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Around the ACC: Week 7

Week 7 featured six ACC matchups and one nonconference game, many of which were close contests. The Blue Zone takes a look at how the 13 ACC teams in action fared.

No. 7 Louisville 24, Duke 14

In a game in which head coach Bobby Petrino’s Cardinals were expected to coast to a victory, the Blue Devils (3-4, 0-3 in the ACC) controlled the pace of the game to keep Louisville's offense off the field and stayed in the game until the final minutes. Down 17-7 at the start of the fourth quarter, quarterback Daniel Jones led the Duke offense on a methodical, nearly nine-minute drive down the field which culminated in an impressive 20-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Johnathan Lloyd. With Louisivlle (5-1, 3-1) in front by just three and more than six minutes remaining, Heisman Trophy frontrunner Lamar Jackson and the Cardinals were in legitimate danger of a shocking upset. 

The Blue Devil defense originally kept Louisville’s offense out of the end zone on the Cardinals’ final drive, setting kicker Evan O’Hara up for a 46-yard field goal attempt. The attempt was no good, but a controversial roughing the kicker call on Breon Borders gave Louisville an automatic first down. The Cardinals capitalized on the second chance with a rushing touchdown by Jackson to put the game out of reach. Despite the loss, Duke’s defensive unit did an excellent job of slowing Jackson down. In his first five games of the season, he was averaging 462 total yards and 5.6 touchdowns. In Friday’s game, Jackson was held to just 325 all-purpose yards to go with two touchdowns.

North Carolina 20, No. 16 Miami 13

In the first half, North Carolina’s offense was lethal, as the team entered the halftime locker room leading Miami by a score of 20-3. But the Tar Heels (5-2, 3-1) failed to score a single point for the rest of the game, paving the way for a near comeback by quarterback Brad Kaaya and the Hurricanes. Trailing 20-10 with nearly seven minutes to go, Miami (4-2, 1-2) failed to capitalize on a prime touchdown opportunity, as it had to settle for a short field goal at the North Carolina 4-yard line. After a long drive by North Carolina, Miami got the ball back with less than two minutes remaining in need of a touchdown. But the Hurricanes failed to capitalize, as Kaaya fumbled the ball on just the second play of the drive to seal their fate. North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky starred, gaining 346 total yards and passing for two touchdowns.

No. 3 Clemson 24, N.C. State 17

In a similar scenario to the Duke-Louisville game, reigning Heisman Trophy winner Deshaun Watson and his Tigers nearly got upset by an unranked team from North Carolina. A fourth-quarter touchdown run by N.C. State’s Matthew Dayes tied the game at 17, and the Wolfpack (4-2, 1-1) had a golden opportunity to win the game at the end of regulation. But Kyle Bambert pushed a 33-yard field-goal attempt wide right—his third miss of the afternoon—as time expired, sending the game to overtime. On Clemson’s first drive of the overtime period, Deshaun Watson threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Artavis Scott. N.C. State quarterback Ryan Finley threw an interception on the first play of the ensuing drive, ending the game. 

Watson kept his Heisman campaign intact, passing for 378 yards and adding another 35 yards on the ground while reaching the end zone three times, but he did throw an interception that got returned for a touchdown for the first time of his career. Standout wide receiver Mike Williams had a strong game for Clemson (7-0, 4-0), gaining 146 yards and catching a touchdown pass, but the Tigers lost three fumbles in Wolfpack territory to keep their opponent close.

No. 14 Florida State 17, Wake Forest 6

This game ended up being closer than expected, and if not for the Demon Deacons’ inability to find the end zone, it may have been even closer. Wake Forest’s offense was forced to settle for a field-goal attempt inside the Florida State 25-yard line three times, converting just two of the kicks. Although both their passing and rushing attacks struggled mightily, the Demon Deacons (5-2, 2-2) did have a lone bright spot on the offensive side of the ball. Sophomore wide receiver Cortez Lewis caught six passes for 109 yards, which more than doubled his previous season high of 52 yards. Florida State wide receiver Travis Rudolph put together an impressive game, racking up a 238 yards on 13 receptions. On the final play of the first half, his 58-yard catch left the Seminoles (5-2, 2-2) just one yard short of a touchdown, but Florida State finally pushed its lead to two scores with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Deondre Francois to Auden Tate midway through the third quarter.

Syracuse 31, No. 17 Virginia Tech 17

Syracuse’s offense got out to a fast start courtesy of a 58-yard passing touchdown from quarterback Eric Dungey to wide receiver Ervin Phillips—who finished with 139 receiving yards—on the first drive of the game, and the Orange held on for the upset at home to send Virginia Tech (4-2, 2-1) to its first ACC loss. At the beginning of the second quarter, Syracuse (3-4, 1-2) added to its lead with a trick play—Dungey flipped the ball to running back Dontae Strickland, who threw a perfect strike down the field to Brisly Estime for an 84-yard touchdown.

The Orange entered the second half with a comfortable 17-3 lead, but the Hokies didn’t back down. Two passing touchdowns from junior quarterback Jerod Evans ultimately tied the game at 17 early in the fourth quarter. Syracuse proceeded to score on back-to-back drives to put the game away, as the stars of the game—Dungey and Strickland—continued to excel. Head coach Dino Babers was hired this past offseason to resurrect the Orange football program—it has just three seasons above .500 in the past 14 years—and this signature win over a ranked conference opponent is definitely a nice place to start.

Pittsburgh 45, Virginia 31

Throughout the first half, these two offenses ran wild as they alternated touchdowns and entered halftime with the Panthers leading the Cavaliers (2-4, 1-1) by a score of 35-28. But the offensive production came to an abrupt halt after the break, as both teams went scoreless in the third quarter. Pittsburgh (5-2, 2-1) scored 10 consecutive points to open the fourth quarter, all but ensuring the victory. Panther running back James Conner totaled 118 yards to go with two touchdowns and helped Pittsburgh keep possession for more than 36 minutes. Special teams also played a big role in the Panthers' victory, as Quadree Henderson returned a kickoff 93 yards to the house in the first quarter.

Georgia Tech 35, Georgia Southern 24

Despite a strong push by the Eagles, the Yellow Jackets ultimately prevailed in the only nonconference matchup of the week involving an ACC team. After three consecutive losses to strong conference opponents—Clemson, Miami and Pittsburgh—Georgia Tech (4-3) was in dire need of a win this weekend. Dual-threat senior quarterback Justin Thomas played a major role in the victory, passing for 172 yards and a touchdown and adding 78 yards and two more scores on the ground. On the defensive side of the ball, junior cornerback Corey Griffin starred with 10 solo tackles to go along with a sack.

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