Around the ACC: Week 1

A year after a 9-4 conference bowl record and boasting national champion Clemson, the ACC opened up its  2017-2018 football season with a strong schedule that included a top-3 tilt.The Blue Zone takes a look at how all 14 ACC teams performed in the season's opening weekend.

Duke 60, North Carolina Central 7

The Blue Devils started the season off right against the Eagles, totaling 524 yards and hitting the 60-point mark for the first time since 1949. Redshirt freshman running back Brittain Brown exploded for 120 yards on just 10 carries in his first career game, and the defense held North Carolina Central to -17 rushing yards. Daniel Jones picked up where he left off last season, completing a cool 19-of-25 pass attempts for 213 yards. 

No. 1 Alabama 24, No. 3 Florida State 7

In arguably the most anticipated matchup of the season, the Crimson Tide’s vaunted defense clamped down on the Seminoles in Atlanta. Quarterback Jalen Hurts managed the game well, avoiding turnovers, and the rushing attack thrived behind their imposing offensive line for 173 yards. Alabama was helped by special teams gaffes by Florida State, which had a punt and field goal blocked and a fumble on a kickoff return.

After Florida State grabbed an early 7-3 lead, Hurts responded with a 53-yard toss to Calvin Ridley, the first score of 21 unanswered points. In the second half, the Crimson Tide strangled the Seminole offense, holding them scoreless and limiting them to 1.5 yards per carry. 

The most important fallout from the game was the season-ending injury to Deondre Francois.The Seminoles  had national-title hopes entering the season, but now will have to replace their Heisman hopeful at quarterback. 

No. 5 Clemson 56, Kent State 3

Any concerns about Deshaun Watson’s replacement were temporarily quelled as quarterback Kelly Bryant shone, completing 16 of 22 passes for 236 yards and rushing for 77 yards and a touchdown. 

The Tigers demonstrated balance, throwing for 312 yards and gaining 353 on the ground, while limiting the Golden Flashes to 120 yards, including a mere five yards in the air. But the competition will quickly improve for the Tigers—they will face three ranked teams in their next four contests, including No. 12 Auburn on Saturday. 

No. 16 Louisville 35, Purdue 28

Despite a sloppy game as a whole from the Cardinals, reigning Heisman trophy winner Lamar Jackson bailed out his team with another stellar performance to lead them to victory. The Boilermakers held a fourth quarter lead after Louisville committed nine false-start penalties, had 110 penalty yards, and fumbled the ball three times, twice at the goal-line.

But led by Jackson’s 485 total yards, the Cardinals were able to avoid an upset, and held onto the lead for the last nine minutes following the eventual game-winning touchdown pass to Dez Fitzpatrick to make the score 32-28. 

No. 18 Miami 41, Bethune-Cookman 13

After a tight first quarter with the contest knotted at 3-all, the Hurricanes opened the floodgates in the second quarter with three straight touchdowns to pull away from the Wildcats. In his second career start replacing Brad Kaaya, newly minted starter Malik Rosier threw for 217 yards and three scores and running back Mark Walton racked up 148 yards on 16 carries for two touchdowns. 

No. 21 Virginia Tech 31, No. 22 West Virginia 24

In the 52nd meeting between the rivals, and first since 2005, the Hokies took home the Black Diamond Trophy in an exciting victory over the Mountaineers. After redshirt freshman quarterback Josh Jackson’s 46-yard scamper, Travon McMillian punched home the score with a three-yard plunge to put Virginia Tech up 31-24 with six-and-a-half minutes left. Jackson, who has been compared to former standout Michael Vick, rushed for 101 yards to go along with his 235 passing yards for a total of two touchdowns. The Hokies had a chance to put West Virginia away with a field goal but Joey Slye missed a 32-yarder with just under two minutes to play. Quarterback Will Grier, who transferred from Florida, led the Mountaineers all the way to the 15, but they were unable to convert two opportunities to send the game to overtime, which spoiled an otherwise impressive performance from Grier, who threw for 371 yards for three touchdowns and rushed for 51 yards.

South Carolina 35, North Carolina State 28

Deebo Samuel started off the game with a 97-yard kickoff return and remained untouchable for the rest of contest, catching five passes for 83 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Gamecocks past the Wolfpack. Despite Ryan Finley’s 45 completions for 415 yards, North Carolina State was never able to grab the lead. The Wolfpack gained 258 more yards and 17 more first downs than South Carolina ,but two costly fumbles led to 14 Gamecock points – ultimately making the difference in the tilt.

California 35, North Carolina 30

The Tar Heels struggled to replace Mitch Trubisky, who was drafted No. 2 in the NFL Draft, and fell to the Golden Bears after leading by three heading into the fourth quarter. Brandon Harris was pulled after completing only seven passes for 60 yards to go along for two interceptions for a QBR of 8.3. Chazz Surratt failed to produce much offense in relief, throwing for just 161 yards and only rushing for a touchdown as time expired with the contest already decided. Despite returning its top three tacklers, North Carolina struggled on the defensive end, giving up two touchdowns of over 50 yards, allowing 469 yards, and ceding four touchdowns over the air.

Wake Forest 51, Presbyterian 7

The Demon Deacons took care of business as expected and steamrolled the FCS' Blue Hose. Led by starting quarterback John Wolford and backup quarterback Kendall Hinton, who combined for seven touchdowns, Wake Forest scored on its first six possessions en route to 487 yards and their highest point total since 2010.  Presbyterian failed to cross midfield until the third and finally scored in the fourth quarter, led by Torrance Marable’s 162 rushing yards. 

Syracuse 50, Central Connecticut 7

Syracuse routed the Blue Devils with a quick-strike offense that scored six times in drives under three minutes, including two sub-one minute possessions. Quarterback Eric Dungey threw for 328 yards and three touchdowns and added 51 rushing yards and another two scores on the ground. Receiver Steve Ishmael had a career-high 12 receptions for 134 yards as the Orange offense put up 586 yards.

Boston College 23, Northern Illinois 20

Anthony Brown, the first true freshman to start for BC since 2009, led the Eagles to a game-winning drive, setting up a Colton Lichtenburg field goal with just over two minutes left in the game. Brown, who completed 26 passes and threw two touchdowns, connected with Kobay White on fourth down to extend the critical drive. The Huskies had a chance to send the game to overtime, but fell short when Christian Hagan’s 39-yard attempt bounced off the crossbar.

Pittsburgh 28, Youngstown State 21

After jumping out to a 21-0 lead at the half, the Panthers squandered their advantage before finally claiming the victory in overtime. Although the Panthers had a chance to win it in regulation, Alex Kessman missed a field-goal in the dying seconds. Southern California transfer Max Brown threw for 140 yards, and the game-winning touchdown to a leaping Jester Weah on the first possession of overtime. The Penguins outgained Pittsburgh by over 200 yards in the second half, led by Christian Turner’s five receptions for 124 yards and two touchdowns, and forced a fumble on Brown to set up the game-tying drive. However, a costly turnover in overtime – an interception by Bricen Garner – ultimately stopped Youngstown State’s upset bid.

Virginia 28, William & Mary 10

After losing last season’s opener to FCS foe Richmond, the Cavaliers made sure they started off their new season 1-0 with a win over the Tribe. Quarterback Kurt Benkert completed 27 of 39 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns and Jordan Ellis rushed for 80 yards to lead the offense to 354 yards. William & Mary was unable to move the ball, generating only 12 first downs, and failing to score until a field goal in the third quarter. Although the Tribe cut the deficit to 11 with just under seven minutes to play, a mishandled punt and ensuing interception put the nail in the coffin for the underdogs.

No. 25 Tennessee 42, Georgia Tech 41

The resilient Volunteers once again found a way to win against the Yellow Jackets, facing two 14-point deficits and needed to block a field goal try at the end of regulation and snuff a two-point conversion in double overtime to walk away victorious. 

Georgia Tech gained nearly twice as many total yards as Tennessee, but it wasn't enough to top the Volunteers. Yellow Jacket quarterback TaQuon Marshall rushed for 249 yards and threw for 120 in a losing effort.  

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