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ACC Roundup: FSU Loss Adds to League Woes

By Dave Holcomb
SouthernPigskin.com
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Dave Holcomb talks about week two in the ACC.

There wasn’t a single ACC conference game in Week 2 of the 2021 season. That meant there was an opportunity for every team in the conference to win.

The overall record was strong, as ACC programs went 11-3 in Week 2. But just two of those wins came against Power 5 competition, and Florida State lost to an FCS opponent for the first time in history.

Florida State only had to shut down one more Jacksonville State drive with 1:23 remaining in the fourth quarter to secure its first win of the season. But the Gamecocks converted a pair of third downs to move to the Seminoles 41-yard line with 12 seconds remaining.

Three straight incompletions after that pushed Jacksonville State into a fourth-and-10 situation with only six seconds left. But Mike Norvell didn’t do his best coaching on the next play, and it cost Florida State.

There were six seconds left. That, first and foremost, should have dictated the defensive alignment. For any receiver to get behind the last defender in that situation is just embarrassing.

But the Seminoles defense was in that situation because Florida State’s offense scored just two touchdowns. Seminoles quarterback and Week 1 feel-good story McKenzie Milton averaged 4.3 yards per pass. Florida State didn’t reach the end zone in the second half, losing 20-17.

So after a moral victory in Week 1 -- a loss that actually gave the ACC some respect on an otherwise rough weekend -- Florida State completely choked in a key moment to lose to a team that lost 31-0 to UAB on opening weekend.

Florida State’s loss to Jacksonville State is as big of a blemish on the ACC as any other loss in the conference in the first two weeks. But fortunately, there were more positives for the conference in Week 2.

Key Games

Pitt 41, Tennessee 34

The Panthers fell behind early on the road to the Tennessee Volunteers, but Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett didn’t waiver. Pickett completed 66.67% of his passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns. The Volunteers didn’t quit, but Pitt’s 41 points, the most the program has scored against a Power 5 non-conference opponent since Sept. 2016, was enough for Pitt to tally a big win for the ACC.

Does it say something about the ACC that it’s best non-conference win in the first two weeks is against Tennessee? Probably. But for now, the ACC will just have to take it.

Virginia 42, Illinois 14

Behind five touchdown passes from Brennan Armstrong, the Cavaliers routed the Fighting Illini. Armstrong also threw for 405 yards, averaging 11.3 yards per pass, and Virginia scored a touchdown in every quarter.

Virginia has outscored its first two opponents, 85-14, but the Cavaliers face a much more difficult test on the road against North Carolina next week.

Mississippi State 24, NC State 10

It wasn’t all great news for the ACC in non-conference Power 5 matchups Saturday. The Wolfpack outgained the Bulldogs, but NC State turned the ball over three times and didn’t score a touchdown until late in the fourth quarter.

Quarterback Devin Leary threw for 303 yards with a touchdown and interception, but it took him 49 attempts to reach that total. He averaged 6.2 yards per attempt, and NC State posted a dismal 1.3 yards per carry.

Rutgers 17, Syracuse 7

The Orange offense was arguably worse. Tommy DeVito threw for only 149 yards with an interception, and Syracuse averaged 2.6 yards per carry against Rutgers at home. Syracuse also committed eight penalties and allowed the Scarlet Knights to control the ball for nearly 36 minutes.

Like NC State, Syracuse had three giveaways and uncharacteristically had zero takeaways. The Orange have two more non-conference games outside the Power 5 before they open the ACC schedule on Sept. 24.

Best of the Rest

Clemson 49, South Carolina State 3

The Tigers rebounded as expected to extend their home winning streak to 29. Will Shipley rushed for 80 yards and two touchdowns.

North Carolina 59, Georgia State 17

The Tar Heels bounced back as well, especially Sam Howell, who was 21 of 29 for 352 yards and three touchdowns. Howell rushed for 104 yards and two more scores on the ground.

Miami 25, Appalachian State 23

The Hurricanes avoided adding to the ACC embarrassment in Florida on Saturday but just barely. The Mountaineers claimed the lead with 5:48 remaining, but Miami drove into field goal range to respond with a field goal at about the 2-minute mark of the fourth quarter.

Miami’s defense played much better in the final minute than Florida State, sealing the victory. Miami will next play Michigan State, who has largely been better than expected in the first two weeks.

Other Scores

Duke 45, North Carolina A&T 17

Virginia Tech 35, Middle Tennessee 14

Georgia Tech 45, Kennesaw State 17

Wake Forest 41, Norfolk State 16

Boston College 45, UMass 28

Louisville 30, Eastern Kentucky 3