ACC theme: Survive and Advance (Shakily)

markblaudschun

Call this a Survivor week in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Top-ranked Clemson needed all of its skills and some of its luck to avoid having Syracuse spoil an unbeaten season for the second straight year.

In Louisville, Florida State needed a gift or a brain fart from Cardinal coach Bobby Petrino to avoid an 0-3 start in the ACC for only the 2nd time in history.

And at BC, well BC scored more points than Temple in its final non-conference game of the season, but it would be a bit of stretch to say that the Eagles' really beat the Owls who were ready to hoot until the final few minutes.

The story of the week was in Clemson where Death Valley looked aptly named--for the Tigers--until the final few minutes.

The week began with controversy when senior Clemson QB Kelly Bryant was demoted by Clemson coach Dabo Swinney who thought the Tigers best chance to win the national championship was with freshman Trevor Lawrence.

Fine, said Bryant, who had used up his four game eligibility quota of playing this season without losing a year of eligibility (a new NCAA rule, expanded the window from 1 to 4 games).

Well, not fine. Bryant said he would transfer--like right now. And he was gone, which left Clemson with one experienced QB. The only real danger, conceded Swinney, would be if Lawrence got hurt.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

Guess what. In the second quarter Lawrence got knocked out with what appears to be a concussion and Syracuse, which stunned everyone in the college football world by beating Clemson last year in the Dome, was doing it again.

Without Lawrence, Swinney had to go to his bench and insert a redshirt freshman named Chase Brice, who was No. 6 on the depth chart in January. But with the top two spots locked up, all the other back ups transferred out of Clemson.

It looked like history was going to repeat itself when Syracuse carried a 23-13 lead into the second half.

Not to worry. Clemson still had some weapons, such as running back Travis Etienne, who literally carried much of the Tiger offense, rushing for more than 200 yards, including the final two yards providing the Tigers with a scary 27-23 lead.

Brice did his job as well, including making a few key plays on the final drive.

""I'll never forget this one,'' said a relieved Swinney who said that Bryant would be welcomed back if he wanted to return to Clemson.

***

Things were not quite as nice for the home team in Louisville, where the Cardinals looked like they had things wrapped up against FSU, with a 24-21 lead and a first down just outside the red zone.

FSU had only a time out left. All Louisville had to do was hold onto the ball and run off the remaining seconds.

Well...The play (reportedly) came in from Louisville coach Bobby Petrino for QB Jawon Pass to do just that.

Bad move. Pass's pass was intercepted, giving FSU the ball and hope, which turned into celebration when FSU QB Deondre Francois connected on a 58-yard scoring pass to WR Nyqwan Murray (and three broken tackles) for the go-ahead score.

""I look back at it and I guess I should have run the ball,'' said Petrino, who may have been shielding his QB if the on TV discussion between Petrino and Pass could be analyzed without sound bites.

FSU coach Willie Taggart, who has had a rocky start in his first season with the Seminoles, sounded grateful. ""We needed this win to continue the progress that we're trying to do with our program,'' said Taggart, which seems a strange comment, considering that FSU was a nationally ranked program before Taggart arrived.

There you have it, Clemson and FSU, the past and present ACC powers both going into the survival mode.

***

The Heights (An outsider's view of the going on at Boston College, aka
The Heights)

No one officially announced it, but the producers of Survivor filmed a new episode on Saturday at Boston College's Alumni Stadium before an announced crowd of 40,111, using coach Steve Addazio's BC Eagles as the main characters, with the Temple football team appearing in a supporting role.

Officially, the score was 45-35 in favor of BC, which will go into the record books as an Eagles' victory and elevated BC's record to 4-1. A victory next week at North Carolina State will improve the Eagles mark to 2-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, which is the best start for a BC team in league competition in 11 years.

But BC insiders (or even snoopy outsiders like A Jersey Guy) know it was something much different.

BC didn't really win on Saturday, it survived the following potential setbacks.

Losing their best defensive back Lukas Dennis on a targeting call in the second quarter.

Losing their best player running back AJ Dillion to an ankle injury (hopefully for the Eagles only a sprain) in the third quarter.

A defensive meltdown which appeared early in the first quarter and never really went away for the rest of the game in which Temple nearly came back from a 38-21 second half deficit, closing within three at 38-35 with 3:05 remaining and Temple with the ball.

A defensive breakdown for the second week in a row, in which Tempe piled up 452 yards of offense and looked unstoppable for all but a few series. Were it not for a second quarter stretch of mistakes by Temple in which they saw a 21-13 lead turn into a 31-21 halftime deficit (and yes, the BC defense deserves some credit for that), the smiles on BC fans might have been frowns at the end of the game.

Addazio knows the Eagles "escaped'' as much as they won and must fix a bunch of things going into next week's road game against a North Carolina State team which remained unbeaten with a 4-0 record after rolling over Virginia on Saturday.

Addazio also must have some concern about the status of Dillon, who returned to form with 163 yards and a pair of TDs before he limped off the field on Saturday.

""We need more consistency,'' said Addazio after the game. ""This is a team that is getting tougher by the week. We've got to tighten up some of the spots that seem to be areas of concern. And I'll address those.''

Despite all those worries the bottom line is 4-1 after it's non-conference schedule. That's not bad and almost what the Eagles' had hoped they would achieve after the first month of the season.

The good news is that despite the injury to Dillon, the Eagles showed some depth at RB as Ben Glines filled in with a solid 120 yards on 23 carries.

But there are still as many questions as answers about how good BC is and how high they might climb. The next Survivor episode will take pace in Raleigh, N.C. next Saturday.[/membership]

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