Photo courtesy of Matt Riley/Virginia athletics
This week’s ACC slate came in with a lot of potential.
While ultimately a majority turned out to be multiple possession games, there are plenty of takeaways to make. Here are some short thoughts on each ACC game from this past weekend:
Wake Forest 53, North Carolina 59
We knew it would be a shootout, but this game exceeded all expectations. North Carolina found itself with another large deficit but finally completed a comeback after outscoring the Demon Deacons 28-8 in the fourth quarter.
Over the last two games, North Carolina’s Sam Howell has proven that he is truly an elite quarterback. In this one, he had 571 total yards and seven touchdowns.
Additionally, every main weapon, whether it was running backs Javonte Williams and Michael Carter or wide receivers Dazz Newsome and Dyami Brown, played a prominent role in the Tar Heels’ offensive production. The one downside to their performance was their defense. Once again, it proved why the Tar Heels are unable to take that next step.
Wake Forest, on the other hand, has lost both FBS games in which it scored more than 40 points. The defense has been mostly good this year, but inconsistent, which was shown in this game. True freshman defensive backs Nick Anderson and Caelen Carson have been huge pieces this year but were overpowered by the North Carolina offense.
The offense is definitely still there though. Led by the Sam Hartman to Donovan Greene and Jaquarii Roberson connections, which combined for 437 yards and four touchdowns, the passing game flourished. With four games remaining and a current 4-3 record, finishing the season above .500 seems very possible for the Demon Deacons.
Miami 25, Virginia Tech 24
This relatively well-played match-up ultimately ended in a Hurricanes’ comeback victory. Miami quarterback D’Eriq King definitely took a step back from his monster performance the previous Friday night. The major issue, however, was the pass protection.
The Miami signal caller was given just 2.4 seconds to throw this week, per Pro Football Focus. That was the lowest mark in the conference. Overall, the Canes’ offensive line took a huge step up from last year but they need to return to their usual production down the stretch.
Virginia Tech seems to have the same issues as in last week’s loss to Liberty. Even though the defense was able to make more stops against another dynamic quarterback, coaching and clock management cost the Hokies down the stretch. The offensive play calling was once again too predictable. Quarterback Hendon Hooker did play well but he took several costly sacks in the final minutes.
The controversy over head coach Justin Fuente has caused tons of tension within the Virginia Tech fan base. It’s hard not to side with the majority that believe the Hokies would be better off looking elsewhere. In reality, his long-term future in Blacksburg is still unclear.
Louisville 17, Virginia 31
Considering the Cardinals were missing star players Tutu Atwell and Javian Hawkins, their limited offensive output makes sense. Now falling to 1-6 in conference play, it is difficult to have many positive takeaways though.
The one thing we did learn is that quarterback Malik Cunningham can thrive when he is able to use his legs. Cunningham rushed the ball a season-high 20 times and was rewarded with 197 yards and two touchdowns. Considering he averaged 7.7 yards per pass attempt, Cunningham did not have a terrible day by any means.
The lone major miscue was a costly interception return for a touchdown by Virginia linebacker Noah Taylor. Cunningham has been misused most of this year, and was finally able to utilize his strengths when he had to be the main piece.
Regarding Virginia fans, don’t expect them to be ecstatic. The Cavaliers made plenty of mistakes, including a fumble on the goal line by tight end Tony Poljan. But the Cavaliers secured their second consecutive victory and were in control for most of the second half.
Quarterback Brennan Armstrong still has ball security issues but the ability to move the ball downfield and use his legs when plays break down. Lavel Davis is a phenomenal vertical threat, who will be very attractive to NFL scouts in the future.
Virginia’s next two games (Abilene Christian and Florida State) are very winnable. If it can move over .500 after such a rough start, it would be a phenomenal turnaround for head coach Bronco Mendenhall and staff.
Notre Dame 45, Boston College 31
The results of this game reinforced feelings about both teams. Notre Dame should win out the rest of the regular season but it is not impressive enough to be considered championship material. Boston College is a solid mid-tier conference team that will help make the ACC as a whole look better.
The major hype around this game was the fact Notre Dame chose Ian Book as its quarterback over Phil Jurkovec, who ultimately ended up transferring to Boston College. While Book outperformed Jurkovec on Saturday, it still isn’t concrete that he is the better option.
Book has a tremendous receiving corps and is well-protected week after week. Meanwhile, Jurkovec is what makes the offense thrive and is the major reason for the Eagles’ quick turnaround.
Boston College’s inability to establish the run continued. The ground game was the Eagles’ bread and butter during the entire Steve Addazio era.
With essentially the same personnel, the Eagles failed to eclipse 100 yards for the sixth time this season. Yet, their overall offense has improved.
Florida State 22, NC State 38
During the course of the week, Florida State lost several key pieces to its program. When starting quarterback Jordan Travis was ruled out, it was clear that the Seminoles had no chance in this game.
NC State quarterback Bailey Hockman had a similar performance to the Miami game. He started off sharp, then tapered off as the game progressed.
But in either case, he was not the reason the Wolfpack won or lost. This Saturday, Florida State held its own up front but was outmatched by the NC State receiving corps, especially Thayer Thomas.
The main positive takeaway for Florida State is that young quarterback Chubba Purdy showed potential. Even though he was most productive when the Noles were trailing heavily, Purdy ended up compiling his first two career touchdowns and recording 7.9 yards per passing attempt.
Next weekend, the Seminoles will host an angry Clemson team, who will also benefit from the return of quarterback Trevor Lawrence. The Wolfpack will hope to secure a winning season while preventing the ranked Liberty Flames from going undefeated against the ACC.