Lost at Charleston Southern 36-14
What worked: The 49ers defense continues to be opportunistic, forcing three turnovers that helped keep the game close for three quarters. Quarterback Matt Johnson kept the Buccaneers defense off guard, running the ball 13 times for 47 yards. True freshman receiver Trent Bostick made two spectacular catches on his way to a five-reception, 114-yard day.
What needs work: Charlottes defense continues to give up chunks of yards, too, surrendering 548 against the Bucs. The 49ers also turned over the ball and had penalties at crucial times. False starts and holding on offense were particularly costly in the second half.
Whats next: The 49ers get another stern test, this time against sixth-ranked Coastal Carolina (8-0), which beat Virginia Military 66-27 Saturday.
Clemson (7-1, 4-1 ACC)
Beat Maryland 40-27
What worked: Wide receiver Sammy Watkins had a school-record 14 receptions for 163 yards. Running back Rod McDowell rushed for 161 yards and two touchdowns. Clemson overcame a slow start, a seeming hangover from the crushing home loss to Florida State.
What needs work: For the first three quarters, this didnt look like Clemsons high-octane offense, as the Tigers continuously settled for field goals. Three turnovers had a lot to do with that. They let an injury-ravaged Maryland team hang in a long time.
Whats next: Clemson travels to Virginia on Saturday, still with a shot at playing in a BCS bowl.
Duke (6-2, 2-2 ACC)
Beat No. 16 Virginia Tech 13-10
What worked: More than anything, the Blue Devils made timely plays when they needed them most.
We have a team full of competitors, quarterback Anthony Boone said. My numbers werent great. But each person put in their own. Thats what its all about.
Cornerback Ross Cockrell, who missed most of the second half with a right ankle injury, intercepted a Logan Thomas pass in the end zone. Safety Jeremy Cash and cornerback Garrett Patterson also picked off passes before the fourth quarter.
Running back Shaq Powell caught one pass, but it went for 40 yards, the vast majority of those coming after the catch, on the days longest play for Duke.
Ross Martin, who struggled earlier in the year, hit field goals from 51 yards and a career-long 53 yards. Hes the first FBS kicker to make two 50-yard kicks in the same game this year.
David Reeves recovered Devon Edwards fumble on the kickoff return after Virginia Tech cut the score to 13-10.
Kelby Brown, the National Defensive Player of the Week, picked off Thomas short pass over the middle at the Duke 43 with less than five minutes left on the clock.
Brandon Connette, who played just two snaps, was hit behind the line of scrimmage on fourth-and-1 from the Virginia Tech 44, but he spun out of two potential tackles and gained 3 yards with less than three minutes left in the game.
Overall, coach David Cutcliffe counted 20 players who contributed big plays.
The thing that most excited me was so many different players were involved in making timely, key plays, from fifth-year seniors to true freshmen to defensive players, offensive players, Cutcliffe said. As tough as things got offensively, when we had to do some things, we got them done.
Thats the nicest thing that can be said about the offense. Defensively, though, the Blue Devils were stellar, holding the Hokies scoreless in the first half (the first time that has happened to Virginia Tech this season). The linebacking corps, led by Brown and David Helton, had its best game in Cutcliffes six-year tenure.
And when things got particularly tough in the fourth quarter with the Hokies slicing Dukes lead to three, Boone bobbling snaps, taking sacks and committing intentional grounding penalties, just to highlight the biggest mistakes the Blue Devils didnt fold.
It wasnt going to be about emotion, it wasnt going to be about panic and it wasnt going to be about whatever was being said, Cutcliffe said. It was about execution, it was about focus on our business, and the veteran team understood that.
Cutcliffe credited last years experience in Blacksburg, blowing a 20-0 lead in a 41-20 loss, and the comeback two weekends ago at Virginia as reasons the Blue Devils were able to finish the game. They applied the knowledge from past lessons learned.
What needs work: Normally, a starting quarterback completing less than 30 percent of his passes and throwing four interceptions is a sure way to lose a football game. Duke was able to win in spite of those numbers from Boone.
The most important lesson learned from it, is when things are tough is when you have to be your smartest and sometimes your most conservative, Cutcliffe said. You cant put it on your shoulders. Its not a sport where one guy can take the ball and dominate.
Whats next: Duke has a well-timed open date, which will give players and coaches several days to enjoy the win, relax and heal. The Blue Devils will practice for 90 minutes Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, concentrating mostly on Duke but a little on N.C. State, and then take the weekend off until regular Sunday night practice.
North Carolina (2-5, 1-3 ACC)
Beat Boston College 34-10
What worked: The Tar Heels on Saturday played by far their most complete game of the season and beat Boston College with relative ease. Asked what was different about his teams play on Saturday in comparison to other games, UNC coach Larry Fedora cited his teams lack of mistakes. The Tar Heels didnt hurt themselves with costly penalties (though they still committed three personal fouls). The Tar Heels gave up one big play a 56-yard touchdown run by Andre Williams but outside of that UNC allowed no long plays. The defense gave up a season-low 261 yards, and Boston Colleges 59 yards passing represented the fewest passing yards UNC has given up since 1997. Offensively, the quarterback rotation of Bryn Renner and Marquise Williams was effective, and Williams led the team with 55 yards rushing. Both Renner and Williams accounted for two touchdowns, and the rotation appeared to keep the Eagles out of sync defensively.
What needs work: UNC committed just four penalties Saturday, but three were 15-yard personal fouls. They didnt come back to hurt the Tar Heels, but those are the kinds of penalties that most infuriate Fedora. Eliminating those will be a focus. The rushing game again struggled overall, and none of the Tar Heels four running backs all of whom received carries Saturday gained more than 33 yards. At this point, struggles in the running game are to be expected. The Tar Heels are likely to continue to use a platoon in hopes that someone anyone will emerge and become the featured back. Most of all, UNC needs to build on the many positives from Saturday. The defense, especially, took a giant step forward, and the Tar Heels are hopeful the victory represents the beginning of a turnaround.
Up next: UNC makes the short trip to Raleigh this weekend for a game at N.C. State, which had defeated the Tar Heels in five consecutive games until last season. Giovani Bernard, the former UNC running back, put an end to that streak with his dramatic game-winning punt return for a touchdown in the final moments last season. UNC hasnt won at Carter-Finley Stadium since 2005.
N.C. State (3-4, 0-4 ACC)
Lost at No. 3 Florida State 49-17
What worked: Sophomore running back Shadrach Thornton ran for 173 yards and accounted for 205 of N.C. States 316 yards of total offense. Thornton scored on running plays of 1 and 72 yards. The Wolfpack also showed some resiliency after a horrendous start. After spotting FSU a 35-0 lead in the first quarter, N.C. State held a 17 to 7 advantage the other three quarters.
What needs work: N.C. States tackling in the first quarter, especially by the first defender to the ball, was nonexistent. FSU just churned out chunks of yardage at will. On the first drive of the game, FSU quarterback Jameis Winston completed passes of 24, 13 and 10 yards and then running back Karlos Williams ripped off an 18-yard touchdown run. The next four possessions by FSU produced the same result.
Whats next: North Carolina (2-5) coming off its first ACC win, travels to Carter-Finley Stadium on Saturday (12:30 p.m., WRAL). UNC hasnt won in Raleigh since 2005, a span of three losses the longest home winning streak in the 119-year-old series for the Wolfpack.
South Carolina (6-2, 3-2 SEC)
Beat Missouri 27-24 in 2 OT
What worked: Quarterback Connor Shaw (sprained knee) came off the bench to throw for three touchdowns in a huge comeback. The Gamecocks scored on their last five possessions to pull off a road upset of the then-No. 5 Tigers.
What needs work: The Gamecocks offense looked pretty stagnant with Dylan Thompson at quarterback. Shaw gets hurt often, and Thompson had been an effective backup in previous appearances.
Whats next: Back in the SEC East race, the Gamecocks host Mississippi State on Saturday.
Wake Forest (4-4, 2-3 ACC)
Lost 24-21 at No. 7 Miami
What worked: The Deacons played well for much of the game, setting the tone early and leading 14-3 in the third quarter. Receiver Michael Camanaro had his usual big game, catching 10 passes for 88 yards.
What needs work: Wake Forest couldnt finish against a quality opponent, allowing the Hurricanes Duke Johnson to score twice in the fourth quarter. Johnson was a problem for the Deacons defense all day, rushing for 168 yards on 30 carries.
Whats next: The Deacons play at ACC newcomer Syracuse (3-4, 1-2), which was off Saturday.