Clemson may or may not be a national title contender, but they battled back to take one more step toward a potential ACC championship run Thursday night. After a sluggish start, Clemson pulled away for a road win at North Carolina State, 26-14. Tajh Boyd had a three-touchdown night while passing for 244 yards, Martavis Bryant had two touchdowns and Sammy Watkins had 96 receiving yards for the Tigers.
North Carolina State appeared to have taken the lead when Bryan Underwood took a handoff from his own 17-yard line and swept up the right sideline all the way for a touchdown. Despite video replay showing it appeared Underwood kept his feet in on his dash up the right side of the field, officials blew the play dead after 36 yards thinking he stepped out of bounds. The play was not reviewed in the booth and North Carolina State did not challenge the ruling. This is the play in question.
To pour some salt on the wound, three plays later quarterback Pete Thomas was sacked by Clemson’s Vic Beasley, jarring the ball loose and recovered by the Tigers. Five plays later Boyd connected with Martavis Bryant for a 30-yard touchdown pass and a 20-7 lead. This all developed in a span of just over two minutes of game time, and it may have turned the entire game around.
Clemson would go on to score another touchdown early in the fourth quarter and never looked back.
Of course we will never know what would have happened if North Carolina State had taken a 14-13 lead. Maybe Clemson comes back down field to take the lead anyway. But maybe they don’t and North Carolina State holds on.
We can spend plenty of time looking back and asking “What if?” but instead let’s turn the page and discuss what is next. The big question may be if you believe Clemson is a BCS contender based on what we witnessed Thursday night. The Tigers probably didn’t convince many people of that idea, although there is something to be said for the way this team responded after getting a good battle from North Carolina State. We will be quick to look ahead to October 19 when Clemson hosts Florida State. That game could loom large for the ACC picture. If Clemson can reach their next bye week without a loss, which appears likely if they beat Florida State, then the games at home against Georgia Tech and at South Carolina could be very interesting. This assuming Clemson does not fall victim to an upset along the way, which sometimes feels more a matter of “when” and not “if.”
As for North Carolina State, the defense managed to come up with some good stops early on but ended up getting beat on some deep passes in the second half. For the most part, the Wolfpack played Clemson pretty evenly. Penalties became a factor for the home team and the lone turnover of the game, as mentioned above, came at a real unfortunate time. North Carolina State probably doesn’t have the talent to compete for an ACC title, but this could be a team nobody in the ACC will want to play this fall. A bowl game is absolutely within view for the Wolfpack this year.
For years there was a thought that Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster would one day be the successor to longtime head coach Frank Beamer. With Beamer announcing his decision to retire at the end of the season, there was never any word about Foster being handed the keys to the program. Instead, Virginia Tech has found a coach with an offensive identity in the hiring of Justin Fuente from Memphis. Given the way coaching changes can tend to go, nobody would have blamed Foster for being a tad miffed at not getting the job in Blacksburg, but he will remain the defensive coordinator of the Hokies as a key member of Fuente’s new staff. He says he has put in too much work to leave now.
“I’m rooted in here. We put a lot of blood, sweat and tears in this place,” Foster said Monday. “It wasn’t hard. I wouldn’t have stayed here for as long as I’ve had if I didn’t feel like we had the opportunity to win at the highest level. I feel that more than ever right now.”
Fuente being able to keep Foster on the staff is a huge advantage. Foster not only ensures Fuente will have a dependable coach managing the defense, which should remain one of the top defensive units in the ACC as long as he stays put. Keeping Foster on the staff also allows for some tremendous stability during the transition, which can always be key when a coach with no previous ties to the university takes over a program. Foster can help Fuente get acclimated to his new surroundings and also keep valuable recruiting ties alive and well during the change.
Foster acknowledged he would love to one day be a head coach, and that dream will continue, but for now he is more interested in contributing at Virginia Tech.
“I always wanted to be a head coach. This would be a dream job. I’m happy with where I am. I’ll never be bitter. I won’t cry myself to sleep wishing “what-ifs” and they type of thing. My goal is to be the best football coach I can possibly be. I want to help this program be the best football program it can possibly be.”
On Monday morning Georgia head coach Mark Richt said he was absolutely going to continue coaching even though his days at Georgia are coming to an end. If that is the case, Maryland would like to make that a reality for Richt.
According to a report from Inside MD Sports, Maryland has made first contact with Richt and a meeting could come as soon as tomorrow. Maryland is looking to fill a head coaching vacancy after firing Randy Edsall during the season. Richt will not be the only potential candidate to interview for the Maryland job. The Washington Post reported Monday interim head coach Mike Locksley was also given a chance to interview for the job on a permanent basis. That interview was reportedly set to happen Monday.
It would make sense for Maryland to make a call to Richt. With Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank looking to help build the Maryland program, there are sufficient funds to make a splashy hire for the program, which is showing signs of a well-structured future with plans to improve the football program. The Maryland job has some good potential in the long-term and competes in the same division as some tough opponents. That would include at least two coaches Richt is very familiar with; Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and Penn State’s James Franklin. Richt faced Meyer when the Buckeyes head coach was at Florida, and Franklin of course coached at Vanderbilt. All three were in the same SEC East Division down south. Could they be reunited in the Big Ten East in 2016?
Whatever the case may be, if Maryland can land Richt as its next head coach, it would be a tremendous hire for the Terrapins. Heck, he already has the attire for it.
Nebraska will be first in line to accept a bowl invitation when it arrives in the mail, despite going 5-7 this season. The Huskers, who are first in line among 5-7 candidates based on APR scores, will reportedly accept a bowl invitation to fill the first vacancy left to fill once all bowl-eligible teams are slotted into the postseason mix.
Missouri released a statement earlier today saying it will not accept a bowl invitation following a 5-7 season. The Tigers would have been the second team among 5-7 teams to receive a bowl invitation based on APR scores. According to a report by Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com, Kansas State would be next in line, followed by Minnesota, San Jose State, Illinois and Rice.
Missouri and Nebraska would appear to have different agendas of course. Nebraska is coming off the first season under new head coach Mike Riley, while Missouri is in the midst of a full coaching search. The decision not to go to a bowl game allows Missouri’s coaching staff in place under the now retired Gary Pinkel to pursue new opportunities without having bowl preparations get in the way.
Maryland will have a new head coach in 2016. Whoever that head coach ends up being will have to find a way to replace one of Maryland’s best players. Defensive lineman Yannick Ngakoue says he will skip his final year of eligibility with the Terrapins and declare for the 2016 NFL Draft.
Ngakoue was the second in the Big Ten with 13.0 sacks this season, trailing only Penn State defensive lineman Carl Nassib. Ngakoue’s sack total is a Maryland school record and was one of the few reasons for optimism for Maryland’s dreadful football season, which ended with just three wins.