Friedlander: What we learned about every ACC team in Week 3
The ACC has gotten off to a promising start against nonconference competition this season, going 28-6 overall and 17-6 against FBS teams through the first 3 weeks.
And yet, it has come up short in both of its two biggest tests.
Defending conference champion Pittsburgh and preseason Coastal Division favorite Miami both had opportunities to attract national attention for themselves and the conference – and inject themselves in the College Football Playoff picture – against high-profile SEC opponents.
Neither took advantage.
The Hurricanes’ loss at Texas A&M on Saturday was especially damaging thanks to the Aggies’ dramatic drop in the polls following their loss the previous week to Appalachian State.
Not all the news was as disappointing for ACC teams this week.
Let’s dive in and see what we learned about every team in Week 3:
The Eagles finally broke into the win column, scoring 7 more points in their 38-17 win against Maine than they did in their first 2 games – losses to Rutgers and Virginia Tech – combined.
OK, so it was against an FCS opponent and it didn’t get off to a promising start. BC had negative yards on the ground in the first quarter and trailed 10-7 at one point. But when you come into a game ranked dead last among FBS programs in rushing as the Eagles did, you have to start somewhere.
And coach Jeff Hafley’s team got that start against the Black Bears, doing it even though it was missing starters Ozzy Trapilo and Kevin Cline on the offensive line. Pat Garwo II ran for 78 yards and 2 touchdowns on 17 carries and freshman Alex Broome added 32 yards on 8 attempts to finally give quarterback Phil Jurkovec a little help. Jurkovec took advantage to complete 25-of-32 passes for 320 yards and 2 scores.
BC wasn’t the only ACC team that finally began to show some signs of life in the running attack. While quarterback DJ Uiagalelei’s receivers are still having trouble getting open, Will Shipley is beginning to show why he was one of the nation’s top-rated prospects coming out of high school.
The sophomore averaged over 11 yards per carry and scored twice in rushing for a career-high 139 yards in the Tigers’ 48-20 win against Louisiana Tech. His 32-yard run to the end zone in the opening minute of the second half proved to be the catalyst that helped Clemson turn a shaky first half into a comfortable victory.
Shipley has 6 touchdowns and is the first Tiger since 1950 to score multiple touchdowns in each of the first 3 games of a season. Uiagalelei also had a big game running the ball, picking up 62 of Clemson’s 280 yards on the ground.
The Blue Devils weren’t expected to be tested against FCS foe NC A&T and they weren’t. But what we learned about coach Mike Elko’s surprising team is that they didn’t take an overmatched opponent lightly.
Quarterback Riley Leonard went 11-of-12 for 155 yards and 2 touchdowns passing and contributed a 56-yard scoring run to a rushing attack that netted 222 yards as Duke improved to 3-0 for the first time since 2018. The defense also did its part by holding the Aggies to just a pair of field goals until long after the issue was settled in the fourth quarter.
The Blue Devils will get a much stiffer test next week at equally surprising Kansas. But from the looks of Saturday’s performance, they’re prepared for the challenge.
Say hello to Johnny Wilson.
As much as backup quarterback Tate Rodemaker contributed to the Seminoles’ come-from-behind road victory at Louisville in relief of injured starter Jordan Travis, the breakout star of Friday’s game was the transfer wide receiver from Arizona State.
At 6-7, Wilson is a huge target for whichever quarterback is throwing to him. He used every inch of that size to make a spectacular toe-tapping catch in the back of the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown with just under 8 minutes remaining.
Wilson caught 7 passes for 149 yards, averaging better than 21 yards per catch against the Cardinals. His 11 catches in his first 3 games as a Seminole are just 7 fewer than he had in his 2 seasons combined at Arizona State.
In addition to Wilson and Rodemaker, who went 6-of-10 for 109 yards with 2 scores and an interception, the other takeaway for FSU is that coach Mike Norvell’s team is resilient and deep. Already missing defensive tackle Fabien Lovett, the Seminoles won despite losing Travis and pass-rushing star Jared Verse to injuries.
There’s not much more we can learn about this Yellow Jackets team after a 42-0 drubbing at the hands of Ole Miss, other than what we already know – that it just is not a good team. Tech was outgained 547-214 and outclassed in every other phase of the game.
It will take a few weeks – or maybe a few hours – before we find out the only thing left to learn about Tech. That is how long it will take for coach Geoff Collins (now 10-27 in the ATL) to be told that his services are no longer needed.
We already knew that as talented and dynamic as quarterback Malik Cunningham is – and he was on point again Friday by running for 127 yards and 2 touchdowns while throwing for 243 and another score. We also knew that as productive as Cunningham is, he can’t always do it all by himself.
What we did learn about the Cardinals in their 35-31 home loss to Atlantic Division rival FSU is that the true identity of coach Scott Satterfield’s team is much more like the one we saw in a Week 1 loss to Syracuse than in last week’s win at Central Florida.
They committed 3 turnovers and 11 penalties for 81 yards, most of them pre-snap procedural infractions. They failed to take advantage of scoring opportunities, couldn’t stop the run and made a backup quarterback look good by allowing receivers to get wide open downfield. With the meat of its schedule still to come, Louisville has a lot of work to do, quickly, to keep this still-young season from going off the rails.
Tyler Van Dyke is one of the top NFL quarterback prospects in college football this season. But Saturday in College Station, we learned that the Hurricanes’ offense and Van Dyke in particular still aren’t good enough to withstand the loss of their leading receiver and still beat a team with an SEC defense.
Xavier Restapo, who amassed 11 catches for 172 yards and a touchdown in Miami’s first 2 games, will be out of action for at least a month after suffering a foot injury. Without him, Van Dyke was unable to get his team into the end zone.
Although Miami’s defense played well enough to win while holding A&M to just 17 points and 264 total yards, 3 field goals weren’t enough for the Hurricanes to avoid being downgraded to a tropical storm.
The Wolfpack are still in search of an offensive rhythm, but they may just have found themselves a playmaker in running back Demie Sumo-Karngbaye.
The redshirt freshman scored on an explosive 14-yard run around left end in the first half, then added a 38-yard touchdown catch off a pass from wide receiver Thayer Thomas in the third quarter to highlight State’s 27-14 win against Texas Tech.
He also had a 25-yard reception that appeared headed for another score until the ball got knocked out of his hands by a Red Raiders defender just before he crossed the goal line. Thrust into the role of his team’s primary ballcarrier after Jordan Houston was injured early in the third quarter, Sumo-Karngbaye finished with 54 rushing yards and 93 receiving yards on 4 catches.
His performance was one of the few bright spots for an offense that has been just good enough to get by in two games against FBS opponents this season.
We now know who the Panthers’ third-string quarterback is. It’s freshman Nate Yarnell, who went from understudy to starter at Western Michigan on Saturday after both Kedon Slovis and Nick Patti couldn’t answer the bell because of injuries.
Yarnell’s coming out party wasn’t nearly as dramatic as that of Florida State’s Rodemaker, in part because coach Pat Narduzzi kept things as basic as possible to keep from overloading his young quarterback.
It turned out to be a winning game plan. Yarnell completed 9-of-12 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown while avoiding any catastrophic mistakes. That combined with a 133-yard rushing performance by Israel Abanikanda and a defense that helped put points on the board with a pick-6 by Marquis Williams, was good enough to get the W and avenge last year’s crushing loss to the Broncos.
This was the game in which we were supposed to learn whether the Orange are for real or not. Well, they’re 3-0. But it’s still anybody’s guess how good they actually are.
Coach Dino Babers and his team did everything they could to not beat Purdue at the Dome. They threw the ball instead of feeding the ACC’s best running back while trying to protect a 10-point fourth-quarter lead. They left the Boilermakers’ best receiver, Charlie Jones, wide open too many times. And they were twice bailed out of costly turnovers – once by a reversed call on a fumble and another on a penalty that negated an interception.
In the end, Purdue did a better job of giving the game away by throwing an inexplicable pick-6 to defensive lineman Caleb Okechukwu to allow Syracuse to build that 10-point lead, then committing a rash of unsportsmanlike conduct and pass interference penalties to help the Orange mount their game-winning drive.
The only pass Garrett Shrader completed on the final possession was the 25-yarder to Oronde Gadson II in the end zone with 7 seconds left. We still don’t know how good the Orange really are. Maybe we’ll find out next week against Virginia.
Speaking of the Cavaliers, they reminded us that in a sport dominated by statistics, the only numbers that really matter are those on the scoreboard at the end of the game.
Fortunately for coach Tony Elliott and his team, those numbers favored UVA on Saturday. But just barely.
The Cavaliers rolled up 513 total yards, including an encouraging 229 on the ground. And yet, because of 3 turnovers, 8 penalties and 2 missed field goals, they found themselves trailing Old Dominion with 51 seconds remaining.
Unlike rival Virginia Tech, which lost to the Monarchs during Week 1, most of UVA’s mistakes came on the plus side of the field. And unlike the Hokies’ Brent Pry, Elliott managed the clock well, leaving enough time for Brennan Armstrong to drive his team in position for the game-winning 26-yard field goal by Brendan Farrell as time expired.
Even with the win, the Cavaliers have a lot of work to do.
Yes, the Hokies won easily. But even in a 27-7 victory against a bad Wofford team, we learned that Pry and his staff also have a lot of work left to do, especially on offense.
Despite putting up some decent numbers – 475 total yards, including 314 passing by Grant Wells – Tech had trouble finishing long drives and couldn’t put the hammer down in the second half, scoring only 7 points, when it had a chance to blow the game open against an overmatched opponent.
That’s not going to cut it against even a middle-of-the-road Power 5 team such as next week’s opponent West Virginia.
The best thing you can say about the Deacons’ 37-36 survival against Liberty is that they nearly got caught looking ahead to next week’s Atlantic Division showdown against Clemson. You can also chalk the struggle up, at least somewhat, to the fact that Liberty is better than most gave it credit.
But there were some disturbing aspects to Wake’s performance that don’t bode well against a more physical Clemson team that has had its way with the Deacons over the past few meetings. The first is their inability to run the ball. Wake gained only 21 net yards on 26 attempts for an average of less than a yard per carry. It also allowed 3 sacks and 10 TFLs. If it couldn’t block the Flames, good luck keeping the Tigers’ elite defensive front out of the backfield.
On the other side of the ball, the Deacons were burned for 11 big plays (rushes of 10 or more yards, passes of 15 or more) and allowed Liberty to convert 4 fourth down plays.
Coach Dave Clawson can’t be pleased, even in victory.