Virginia Tech Spring Football

ACC spring game wrap-ups

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Some news, notes, quotes and other assorted tidbits from the three spring games contested across the ACC Saturday afternoon…

NORTH CAROLINA STATE
Dave Doeren concisely summed up his first-ever spring game as the Wolfpack’s head coach when he told reporters, “well, we won.”

Yes you did, coach.  Yes you did.

Specifically, the Red team downed the White team 20-10 in the first Kay Yow Spring Football Game.  Or, even more specifically, the defense dominated the offense in the glorified scrimmage.

The fact that the defense is significantly ahead of the offense at this point in his tenure — neither side scored an offensive touchdown in the first half doesn’t appear to bother Doeren at all.

“Offensively there are a lot of new guys in the lineup,” said Doeren.  “The plays are not that much different, but the names of the plays and the tempo are a lot different.  I think that’s the biggest thing.

“We are ahead defensively and that’s not a bad thing.  I would rather be ahead on the defensive side than the offense. I think we’ll catch up.”

— Defensive tackle T.Y. McGill was credited with a game-high three tackles for loss, while linebacker M.J. Salahuddin totaled eight tackles.

Pete Thomas, listed as the co-starter back on NCSU’s most recent depth chart, completed 15-of-26 passes for 168 yards with neither a touchdown nor an interception on the stat sheet.  Thomas worked with the first-team offense, for what it’s worth.  Thomas’ competition, Manny Stocker, directed the second-team offense and completed 11-of-20 passes for 96 yards.  He had the lone touchdown toss of the two, connecting on a 30-yard strike in the fourth quarter.

— Florida transfer quarterback Jacoby Brissett threw a 39-yard touchdown pass in the Red team’s win.  Brissett, who announced he was leaving the Gators for NCSU in January, is not a part of the competition this year as he will have to sit out the 2013 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.

— The spring game raised more than $20,000 for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.  Yow was the Wolfpack’s beloved Hall of Fame women’s basketball coach who lost her long battle with breast cancer in January of 2009.

VIRGINIA TECH
With a significantly revamped coaching staff on that side of the ball, there was significant anticipation as to how the Hokies’ offense would look in Saturday’s spring game.  The reality, however, is they still have some significant work left to do before opening the season against two-time defending BCS champion Alabama.

The White team, composed mainly of backups, downed the Orange team, almost entirely starters, by the count of 27-9.  Yes, the reserves were spotted 13 points before the game even began; still, that merely means the non-starters merely edged the starters 14-9.

The offensive numbers were, well, offensive.  Just 41 yards rushing on 23 carries (1.78 yards per carry); 3-23 on third-down conversions and 1-3 on fourth-down conversions; 214 yards passing but three interceptions — two of which were brought back for touchdowns — by returning starting quarterback Logan Thomas (pictured, parallel to the ground); and just one offensive touchdown to go along with a lone trip to the red zone.

Frank Beamer tried to downplay the offensive struggles, but acknowledged things still need to be ironed out over the next four months or so.

“Today is kind of where we are right now,” the longtime head coach said. “Good defense. Good kicking game. And an offense that’s gotta function better. …

“On offense, we’ve got to get more consistent. We’ve heard that before. …  It’s not so important where we are today. It’s important where we can get to when we line up against Alabama.”

— The two defenses combined for 14 tackles for loss (for minus-48 yards) and three sacks.

— Backup quarterback Mark Leal led the Hokies to their lone touchdown of the game, a drive culminating with a Leal 30-yard pass to Ryan Malleck.

— New offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler wasn’t available to speak to reporters after the game due to recruiting obligations.  From the sounds of it, he wasn’t available during the game, either.  In fairness, Beamer noted that only roughly 25-percent of the offense has been installed.

— “I think all you all, and people are going to say I had a bad day today, but I can’t complain about how I played,” Thomas, the Hokies spring offensive MVP, said following his three-pick performance. “The ball was going where I wanted it to. I hit my spots. I was accurate. My mechanics have gotten better. My accuracy has gotten better. That’s all I can ask for.”

WAKE FOREST
Speaking of defense, the Demon Deacons’ offense scored just once in its spring game, and that was a 39-yard field goal by Chad Hedlund.

That effort came despite — or because of? — what head coach Jim Grobe described as a dumbed-down defense.

“The defense was awesome today,” said Grobe. “I thought they played great. We really dumbed the defense down today, we didn’t blitz and we didn’t play a lot of different coverages. It’s amazing how good they played when they know what to do and didn’t have a lot of thinking going on. That ought to be a lesson for our coaches.”

— Deacon ballcarriers ran 32 running plays on the day and netted a total of minus-five yards on the ground.  Wake quarterbacks weren’t much better, accounting for four interceptions.

— To go along with the four picks, Wake’s defense accounted for 12 tackles for loss and five sacks.  The offense was 2-18 on third downs and did not reach the red zone on any drive.

— “On offense, we really haven’t thrown the ball much this spring,” said Grobe. “We have to run the ball better. There’s no question about it. We’ve spent a lot of time this spring running the ball and we thought today would be a great day to come out and throw it more. … The defense had the upper hand today and hopefully we learned a few things about the quarterbacks today and know what we have to work on when we come back in August.”

WATCH: Michigan breaks out your standard 10-man I-formation

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 01: Michigan Wolverines head football coach Jim Harbaugh throws the ball during the pregame warms ups prior to the start of the game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Michigan Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
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Off the field, Jim Harbaugh is an interesting and unique and decidedly different character.  As it turns out, the Michigan head coach is that way on the field as well.

In the first quarter of its game against Wisconsin and facing a second-and-two from the UW six-yard line, Harbaugh and his offensive coordinator busted out the standard 10-man I-formation.  Of course, the Wolverines couldn’t stay in that formation — that nitpicky seven-men-on-the-line-of-scrimmage rule — so they shifted pre-snap to your standard short-yardage set that included three tight ends and a fullback.

Whatever it was and whatever its intent, it was successful as the Wolverines picked up five yards and a first down.  A play later, they scored the first touchdown of the Top 10 matchup.

That formation, though…

As for the game, the Wolverines lead the Badgers 7-0 at the half.

Georgia jumps out to big first half lead over Tennessee in SEC East tussle

ATHENS, GA - SEPTEMBER 10: Jacob Eason #10 of the Georgia Bulldogs passes against the Nicholls Colonels at Sanford Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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Maybe Butch Jones saved his halftime speech from last week.

At least that’s what Tennessee fans hope heading into the locker room down 17-7 at Georgia in a game with massive SEC East implications. The Vols will need a second straight comeback if they’re to remain undefeated and in control of their own destiny in the division.

The Bulldogs jumped out to a big lead behind tailback Sony Michel, who had 72 yards and a touchdown. Despite reports surfacing that he would not play this week, Nick Chubb did get a carry but was mostly limited to a role on the sideline. Freshman quarterback Jacob Eason was efficient is not spectacular, going 6-of-10 for 39 yards.

The Volunteers had a chance to really make this more of a game in the second quarter, but Deandre Baker knocked the ball lose from tailback Jalen Hurd just as he was about to cross the goal line. Georgia recovered for a touchdown and promptly went 80 yards in 10 plays on the ensuing drive for another touchdown (albeit on a fumble recovered in the end zone themselves).

Tennessee did seem to get something moving on offense before halftime, with quarterback Joshua Dobbs marching down the field in nine plays before diving in for a touchdown by the slimmest of margins. It was an encouraging sign for the Vols in a half that was otherwise dominated by their mistakes and Georgia capitalizing on them.

Big Ten defense the story of first half between Michigan and Wisconsin

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 01: Michigan Wolverines head football coach Jim Harbaugh and Wisconsin Badgers head football coach Paul Chryst shake hands prior to the start of the game at Michigan Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
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In a battle of top 10 Big Ten contenders, Michigan has managed to get to halftime with a 7-0 lead on Wisconsin. Still, the Wolverines have to be wondering if missed opportunities could come back to bite them.

Michigan has missed two field goal tries in the game so far, with Kenny Allen missing from 31 yards and 43 yards on consecutive Michigan possessions. With the way Michigan’s defense has been playing, however, it may not matter. Wisconsin has struggled to get the running game going with Corey Clement (31 rushing yards on nine attempts) and just 34 rushing yards as a team. That includes negative yardage taken by quarterback Alex Hornibrook, who has been under pressure by the swarming Wolverines defense for much of the game so far.

Michigan’s offense has not been particularly sharp against a tough Wisconsin defense either. The Wolverines are just one-for-five on third down. The only touchdown drive of the half for either team came on a 77-yard, 11-play drive with Khalid Hill picking up the final yard for a score. The key play of the drive was a 22-yard run by Chris Evans.

Michigan had a bit of a scare when big Grant Newsome needed to be helped off the field in the first half. The cart to take him off the field had come on the field but he was able to be removed from the field with some help by trainers to the Michigan sideline. Perhaps the moral support from the entire Michigan roster on the field helped him out.

Texas AD, on Charlie Strong, Longhorn football: ‘I’m evaluating everything’

Charlie Strong
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According to most observers, Charlie Strong was on the hot seat entering 2016.  After the first two weeks of the season, including a huge win over Notre Dame in the opener, most of that talk was silenced; in fact, the running theme entering Week 3 seemed to be “finally, Texas football is back!”

Since?  Not so much.  In fact, we seem to be right back where we started when it comes to Strong’s future in Austin.

First came the loss to Cal in Week 3, which renewed the rumblings.  Following an embarrassing loss to Oklahoma State this weekend in which both the defense and special teams imploded, the calls grew louder and the heat under his seat grew warmer.  For the defensive-minded Strong — and the administration — the crumbling on that side of the ball is especially troubling as the Longhorns have given up an average of nearly 50 points per game (48.7) this season to Power Five teams.

Following the game, UT athletic director Mike Perrin was asked about Strong’s future.  Not surprisingly, it’s not exactly rock solid.

In three-plus seasons, Strong has gone 13-16 overall. Most distressing from the athletic department’s side, he’s now below .500, 9-10, in Big 12 play.

Especially with Houston’s Tom Herman being such a hot commodity, Perrin will face the most significant decision of his tenure in the coming months: stick with Strong for another season and hope the Louisville lightning strikes in Austin, or cut bait and heavily pursue the most desired commodity on the coaching carousel.  Irrespective of anything else, it’s a decision that will define Perrin’s tenure at the school.