Duke (8-2, 4-2 ACC)
Lost to Virginia Tech 17-16
What worked: When a defense only gives up 17 points, that team should win the game. Duke held the Hokies to 293 total yards, and safety Jeremy Cash was particularly active with two of Duke’s six sacks (a season high) in addition to another tackle for loss.
What needs work: For the third time in six ACC games, the offense was a mess.
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Syracuse’s own offense was so inept that Duke still won, but off days from Anthony Boone have resulted in losses to Miami and Virginia Tech. The numbers were bad enough (18-for-40, 45 percent completion precentage for 181 yards and two interceptions), but two of Boone’s overthrows were particularly costly, as his receivers had beaten their defenders in 1-on-1 coverage and had a chance to score with an accurately thrown ball.
The offensive line did Duke no favors, giving up as many sacks to Virginia Tech (four) as the unit had to the Blue Devils’ other nine opponents combined.
What’s next: A short week with North Carolina coming to Wallace Wade on Thursday night. Laura Keeley
N.C. State (6-5, 2-5 ACC)
beat Wake Forest 42-13
What worked: N.C. State had its best game running the football since 1990 with 362 yards and its most yards in an ACC game since 1987. The Wolfpack ran 46 times and averaged 7.9 yards per carry. Junior Shadrach Thornton had the team’s first 100-yard game of the season with 110. Thornton, Bryan Underwood, Matt Dayes and Tony Creecy each had at least one rushing touchdown.
N.C. State’s defense forced nine three-and-outs and kept the Wake Forest offense out of the end zone until the fourth quarter when the game was well out of hand.
Senior kicker Nik Sade made extra points to become the school’s all-time leader scorer with 317 points.
What needs work: Quarterback Jacoby Brissett struggled with deep throws and accuracy in general. He completed 8 of 19 passes for 83 yards, his second-lowest total of the season. He did throw one touchdown (a 14-yarder to Dayes) and did not turn the ball over.
What’s next: N.C. State has an open date before finishing at North Carolina on Nov. 29. Joe Giglio
UNC (5-5, 3-3 ACC)
Beat Pittsburgh 40-35
What worked: North Carolina rallied from deficits of 14-0 and 21-7 to take the lead early in the fourth quarter, then came back in the final minutes after Pitt scored a touchdown with 31/2 to play. The Tar Heels toughed out some other victories this season – Georgia Tech and Virginia come to mind – but this might have been their grittiest performance. Junior quarterback Marquise Williams ran for 122 yards and three touchdowns and also passed for 276 yards and a touchdown. At one point he completed 16 consecutive passes – a school record.
What needs work: Another week, another ugly defensive performance for the Tar Heels, who surrendered 523 yards and 7.6 yards per play. Those numbers won’t help their already-ugly season statistics. James Conner, the ACC’s leading rusher, ran for 220 yards and four touchdowns – though you got the sense it could have been worse. The question for UNC in the final two games is whether it can outscore Duke and N.C. State.
What’s next: It’s a short week for UNC, which will travel to Duke on Thursday for a nationally televised game. After nearly two decades of dominance in this series, the Tar Heels have lost two consecutive against the Blue Devils. Andrew Carter
Wake Forest (2-8, 0-6 ACC)
Lost to N.C. State 42-13
What worked: Very little, although the Deacons did have an impressive touchdown drive (76 yards on 16 plays) in the fourth quarter.
What needs work: Wake Forest’s offense continues to be anemic, gaining all of 219 yards. Defensively, the Deacons allowed N.C. State to roll up 362 yards on the ground, the most by the Wolfpack in 25 years.
What’s next: The Deacons will host Virginia Tech, which beat Duke 17-16 Saturday. David Scott
Clemson (7-3, 6-2 ACC)
Lost to Georgia Tech 28-6
What worked: Wayne Gallman had some good moments offensively, rushing for 82 yards on 14 carries and catching four passes.
What needs work: An explosive offense went “pfft” after quarterback Deshaun Watson left the game with a knee injury. There’s a good chance Watson is done for the season. His backup, Cole Stoudt, threw three interceptions. Perhaps most surprisingly, one of the country’s top run defenses allowed the Yellow Jackson to gain 251 yards rushing.
What’s next: A chance to regroup with a game against Georgia State on Saturday. Clemson’s loss clinched a spot in the ACC championship game for Florida State, so the best way to regain some stature is to break the losing streak to South Carolina. Rick Bonnell
South Carolina (5-5, 3-5 SEC)
Defeated Florida 23-20 in overtime
What worked: For once South Carolina wasn’t the team blowing a fourth-quarter lead. The Gators led 17-10 in the final quarter and lined up for a 32-yard field goal that was blocked, shifting the momentum of the game. Quarterback Dylan Thompson ran a sweep into the end zone to win in overtime.
What needs work: While the shaky Gamecocks defense didn’t give up a lot of points, it did allow 218 rushing yards, a 4.4-yard average.
What’s next: The Gamecocks will host South Alabama on Saturday before the rivalry game with Clemson. R.B.
East Carolina (6-3, 3-2 American Athletic)
Lost to Cincinnati 54-46
What worked: After fumbling three times and losing two of them during the loss to Temple, ECU running back Breon Allen bounced back in a big way against Cincinnati. The speedy senior averaged 10.8 yards per carry for a game-high 129 rushing yards. Allen became a one-man scoring drive in the fourth quarter, when he used a 41-yard run to set up a 40-yard sprint to the end zone.
Justin Hardy had 15 catches for 188 yards and a touchdown. He has 346 career catches and is four receptions away from breaking Ryan Broyles‘s NCAA record of 349.
Pirates safety Lamar Ivey picked off two passes and recovered a fumble, and defensive end Jonathan White was able to hold on to a tipped pass for his first career interception.
What needs work: East Carolina’s offensive line has been respectable most of the season, but it failed to protect quarterback Shane Carden from an aggressive Cincinnati front four. The Pirates allowed four sacks, three to defensive linemen, and six quarterback hurries. As a result, Carden was forced to throw on the run for a majority of the night.
What’s next: Tulane (3-7, 2-4 AAC), 3:30 p.m., Saturday. Brian Haines
Beat Wesley (Del.) 38-33
What worked: The offense continued to click, with sophomore Kalif Phillips rushing for 173 yards and receivers Austin Duke and Trent Bolick each catching six passes. Quarterback Lee McNeill, filling in a second week for injured Matt Johnson, was efficient, completing 21-of-30 passes for 259 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. The defense came up with two interceptions.
What needs work: McNeill was sacked four times as the Wolverines took advantage of injuries on the 49ers offensive line. Charlotte’s defense again allowed chunks of yardage (530) and had problems with tackling, especially in the first half.
What’s next: Charlotte will finish its second season with a home game against Morehead State (4-7), which beat Stetson 41-18 Saturday. D.S.
Appalachian State (5-5, 4-2 Sun Belt)
Beat Arkansas State 37-32
What worked: Running back Marcus Cox had another big game, rushing for 229 yards on 40 carries. The defense held Arkansas State to a 0-for-11 success rate on third downs.
What needs work: The Mountaineers were sloppy late in the game, nearly blowing a 37-20 lead. Appalachian State also struggled with special teams in the first half, including allowing a punt return for a touchdown.
What’s next: Appalachian State, in third place in the Sun Belt, will play at Louisiana-Lafayette (7-2, 6-0), which beat Louisiana-Monroe 34-27 Saturday. D.S.