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…

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.

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.”

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.”

Iowa’s Desmond King suspended for first quarter of Nebraska game

IOWA CITY, IA - SEPTEMBER 26:  Defensive back Desmond King #14 of the Iowa Hawkeyes is knocked out of bounds in the first half by running back Andrew Tucker #25 of the North Texas Mean Green on September 26, 2015 at Kinnick Stadium, in Iowa City, Iowa.  (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)
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If Iowa is to wrap-up the football program’s first-ever undefeated regular season in history, it’ll have to do so without one of the nation’s top cornerbacks and return men for one-quarter of it.

Iowa confirmed Friday afternoon that Desmond King has been suspended for the first quarter of today’s game against Nebraska.  The disciplinary measure stems from King being late to a team meeting.

King is currently tied Northern Illinois’ Shawun Lurry for the FBS lead in interceptions with eight.  He was named as a Thorpe Award finalist earlier this week.

In addition to being one of the top cover corners in the country, he’s third in the Big Ten and 29th nationally in kick returns with a 25.6 average, and 11th in punt returns at 12.7 per.

With King sidelined, it will be either Sean Draper or Josh Jackson who gets the start.

Houston sinks Navy for AAC West Division crown; will host Temple or USF for AAC title

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With a chance to clinch the AAC West Divison and home-field advantage in the conference championship game, Houston (11-1, 7-1 AAC) was led by quarterback Greg Ward Jr. throwing and running the football to take down No. 15 Navy (9-2, 7-1 AAC), 51-31. Houston will wait to see if it will host Temple or South Florida next week in the conference championship game.

Houston’s gameplan against Navy was simple in philosophy and strategy but masterful in execution. Big plays and well-designed ball-control was the key to the game for Houston. The Cougars rolled up over 500 yards of offense and kept the Navy defense on the field for a majority of the game. That led to some big play opportunities for Houston, and with players with the skill and talent of Ward Jr., Brandon Wilson and Demarcus Ayers, it proved to be too much for Navy to handle for 60 minutes. Wilson rushed for over 100 yards and a touchdown and Ayers hauled in 161 yards and a score and even got involved with a passing touchdown in the first half, a 29-yard strike to Steven Dunbar. Considering how much Ward Jr. was forced to play through injury, it was a remarkable effort by Houston against a Navy team that has shown some good defense this season. It just was not there today against the AAC’s most talented offensive team.

Houston converted 15 of 18 third-down attempts, and went two-for-two when they chose to go for it on fourth down. Houston was without a turnover and committed just three penalties.

Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds may have seen his late Heisman Trophy campaign take a dent with the loss, but he may still prove worthy of an invite to New York City for the presentation of the award. Reynolds tied the FBS all-time career touchdown record previously set by Wisconsin’s Montee Ball with his fourth quarter touchdown run. Whether he receives an invite to New York or not, there is no question he is among the classiest of college football players and it was clear he never allowed the Midshipmen to pack it in when Houston started to separate itself from Navy.

Houston will host either Temple or South Florida in the first American Athletic Conference championship game next Saturday, December 5. The game, scheduled to kick off at noon, will see its AAC East representative determined tomorrow when Temple plays Connecticut. If Temple defeats the Huskies in Philadelphia, the Owls will make the trip to Houston for the conference championship game. A loss by Temple and it will be South Florida representing the East thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker over Temple. USF won Thursday night to force Temple to win against UConn to win the division. Houston has not played either AAC East Division contender this season.

Navy is not done this regular season, of course. The Midshipmen will make the trip to Philadelphia for the traditional Army-Navy Game in two weeks. Navy has beaten their rivals from West Point 13 straight times for the longest winning streak in the series.

Miami defense shutting down Pitt; Hurricanes lead 23-3 at half

Brad Kaaya

It may be hard to believe, but Miami is in position to end the season with nine wins. That assumes, of course, the Hurricanes avoid a second half meltdown against Pittsburgh and close out the year with a bowl win. For now, Miami should be feeling pretty good as the Hurricanes have stomped Pitt in the first half of an early kickoff in western Pennsylvania. Miami took a 23-3 lead into the half.

Miami has more than doubled the total offensive production of the Panthers, outgaining Pitt at halftime 248 yards to 102. The Panthers have just 36 passing yards and 66 rushing yards in the half. Pitt also had a turnover with Nathan Peterman having a pass picked off by Artie Burns.

Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya has completed 13 of 23 pass attempts for 166 yards, with Rashawn Scott on the receiving end of the touchdown play and leading the team with 50 receiving yards. Miami’s Joseph Yardley leads all players with 64 rushing yards. Pitt’s star receiver, Tyler Boyd, has just one catch for eight yards.

Houston takes halftime lead on Navy in AAC West winner-takes-all contest

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If Houston is going to slow down Navy’s offense, keeping it off the field is a good way to go about it. In a battle for the American Athletic Conference West Division title, and home field advantage in the AAC Championship Game, Houston has used methodic ball control to its advantage and leads the Midshipmen 24-14 at halftime. Greg Ward Jr.‘s five-yard touchdown run gave the home team the lead just minutes after Houston successfully converted a fourth down and short after a timeout.

Houston took the game’s opening possession 82 yards for a touchdown after 13 plays for an early lead. Greg Ward Jr. completed a short pass to Steven Dunbar from five yards out for the score, but Navy answered with a touchdown drive on their opening possession. Keenan Reynolds ripped off a 52-yard run and later capped the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 7-7.

Houston again put together a lengthy and time-consuming touchdown drive on the ensuing possession. The Cougars took 13 plays to move 76 yards for a score, this time seeing Brandon Wilson complete the drive with a 17-yard touchdown run for a 14-7 lead. The two teams exchanged punts before Navy once again tied the game with Reynolds completing a 26-yard touchdown pass to Jamir Tillman.