The fourth thing that can happen when you pass

October 16, 2009
Ponders passes periodically portend pass interference penalties. (Doug Beng/Getty Images North America)

Ponder's passes periodically portend pass interference penalties. (Doug Beng/Getty Images North America)

I’ve been working this week on a lengthy piece about wide receiver effectiveness in the ACC – something similar to what we’ve already done with running backs. That post should go up some time next week (spoiler alert: the best receiver in the ACC is exactly who you think it is).

In the interim, though, I’ve been thinking about pass interference penalties. Noted public speaker Woody Hayes once said three things can happen when you pass the football, and two of them are bad: incompletions, interceptions and completions.

He didn’t mention interference penalties (did they exist when Woody coached?), which can be positive and pivotal. They often come on long passes where offenses get their biggest chunks of yardage, or on long-yardage downs, where they keep defenses from getting off the field.

My original intent was to look at which receivers draw the most interference calls, but play-by-play logs are spotty on listing intended receivers on interference plays. That left the quarterbacks, and there are a couple who’ve shown a knack for drawing 15-yard flags this year.

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Week 6 Roundup: The Glass-Half-Full Edition

October 11, 2009
Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis accounted for six touchdowns in a 49-28 win at N.C. State Saturday. (The Associated Press)

Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis accounted for six touchdowns in a 49-28 win at N.C. State Saturday. (The Associated Press)

You might look at the weekend’s ACC results and see even more cause for pessimism. Florida State, once a marquee program, fell to 0-3 in the conference. N.C. State, a preseason favorite to win the Atlantic Division, fell to 0-2 in the ACC after a home loss to lowly Duke. Six weeks into the season, ACC schools (Miami and North Carolina) are still playing Football Championship Subdivision patsies (Florida A&M and Georgia Southern).

But we prefer to see the positive. Consider:

Saturday was one of the greatest offensive shows in conference history. Not long ago (before last season, basically), the ACC was seen as a punchless league dominated by defense. Saturday’s games may have killed off that perception. In every game involving ACC teams, the winner scored at least 40 points. Fittingly, the day ended with Georgia Tech outlasting Florida State, 49-44.

Even Virginia broke 40 points. Running back Mikell Simpson’s four touchdowns drove the Cavaliers to a 47-7 win over Indiana.

Three ACC teams are still relevant nationally. Virginia Tech, Miami and Georgia Tech, the ACC’s last one-loss teams, all held serve. Every week these three avoid stumbling against lesser competition moves the conference closer to securing two BCS bids for the first time.

We may be watching one of the finest collections of ACC quarterbacks ever. Four conference passers are among the top 25 nationally in quarterback rating. While Miami’s Jacory Harris has gotten most of the attention, Lewis, Virginia Tech’s Tyrod Taylor, Skinner and Wilson have all been outstanding.

Four ACC quarterbacks accounted for at least four touchdowns. Duke’s Thaddeus Lewis and FSU’s Christian Ponder threw five touchdowns apiece (Lewis added a rushing TD). Wake Forest’s Riley Skinner threw four touchdowns. Georgia Tech’s Josh Nesbitt threw for one touchdown and ran for three more.

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IoT’s Power Rankings: Week 4

September 30, 2009
Running back Josh Oglesby and the Hokies pull ahead of Miami and into first place in the Instead of Texting Power Rankings this week. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Running back Josh Oglesby and the Hokies pull ahead of Miami and into first place in the Instead of Texting Power Rankings this week. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Let’s take a little trip in the Wayback Machine, shall we?

Set the dial to Sept. 23, 2009. Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson were the toppermost of the poppermost. President Barack Obama was trying to figure out that Afghan War. People actually still thought/doubted that government-provided health insurance could work.

And ACC Commissioner John Swofford had the football conference he’d been dreaming of for more than five years. Leading the conference was a Floridian first tier, ready to storm the upper reaches of the AP and USA Today polls. A stalwart Virginia Tech team stood ready to challenge the Sunshine Staters. A few steps behind were some frisky-looking contenders (North Carolina, Clemson, Georgia Tech). Most of the remainders were looking ready for basketball.

Ah, those were the days. But things have changed. VT reclaimed the throne by undressing the Miami Hurricanes. Florida State continued to baffle by losing at home to a South Florida team led by a first-time starter at quarterback. Georgia Tech drilled UNC and Clemson lost at home to 15th-ranked Texas Christian.

Maybe some day Swoff-daddy will get the ACC he sought with the 2004 expansion. Not today.

On to the rankings.

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Week 4 Roundup: Hokies are still “the man”

September 27, 2009
Virginia Tech DB Dorian Porch sacked Jacory Harris and forced him to fumble early in the first quarter, marking the start of a long day for the Miami quarterback. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Virginia Tech DB Dorian Porch sacked Jacory Harris and forced him to fumble early in the first quarter, marking the start of a long day for the Miami quarterback. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

One of the great philosophers of our time is fond of saying, “To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man!” After thoroughly dismantling upstart Miami 31-7, Virginia Tech has proven it’s still the man … er, team to beat … in the ACC.

The Hurricanes were the team everyone, including this guy, was talking about in the run up to Saturday’s showdown. A win over VT would have given the ‘Canes victories over the three best teams on their conference schedule and put them into position to run away with the Coastal Division. Instead, the Hokies reminded everyone why they’ve been kings of the ACC ever since they joined the conference.

The game was vintage Beamerball. DB Dorian Porch sacked Miami QB Jacory Harris on the ‘Canes first possession and forced him to fumble at his own 11, setting up the Hokies’ first touchdown. With the score 14-0 in the second quarter, Jacob Sykes blocked a punt that Matt Reidy recovered and walked into the end zone. The offense rushed for 272 yards, and the defense harassed Harris all day, something Florida State and Georgia Tech couldn’t do.

Between VT’s win and Georgia Tech’s 24-7 victory over North Carolina, the Coastal Division looks like it’s going to stay a four-team race for a while. But until someone knocks them off, the Hokies are still “the man.”

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Week 2 Roundup: Bounce-back week

September 13, 2009
Clemson held reigning ACC Player of the Year Jonathan Dwyer to 66 yards rushing, but Georgia Tech still came out on top 30-27.  (Getty Images/Kevin C. Cox)

Clemson held reigning ACC Player of the Year Jonathan Dwyer to 66 yards rushing, but Georgia Tech came out on top 30-27. (Getty Images/Kevin C. Cox)

The second weekend of the season wasn’t always pretty for the ACC — in fact, it often wasn’t — but the end result was much better than a week ago.

ACC teams went 8-1 against nonconference competition on Saturday, a significant improvement over last weekend’s 4-6 showing. Virginia Tech, N.C. State and Boston College easily took care of business. Duke — yes, Duke — scored a 35-19 win on the road against Army.

Still, the line between 8-1 and 4-5 was thin:

  • North Carolina needed a safety on a holding call in the end zone with 1:32 left to beat Connecticut.
  • Wake Forest got a quarterback sneak with 2 seconds left to complete a 14-point comeback against Stanford.
  • Maryland went to overtime to beat I-AA James Madison at home.
  • Florida State survived another I-AA team, Jacksonville State, by scoring two touchdowns in the last 35 seconds of a 19-9 home win.

What should have been the only real nonconference test for an ACC team was Virginia’s home game against No. 16 TCU. The Cavaliers lost 30-14. Next week should reveal a lot more about the quality of the conference.

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