Pres­sure’s on for ACC coaches

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Jimmy Golen

Syra­cuse coach Dino Babers was rock­ing the locker room speech after beat­ing Vir­ginia Tech and knock­ing the Hok­ies out of the Top 25.

Boston Col­lege coach Steve Ad­dazio is still try­ing to earn his first At­lantic Coast Con­fer­ence win in more than a year.

When the Ea­gles and Or­ange meet on Satur­day in Chest­nut Hill, one coach in his first year will face one who is try­ing to make sure it isn’t his last. It’s one of those mid­sea­son games that won’t make much dif­fer­ence in the ACC stand­ings, but could have an im­pact on the re­cruit­ing trail and the job mar­ket.

One of four new coaches in the ACC this sea­son , Babers is try­ing to re­build the pro­gram from the bot­tom, much like Vir­ginia’s Bronco Men­den­hall. Vir­ginia Tech’s Ja­son Fuente is try­ing to rekin­dle the suc­cess the Hok­ies had un­der Frank Beamer. Mark Richt was hop­ing to help Mi­ami claim its first Coastal Di­vi­sion ti­tle.

“The big­gest thing about this win is that any­time you take over a new pro­gram, you’re try­ing to get ev­ery­body to buy in, to work as one,” Babers said after beat­ing then-No. 17 Vir­ginia Tech 31-17 on Satur­day.

“No mat­ter how hard ev­ery­one wants to do that, there’s al­ways the naysay­ers. There’s al­ways those ones that say, ‘Hey, maybe we should be do­ing it the way the old team did it, or the old coaches did it.’ It’s al­ways that way, un­til you get that one win that so­lid­i­fies you, that brings you to­gether. That’s what hap­pened to­day. We’re now a fam­ily.”

Hired in De­cem­ber when Scott Shafer was fired after two straight los­ing sea­sons, Babers is the fourth Syra­cuse coach in eight sea­sons. Strug­gling with a thin ros­ter made even thin­ner by in­juries, the Or­ange lost 62-28 to Louisville, 45-20 to South Florida and 50-33 to Notre Dame.

The pro­gram looks bet­ter now after his first sig­na­ture vic­tory.

“Just another re­minder that ev­ery week in col­lege foot­ball, man, you have to show up and you got to bring your A game. That’s just the way it is,” Ad­dazio said. “They’re play­ing at an emo­tional high level right now. We’re very well-aware of that and know how tough this game will be.”

Boston Col­lege (3-3, 0-3) is com­ing off an off-week fol­low­ing a 56-10 loss to Clem­son that was the Ea­gles 11th ACC loss in a row . After back-to-back bowl bids in Ad­dazio’s first two sea­sons — lead­ing to a con­tract ex­ten­sion that was sup­posed to keep him at BC through 2020 — BC went 3-9 last year and is stuck on three wins again.

Asked this week if he felt pres­sure to beat Syra­cuse (3-4, 1-2 ACC) and end the ACC los­ing streak, Ad­dazio said, “Pres­sure to win Satur­day.”

“Ev­ery game has un­be­liev­able im­por­tance,” he said. “Doesn’t mat­ter who we’re play­ing, they get all your fo­cus. Right now all my fo­cus is play­ing Syra­cuse . ... I don’t re­ally look into any­thing be­yond that, around it, be­hind it.”

A look at what’s go­ing on with some of the con­fer­ence’s coaches mid­way through the sea­son:

Vir­ginia Tech

In their first sea­son un­der Fuente, the Hok­ies (42, 2-1) were look­ing like the might be the team to beat in the Coastal un­til they were stunned 31-17 at Syra­cuse. Un­der Fuente and his staff, trans­fer quar­ter­back Jerod Evans has 17 touch­down passes and just two in­ter­cep­tions. Tech still has a good chance to win the di­vi­sion, in part thanks to a 34-3 vic­tory at North Carolina, but has games against Mi­ami and Pitts­burgh on the next two Thurs­day nights that will go a long way to­ward sort­ing things out.

Vir­ginia

Us­ing Men­den­hall’s 3-4 de­fen­sive scheme and a fast­paced of­fense led by trans­fer quar­ter­back Kurt Benkert, the Cava­liers (2-4, 1-1) were man­han­dled by Rich­mond of the FCS to start the sea­son. But they won two straight be­fore last week’s 45-31 loss at home to Pitt. Their vic­tory at Duke two weeks ago snapped a road los­ing streak that lasted 17 games, dat­ing to Novem­ber 2012.

Mi­ami

The Hur­ri­canes (4-2, 1-2) have yet to win a di­vi­sion ti­tle. After Al Golden went 1618 in the ACC over five sea­sons, Mi­ami alum­nus Richt took over. Quar­ter­back Brad Kaaya had the Hur­ri­canes as high as 10th in the Top 25 be­fore back-to-back-losses dropped them out.

Ge­or­gia Tech

Paul John­son, who took Tech to three ACC ti­tle cham­pi­onship games in his first seven years, could also be coach­ing for his job after the Yel­low Jack­ets (4-3, 1-3) won just one ACC game last sea­son — against Florida State. They fin­ished last in the Coastal, the first time in his eight sea­sons they were not ei­ther first or se­cond in the di­vi­sion. This year, they have lost three straight ACC games and are 2-10 in the con­fer­ence games since the start of 2015. John­son notes that the first two ACC losses were to Clem­son and Mi­ami when each was a top 15 team, and the third was a last-se­cond game at Pitt.

John­son said that Tech still has a chance to win nine games.

“That would be con­sid­ered a pretty good year, I would think,” he said. “Now, that won’t achieve our goals we set to start with: to try to win our di­vi­sion and get in the cham­pi­onship game. As crazy as our di­vi­sion is, who knows? You just keep play­ing.”

MIKE GROLL — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

In this Oct. 15 file photo, Syra­cuse head coach Dino Babers sig­nals to play­ers dur­ing the first half of an NCAA col­lege foot­ball game against the Vir­ginia Tech on in Syra­cuse, N.Y. Babers is rock­ing the locker room speech after beat­ing Vir­ginia Tech and knock­ing the Hok­ies out of the Top 25.

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