Tech 42-10 and Vanderbilt prevented Wake Forest from winning its sixth game this year.
No. 5 Florida finished with one loss after a come-from-behind win at Doak Campbell Stadium. The Gators gashed through the Seminoles defense, as it rushed for 244 yards. Florida State allowed an averaged of 85.08 rushing yards per game before it faced its in-state rival.
Finally, in the nightcap, South Carolina squeezed past Clemson 27-17. The last four Mr. South Carolina football winners have committed to Steve Spurrier’s side and the loss in Death Valley likely won’t help Dabo Swinney nab the next one.
In this haphazard season, it would be premature to insert Florida State into a BCS game. The Noles will meet the Yellow Jackets on Dec. 1 in Charlotte, N.C., with a trip to the Orange Bowl at stake. With the way this season has played out in the ACC, don’t be surprised if the unexpected happens.
Complete Conference Standings
Boston College (2-10, 1-7 ACC)
• Boston College has fired football coach Frank Spaziani on Sunday after a 2-10 season. The season ended the same way it began for the Eagles: with a loss at home to a conference foe. NC State eased past BC 27-10 in the team’s season finale.
''A personnel decision of this magnitude affects many people and is never taken lightly, but I felt a change was necessary,'' BC athletic director Brad Bates said in a news release.
• Junior running back Rolandan Finch had an efficient day running the ball against the Wolfpack. Finch’s 19 carries for 144 yards was a bright spot for Boston College, which posted one of its worst records in school history. The 1978 Eagles squad went 0-11, which is the only year BC lost more games than Frank Spaziani’s team this year.
No. 15 Clemson (10-2, 7-1 ACC)
• The Tigers had a chance to pick up a signature win at home, but lost to in-state rival South Carolina 27-17. Clemson’s 13-game home winning streak ended as it only scored three points after the first quarter.
"We got off to a good start scoring two touchdowns in the first quarter but they just started to control the ball after that,” coach Dabo Swinney said. “Give them credit, they did a great job. Their ability to put pressure on Tajh was key.”
• Sophomore Jadeveon Clowney pressured Boyd and wrecked havoc for the Tigers offense. Clowney, a former South Carolina "Mr. Football", recorded seven tackles and 4.5 sacks in the win. He, along with all the seniors at South Carolina, received a game ball.
Duke (6-6, 3-5 ACC)
• The Blue Devils began the season 6-2, but lost their last four games by a combined 102 points. Duke dropped its last regular-season game at home to the Hurricanes 52-45.
• Quarterback Sean Renfree was 36 of 59, passing for a season-high 432 yards and a career-high four touchdowns.
"It’s still kind of bittersweet,” wide receiver Connor Vernon said. “You want to win your last game, especially for the fans that came out and have been supporting us all year long. Just to know we could have done that much better is really what hurts.”
No. 13 Florida State (10-2, 7-1 ACC)
• The Seminoles led 20-13 after Dustin Hopkins nailed a 53-yard field goal. The Gators, however, stormed back in the fourth quarter. Florida dominated the last 15 minutes of play, scoring 17 points in 8 minutes.
• The Gators ran for 244 yards against the Noles and averaged 5.2 yards per rush. Florida State’s run defense will need to perform better in its next game against Georgia Tech’s triple option attack.
• Defensive end Bjoern Werner had 3.5 sacks and six tackles in the loss. Werner’s 13 sacks are the most in the conference. His teammate, Cornellius “Tank” Carradine is second in the ACC with 11 sacks.
Next Game: vs. Georgia Tech Dec. 1 at Charlotte, N.C.
Georgia Tech (6-6, 5-3 ACC)
• No matter the outcome of its game against No. 3 Georgia, the Yellow Jackets knew they would play in the ACC Championship next week. Good thing, too, because the Bulldogs pummeled Georgia Tech 42-10 at home.
• Without senior A-back Orwin Smith, Georgia Tech still ran the ball effectively, rushing for 306 yards on 67 carries. However, the Yellow Jackets turned the ball over twice and only converted six of 17 third downs.
• The Yellow Jackets will represent the ACC in the Orange Bowl if it can topple FSU in the conference championship. It will have to limit quarterback EJ Manuel’s production. Manuel, who threw three interceptions against Florida, is coming off of his worst game this season.
Next Game: vs. Florida State Dec. 1 at Charlotte, N.C.
Maryland (4-8, 2-6 ACC)
• Last week, Maryland made a decision that surprised just about everyone, including ACC commissioner John Swofford. It decided to switch conferences, moving from the ACC to the Big 10.
• On the football field, the Terps lost what could be their final game at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill. Maryland led 28-21 at the half, but was outscored 24-7 in the third quarter. Former linebacker Shawn Petty was 16 of 35 for 208 yards, a touchdown and an interception in what may be his last game at quarterback for the Terrapins.
Miami (Fla.) (7-5, 5-3 ACC)
• Last week, Miami's administration made the decision to self-impose a bowl ban on its football team. As a result, the Hurricanes will not meet Florida State in the ACC championship, nor will it play in a bowl game, even though the team won a share of the Coastal Division for the first time since it joined the league in 2004.
• Freshman Duke Johnson rushed for 176 yards and three touchdowns in the win. He finished the season with 947 rushing yards, breaking the freshman rushing record previously held by Clinton Portis. Johnson also finished with 2,060 all-purpose yards in 2012, the second most in school history. (Willis McGahee had 2,108 yards in 2002).
NC State (6-5, 3-4 ACC)
• In a surprising move, athletics director Debbie Yow fired coach Tom O’Brien on Sunday.
"Coach O’Brien’s service to NC State over the last six years has been sincerely appreciated by Wolfpack Nation,” Yow said in a statement on the school’s website.
• David Amerson returned a Chase Rettig interception 55 yards for a touchdown with 27 seconds left in the first half. The Wolfpack led 14-3 at halftime and never trailed.
• Tom O’Brien’s former team will play in its third consecutive bowl game, in part due to the stellar play of quarterback Mike Glennon. Glennon, who graduated from NC State in May 2011 with a degree in business administration, is the first player in school history to notch multiple 30-touchdown seasons. He had 31 last year and has 30 this season.
North Carolina (8-4, 5-3 ACC)
• Following a Stefon Diggs 99-yard kickoff return to start the second half, the Tar Heels scored 24 unanswered points against the Terps. Quarterback Bryn Renner threw five touchdowns, tying a school record, and running back Gio Bernard rushed for 163 yards in the 45-38 win.
“Our number one goal this year was to be Coastal Division champs,” coach Larry Fedora said. “This senior class led this football team to a Coastal Division championship. I can’t say enough about what they’ve done for this program and for this University.”
• After the game, Fedora said he planned to meet with Bernard on Sunday to discuss his decision to go pro or return to UNC.
Virginia (4-8, 2-6 ACC)
• The Cavaliers had a chance to get the ball back in the final minute against VT, but coach Mike London decided to save two timeouts until four seconds remained. London called both timeouts to try to ice Hokies kicker Cody Journell. It did not pan out as Journell connected from 29 yards as time expired.
• Former UVa quarterback Matt Schaub was critical of London’s decision making. “Terrible clock management by my Wahoos today,” he tweeted on Saturday.
“I’ll have to go back and look at it,” London said of his clock management after the game.
Virginia Tech (6-6, 4-4 ACC)
• The Hokies are bowl eligible, even though it took far longer than it usually does for the team to qualify for the post-season. Virginia Tech began the year ranked No. 16, but fell from the rankings after its 35-17 loss to Pittsburgh. Frank Beamer’s team will play in its 20th consecutive bowl game. Its road to the postseason was just a little bit tougher this time.
• VT held the ball for the majority of the game (37:30) and nearly the entire the entire fourth quarter (11:21). The Hokies rushed for 174 yards and gained 23 first downs. In comparison, Virginia had 30 rushing yards and seven first downs. Quarterback Logan Thomas rushed for 117 yards on 29 carries.
Wake Forest (5-7, 3-5 ACC)
• Last year, the Demon Deacons ended their regular-season slate with a game against Vanderbilt. The Commodores rocked Wake 41-7. This year, the result was not much different. Vanderbilt traveled to Winston-Salem and beat the Demon Deacons by 34 points for the second consecutive year. The 55-21 loss prevented Wake from winning its sixth game, although the team still may have the opportunity to play in a bowl game.
• Redshirt freshman Alexander Kinal punted five times in the loss and earned a dubious distinction. His 95 punts this year are the most punts in a season in ACC history.
Last week, Jim Grobe admitted that Maryland’s decision to leave the ACC was a downer.
• “It’s disappointing to me, but hopefully Maryland can benefit,” he said. “The conferences are changing so much, and I think Maryland leaving, for a guy who played against them back in the early ‘70’s, I’ve been familiar with Maryland for a long, long time, so I’m sad to see them go.”