Associated Press

NC State smashes Vanderbilt in Independence Bowl rout

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NC State was too much for Vanderbilt on Monday night. More specifically, the pitch-and-catch combination of Ryan Finley-to-Jaylen Samuels was too much for Vanderbilt, as the Wolfpack raced to a 41-17 Independence Bowl victory in Shreveport, La.

Finley and Samuels hooked up six times for 104 yards and three decisive touchdowns on the night. The first came at the 9:08 mark of the second quarter, a 9-yard strike to put NC State on top 7-3, handing the club a lead it would not relinquish. The second connection came nearly eight minutes later, a 55-yard snatch-and-dash that all but put the game out of reach at 14-3.

After a 5-yard scoring rush by Reggie Gallaspy II pushed the lead to 21-3, Finley’s third and final strike to Samuels, a 17-yard connection, put the game out of reach with 5:34 still to play in the third quarter.

Vanderbilt briefly climbed back in the game when Ralph Webb posted a 30-yard touchdown run and Khari Blasingame bulled in from the 1-yard line to pull the Commodores within 28-17 with 10:37 left in the game, but NC State (7-6) immediately ended any comeback hopes when Nyheim Hines raced the ensuing kickoff back 100 yards for a touchdown.

Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmer provided NC State its final score of the night when Niles Clark returned an interception 32 yards for a touchdown as time expired. Shurmur finished the night hitting 19-of-46 passes for 158 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions. Vanderbilt (6-7) managed 156 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 4.5 yards per carry.

Finley closed his season connecting on 19-of-30 passes for 235 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Matthew Dayes led the Pack on the ground with nine carries for 47 yards.

The win pushed the ACC to 2-0 in bowl games pitting 6-6 teams and clinched at least a .500 record for the conference against the SEC in 2016. The ACC is now 7-3 against its southeastern rival with three games and the possibility of a Clemson-Alabama CFP national championship still remaining.

No. 22 Florida State survives upset-minded NC State

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NC State threatened another upset of an ACC power but again came just short, as No. 22 Florida State escaped Raleigh with a 24-20 win on Saturday night.

Florida State trailed for almost the entire game and faced a 20-10 deficit after NC State’s Jaylen Samuels raced in from 23 yards out — capping a 9-play, 99-yard drive — but the Seminoles mustered enough offense when they had to have it. The ‘Noles answered that marathon drive with a long march of their own, moving 70 yards in seven plays, the last 10 of which came on the legs of Dalvin Cook on the final play of the third quarter.

After three consecutive punts, Deondre Francois hit three long passes — a 27-yard strike to Kermit Whitfield, a 37-yard connection to Nyqwan Murray and a 19-yard gain to Travis Rudolph — as all the yards necessary for an 83-yard touchdown drive to take a 24-20 lead with 3:09 to play in the game.

The Wolfpack tried to mount a response, but, after securing a 1st-and-10 at the FSU 24 with 1:19 remaining, quarterback Ryan Finley completed a pass for a 2-yard loss and fired incomplete three other times to turn the ball over on downs.

Finley was the majority of the offense for NC State; he completed 25-of-41 passes for 304 yards with a touchdown and an interception on the night while being credited for 12 rushes for 20 yards. Three other Pack runners combined for only 145 yards on 29 rushes.

Francois hit 22-of-39 throws for 330 yards and a touchdown while Cook mustered only 65 yards on 18 carries.

For NC State, the loss drops the club to 4-5 and 0-3 against the heavies of the ACC Atlantic, games Dave Doeren needed to win as his name pops up in hot seat talk with the season coming to a close.

Florida State, meanwhile, moves to 6-3 overall and 3-3 in the ACC. The Seminoles close with Boston College, a road trip to Syracuse and a home date with Florida on Thanksgiving Saturday.

Clemson survives in overtime against N.C. State with late interception

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Dabo Swinney and his team have buried the term ‘Clemsoning’ over the past few seasons but did their best to revive it in a nerve-racking 24-17 overtime win as N.C. State nearly shocked the college football world.

Wolfpack quarterback Ryan Finley threw his first two interceptions of the season, the last of which came on the team’s first offensive snap of overtime to seal the loss. Running back Matthew Dayes was the real star of the show though, rushing for 106 yards and a touchdown to nearly help pull off the upset.

N.C. State had a chance to win it with a wild fourth quarter that saw them tie things up following a 14 play, 75 yard drive early in the frame. They got the ball back again and marched down the field in another 14 play drive that took over six minutes off the clock but kicker Kyle Bambard missed a 33 yarder as time expired to head to overtime.

Clemson signal-caller Deshaun Watson went into halftime on a hot streak by completing eight of nine on his way to a late scoring drive but couldn’t sustain the momentum after merging from the locker room. He threw a pick-six (the first in his career, by the way) just a few seconds into the third quarter to tie the game and breathe more life into the underdogs.

Watson eventually ended the day with a career high 39 completions for 378 yards and two scores as he became the team’s offense with virtually no running game. Tailback Wayne Gallman was injured on a helmet-to-helmet hit in the first half and had to be helped back to the locker room.

Issues in the red zone and turnovers plagued the Tigers offense all day long as a result. They were stuffed on fourth and goal from the one yard line early in the game and fumbled away another chance in the third quarter. Wide receiver Mike Williams fumbled too after crossing the 20 for the team’s fourth turnover of the day, which later led to a big return.

If there was one bright spot for Clemson in escaping with the win it was Christian Wilkins, who blocked a field goal in the third quarter and had the longest run of the day for the Tigers offense. He plays defensive tackle by the way.

The Wolfpack were the last unranked team to beat Clemson, just shy of five years ago but couldn’t quite get the job done at the end. While everybody thought the Tigers had turned the page after beating Louisville and Clemson the past two weeks, it appears last year’s ACC champion still has a few things to correct heading into their showdown with Florida State next Saturday.

A win is a win however and the late heroics kept Swinney and the team’s College Football Playoff hopes alive for seven more days.

ACC media poll has Clemson repeating as conference champions

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DeShaun Watson is back from last year’s College Football Playoff runner-up, and with that, there was little debate in the ACC media poll about who will repeat as conference champions in 2016.

Clemson, with 144 votes, was picked to repeat as ACC champions in the conference’s annual media poll. Florida State (39), North Carolina (seven) and Louisville (one) also received votes.

Watson, the Tigers’ junior quarterback, was picked to be the ACC Player of the Year with 164 votes. Florida State running back Dalvin Cook (18), North Carolina running back Elijah Hood (four), Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya (two), Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson (two) and Duke cornerback/returner DeVon Edwards (one) also received player of the year votes.

Here’s how the voting broke down by division, with first-place votes in parentheses:

Atlantic                    
1. Clemson (148) – 1,293
2. Florida State (42) – 1,176
3. Louisville (1) – 961
4. NC State – 704
5. Boston College – 441
6. Syracuse – 426
7. Wake Forest – 347
Coastal                
1. North Carolina (121) – 1,238
2. Miami (50) – 1,108
3. Pitt (14) – 859
4. Virginia Tech (3) – 697
5. Duke (2) – 597
6. Georgia Tech (1) – 588
7. Virginia – 261

ACC releases list of players attending media days

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The SEC’s done it.  So have the Big 12 and Big Ten.  Now, it’s another Power Five’s turn to do.

The it, as the headline suggests, is the players attending media days, which the ACC revealed to the masses Monday afternoon.  The 14 teams that make up the ACC will send, along with their head coaches, two players from each of their teams to the July 21-22 event in Charlotte.

In a refreshing change, as many linebackers ( six) will be in attendance as quarterbacks (six).  Four defensive linemen have been invited, three each of running backs, offensive linemen and defensive backs will take part.  Interestingly, two of the three linemen are centers, while all three defensive backs are cornerbacks.

Also, for those interested, one punter is on the list — Miami’s Justin Vogel.

Below is the complete list of attendees for the 2016 ACC Media Days:

Boston College
Myles Willis, Running Back, 5-9, 194, Senior, Conyers, Ga.
Matt Milano, Linebacker, 6-1, 218, Senior, Orlando, Fla.

Clemson
Deshaun Watson, Quarterback, 6-2, 210, Junior, Gainesville, Ga.
Ben Boulware, Linebacker, 5-11, 240, Senior, Anderson, S.C.

Duke
Thomas Sirk, Quarterback, 6-4, 220, Senior-R, Glen St. Mary, Fla.
DeVon Edwards, Cornerback, 5-9, 180, Senior-R, Covington, Ga.

Florida State
Dalvin Cook, Running Back, 5-11, 206, Junior, Fla., Miami, Fla.
DeMarcus Walker, Defensive End, 6-3, 273, Senior, Jacksonville, Fla.

Georgia Tech
Justin Thomas, Quarterback, 5-11, 185, Senior-R, Prattville, Ala.
Patrick Gamble, Defensive Line, 6-5, 277, Senior, Carrollton, Ga.

Louisville
Lamar Jackson, Quarterback, 6-3, 196, Sophomore, Boynton Beach, Fla.
Keith Kelsey, Linebacker, 6-1, 236, Senior, Gainesville, Fla.

Miami
Brad Kaaya, Quarterback, 6-4, 210, Junior, Los Angeles, Calif.
Justin Vogel, Punter, 6-4, 208, Senior, Tampa, Fla.

North Carolina
Ryan Switzer, Wide Receiver-Punt Returner, 5-10, 185, Senior, Charleston, W.Va.
Des Lawrence, Cornerback, 6-1, 185, Senior, Charlotte, N.C.

North Carolina State
Matthew Dayes, Running Back, 5-9, 203, Senior, Weston, Fla.
Jack Tocho, Cornerback, 6-0, 200, Senior, Charlotte, N.C.

Pittsburgh
Nathan Peterman, Quarterback, 6-2, 225, Senior-R, Jacksonville, Fla.
Ejuan Price, Defensive End, 6-0, 250, Senior-R, Rankin, Pa.

Syracuse
Jason Emerich, Center, 6-3, 284, Senior-R, New Ringgold, Pa.
Zaire Franklin, Linebacker, 6-0, 229, Junior, Philadelphia, Pa.

Virginia
Jackson Matteo, Center, 6-5, 290, Senior-R, Ashburn, Va.
Micah Kiser, Linebacker, 6-2, 245, Junior-R, Baltimore, Md.

Virginia Tech
Sam Rogers, Fullback, 5-10, 228, Senior, Mechanicsville, Va.
Ken Ekanem, Defensive End, 6-3, 255, Senior-R, Centreville, Va.

Wake Forest
Tyler Hayworth, Offensive Tackle, 6-4, 325, Senior-R, Kingsport, Tenn.
Marquel Lee, Linebacker, 6-3, 235, Senior, Waldorf, Md.