ACC defenses giving up big yards, lots of points


ACC defenses giving up big yards, lots of points

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) Defenses across the Atlantic Coast Conference are having trouble getting stops or keeping offenses out of the end zone.

League teams are giving up points and yards at their highest rate in more than a decade. And that's led to plenty of shootouts, including last weekend's Georgia Tech-North Carolina matchup that stands as the highest-scoring game in ACC history.

``I hate it because I want to go out here and be dominant on defense every week and I like to see other defenses be dominant as well,'' UNC defensive tackle Sylvester Williams said. ``I want to see tackles for loss, sacks, interceptions, fumbles, forced fumbles. I don't want to see the ball thrown in into the end zone. It kind of makes me not want to watch the games no more, man.''

ACC teams are giving up an average of 26.2 points per game this season, up from 24.7 a year ago and the highest since teams averaged 26.4 points in 2001, according to STATS LLC. In addition, teams are giving up an average of 389.4 yards per game, up from about 369 last year and the highest since at least 1995.

Those numbers get worse ACC teams play each other. Teams are giving up 29 points and 413 yards per league game, both ranking as the highest averages since at least 1995.

Those struggles were on display during last weekend's games, starting in Chapel Hill.

In the Tar Heels' 68-50 loss to the Yellow Jackets, the teams combined for 1,085 yards, 11 players scored touchdowns and the 118 combined points broke the previous mark of 110 set in Virginia's 63-47 win against Tulane in 1968.

``I know how they feel,'' said Duke cornerback Ross Cockrell, whose Blue Devils have allowed at least 41 points in all four of their losses. ``I understand what's going on on that sideline and how tough it is to be part of a game like that where for some reason or another, you just can't get a stop. So I sympathize more with the defense than worry about the offense.''

That same day, Virginia beat Miami 41-40, marking the 11th conference game this season in which the losing team scored at least 30 points. It happened 10 times in 2001, the only other time it's reached double figures since 1995, according to STATS.

Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said the trend will continue.

He remembers the goal was to hold teams to 14 points and 300 yards during his days as an Air Force assistant in the 1980s. Now, he said, defenses are struggling to adjust to a mix of spread, triple option and pro-style offenses in the ACC.

``People want to see a lot of scoring,'' Grobe said. ``They like seeing football scores like 38-35, they don't like seeing a 3-0 game. I don't think we're going backwards in this deal. What you typically see is offenses take the lead then defenses catch up. It's point-counterpoint, punch-counterpunch. But right now, I don't see the defenses getting to where they'll ever be dominant again.

``Offenses are here to stay.''

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson pointed to those offensive schemes as a reason for the defensive struggles, noting how more teams are willing to throw the ball or run hurry-up attacks that squeeze more plays into the 60-minute game. Throw in the fact that the 10 of 12 ACC programs returned their regular starting quarterback this season, and the pressure has only increased on defenses.

``If you're one of these teams that says you're going to run 100 plays, well, unless you're three-and-out on defense, your defense is going to be out there for 80 plays, too,'' Johnson said. ``It goes both ways. You don't just get to run your 100 and they get to run 40.''

Tenth-ranked Florida State has been the exception, leading the country in total defense (242.9 yards) and ranking fourth nationally in scoring defense (13 points). They're the only team in the league holding teams to fewer than 22 points and 315 yards per game.

The only blip for the Seminoles came against Clemson's high-powered offense. Florida State won that one 49-37 in September.

``It's very important to be great on defense in the South because that's where the largest number of your defensive linemen, defensive ends and secondary guys come from,'' FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. ``There's a larger group of them in this region than there is in any other region in the country.''

Miami's struggles offer one of the most glaring examples. Sixteen of the 27 players on the defensive depth chart for this weekend's game against South Florida are underclassmen. The Hurricanes are two points away from matching a school record for points allowed in a season and could give up about 100 yards per game more than any other team in Miami history.

Yet, despite allowing 31 points and an ACC-worst 490 yards per game, Miami is still in contention for the ACC's Coastal Division title.

``The only thing that I can tell you is that we're playing hard,'' coach Al Golden said after the Virginia loss. ``We were fighting our tails off.''

The Hurricanes aren't the only ones feeling that frustration.

``Defenses, we're always a year or two behind,'' North Carolina defensive coordinator Dan Disch said. ``You've got to study (an offense), you've got to figure out how it's hurting you and what you can do to stop it. I think the pendulum has swung a little bit, but it'll swing back - and then the offenses will discover something different.''


AP Sports Writers Joedy McCreary in Durham, N.C.; Charles Odum in Atlanta; and Tim Reynolds in Miami; and Associated Press Writer Brent Kallestad in Tallahassee, Fla., contributed to this report

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Five observations from Redskins preseason victory over the Jets

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Five observations from Redskins preseason victory over the Jets

Here are my five key observations from the Redskins’ 15-13 preseason win over the Jets.

— It was good that the offense clicked well in the series that Alex Smith was in the game. He was a crisp four of six for 48 yards. It wasn’t good that they couldn’t get the ball into the end zone and that Smith exited after that one series. I know there were concerns about Geron Christian being at left tackle instead of Trent Williams and Smith did get hit pretty hard on the first snap of the game. But after the starting offense sat out the preseason opener I think they needed to go for another series or two.

— The starting defense was in for two series with mixed results. The first Jets possession ended with a three and out with Daron Payne getting a third-down sack to close out the series. The second time, however, Sam Darnold like a drive that covered 42 yards and resulted in a field goal. The rookie completed passes for 13, six, 11, nine and six yards in the drive and looking every bit like the phenom that Josh Norman talked about in Richmond this week. The starting defense was good against the run, allowing 13 yards on six carries in the two drives.

— It looked like WR Cam Sims’ roster bubble was about to burst in the second quarter when he had a Colt McCoy pass in his arms in the red zone with no defender within a couple of yards of him. But the ball popped up in the air and the Jets’ Doug Middleton accepted the gift interception. But later on, he caught a key third down pass between two defenders. In that same drive he made another catch surrounded by defenders and he held onto it when he hit the ground hard. But the touchdown was called back by an illegal formation penalty. Then on the next to the last play of the game, his 20-yard reception set up the game-winning field goal.

— Tim Settle continues to impress. For a couple of drives in the second quarter the Jets’ offensive starters were up against the Redskins’ second-team defense, including Settle. The rookie manhandled former Redskins center Spencer Long on a few snaps and beat some double teams as well. Settle didn’t just impress against the run. He got a couple of pressures on Darnold and nearly got a sack. They will have to find snaps for him in the rotation if he keeps this up.

— The final word here is on playing time. For the most part, the Jets’ starters played the first half. For the Redskins it was one series for the offense and two for the defense. I have to wonder how ready this team with a new quarterback under center will perform coming out of the gate. They will be playing with fire if they don’t sweep their first two games against the Cardinals and Colts. Gruden is 0-4 in season openers as the Redskins coach. I have to say that I’m skeptical that his method of preparing the team for Week 1 will work.

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Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler.

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Instant analysis: 5 field goals lift Redskins past Jets

Instant analysis: 5 field goals lift Redskins past Jets

LANDOVER, MD — Here is my instant analysis of the Redskins’ 15-13 preseason win over the New York Jets.

— Alex Smith started the game and so did most of the other players who are expected to start Week 1. Rob Kelley was at running back, Josh Doctson and Paul Richardson lined up at receiver, and the offensive line was intact — with the exception of Geron Christian playing left tackle. Vernon Davis was the tight end. 

— Smith moved the team efficiently on the first drive, completing four of six passes for 48 yards. He converted one third-and-9 by finding Doctson in a big soft spot in the Jets’ zone for 11 yards. On third-and-goal at the 4, he threw a pass a little behind Trey Quinn; it was catchable but not easy and Quinn couldn’t handle it. A field goal made it 3-0. After that 11-play, 71-yard drive, Smith and most of the rest of the offensive starters left the game. 

— Ten of the 11 regular defenders started the game, the exception being Matt Ioannidis. In his first series in a Redskins uniform, Daron Payne stopped the drive with a sack on third down. After that three-and-out, they weren’t as effective against Sam Darnold on their second possession. The rookie was sharp leading a 12-play, 42-yard field goal drive. 

— The first time Samaje Perine touched the ball, he ran for 30 yards off left tackle, following a nice block from J.P. Holtz, a tight end who was lined up at fullback. Since they released the only fullback on the roster last week, TE as FB is likely to be the plan. Perine then left the game with an ankle injury. He did not return. 

— There were some special teams gaffes in the first half. Dustin Hopkins hit the right upright on a 35-yard field goal try but it went through. On the ensuing kickoff, though, the kick went out of bounds. Later on, Byron Marshall put the ball on the ground on a kickoff return but replay showed it that he was down. So there was one costly miscue and two near-misses. 

— The Redskins backup defensive unit was back on its heels in a second-quarter drive with most of the Jets’ offensive starters in. They ended the drive when Danny Johnson make a good tackle to force a third and one. The Jets went for it and Darnold’s pass was tipped by Deshazor Everett and intercepted by Troy Apke. Tim Settle dominated in the middle, usually matched up against former Redskins center Spencer Long. 

— It was bad news, then good news for rookie WR Cam Sims in the second quarter. First he had a pass in his hands for a first down in the red zone but the ball popped out without him being touched and the pass was picked off. On the Redskins’ next possession he made a nice catch between two defenders for a 27-yard gain on third-and-10. Later in the drive he made a leaping catch in the end zone, but a penalty negated the TD. He has been inconsistent in practice in Richmond and is carrying over. 

— The Redskins had some red zone woes in the first half. The had three shots from there and settled for field goals every time. They also had the situation where Sims had the pass in his hands in the red zone before it popped out for an interception. 

— Long shot Martez Carter got his name on the board with a runs of nine and then 30 yards, showing blazing speed around the corner on both runs. He remains a long shot but speed like that will get you some attention. 

— Third QB Kevin Hogan was able to lead a scoring drive on his first possession but it was done mostly via Carter’s runs and the first application of the new helmet rule in a Redskins’ game this preseason, a flag that went against the Jets. The next two possessions he went two for three for seven yards and the Redskins went three and out both times. 

— The Jets kicked a late field goal to take a 13-12 lead. Hogan had a chance to bring them back and got them into Jets territory. Then Cam Sims made a 20-yard grab to set up a 40-yard field goal attempt. Hopkins hit it as time ran out to give the home team a 15-13 lead. 

— The win doesn’t mean anything but it’s always more fun to win than to lose. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler