Can the Miami Hurricanes avoid turnovers in their game at Clemson and play to their full potential during conference play? Can N.C. State keep their winning streak alive against conference foes? Can Virginia Tech go on the road and avoid another devastating loss? These were all big questions coming into Week 5 of ACC play.
Jacory Harris and the Miami Hurricanes showed up in Death Valley on a mission. Harris seems to have developed quite a connection with Leonard Hankerson, as the duo teamed up for 147 yards and three touchdowns. Hankerson leads the team with 388 yards receiving and six touchdowns this season already.
Harris continues to turn the ball over, though, as he threw two more interceptions to the Clemson defense on Saturday. The defense continues to make up for the offense's mistakes, forcing Kyle Parker to throw for a dismal 147 yards and three interceptions as he completed only 14-of-33 pass attempts. The Hurricanes trailed for only 1:06 on their way to a 30-21 conference road win.
N.C. State picked up right where they left off the previous weekend, jumping to a quick 17-0 lead early in the second quarter over a visiting Virginia Tech squad. But when the Hokie defense stepped up and forced an interception from Russell Wilson in the second quarter, the offense responded with a four-play, 82-yard drive to put Virginia Tech on the board before the half.
After the half, Virginia Tech ran back the opening kickoff to bring the score to 13-17 after a failed two-point conversion. Fighting back to take the lead for the first time in the fourth quarter, Virginia Tech showed they would not be put away easily. With N.C. State up 30-28, Tyrod Taylor found Jarrett Boykin for a 39-yard touchdown pass with 1:27 left on the clock to retake the lead, 34-30.
QB Russell Wilson was left with just over a minute to try and lead his explosive offense down the field for a potential game-winning touchdown. But Wilson threw three times as many picks in this game as he had coming into the game, with the third coming with just over a minute left. It was one interception too many, and Virginia Tech scored 34 seconds later to seal the win, 41-30. N.C. State was left to exit the AP Top 25 just as quickly as they entered.
North Carolina and Boston College came into the weekend with the only out-of-conference games on the ACC schedule. North Carolina hosted East Carolina for a heated in-state rivalry game. Shaun Draughn led the Tarheels with an explosive second half, bolting for the end zone on three separate occasions on the way to a North Carolina rout of ECU 42-17.
What was impressive for UNC was that they held an offense that has averaged over 40 points a game in their first three match ups to only 17 points. All of this was done with several NFL-caliber defensive starters remaining ineligible with the pending investigations at the university.
Boston College did not fare so well in their home match up as they fell 31-13 to a struggling Notre Dame team. The Eagles were never in this game behind a quick 21-0 lead built by Notre Dame in the first quarter.
Florida State found themselves back in the AP Top 25 after their 34-14 win in Charlottesville against Virginia. The Seminoles torched the Cavaliers for 256 rushing yards, averaging just over six yards a carry. The momentum from this big road win will take them into a tough match up next week against visiting top-rated ACC foe Miami.
With conference play underway, everything appears to be in order in the Coastal Division with Virginia Tech and Miami sitting at the top. And while Florida State is leading the Atlantic Division as expected, they may encounter some tougher obstacles than years' past with Maryland and N.C. State both looking for their shot at the ACC title this year.
There is still plenty of time left in the season and a lot of room for an unexpected visitor to dismantle the perennial top dogs of the conference, but the real question is, who will step up to the task? Only time will tell.