Offensive line clears Miami's way

Center Wollschlager gains notice with big game against Va. Tech

ACC Notebook

College Football


University of Miami junior center Anthony Wollschlager had a hard time getting on the field during his first two seasons in Coral Gables. After Saturday's stunning, 27-7 rout at Virginia Tech, Wollschlager emerged as a budding star.

This victory wasn't just about the Miami defense overmatching the Hokies and scraping away some Marcus Vick hype. Look at the Hurricanes' offense, which shook off the loss of junior tailback Tyrone Moss to a season-ending knee injury and the temporary exit of sophomore quarterback Kyle Wright, yet still steamrolled Tech.

It all started up front, where Miami's line repeatedly knocked Tech's front four off the ball, established a ground game that produced 152 net rushing yards and helped the Hurricanes hold the ball for more than 34 minutes. It all started up front, where the Hurricanes did not allow Wright to get touched in the second half, when he helped to finish the Hokies with a handful of critical completions.

And it all started with Wollschlager, who led a much-improved line by playing the game of his life. The Miami coaching staff credited Wollschlager with eight pancake blocks. The ACC named him its Offensive Lineman of the Week, since Wollschlager had his way with Hokies stalwarts such as tackle Jonathan Lewis and linebacker Vince Hall.

"It felt pretty good to go in there and beat those guys up a little bit. It was like a wave. You could feel [Virginia Tech's defense] start to bend," Wollschlager said. "Their defense was not that complicated. Our offense was not that complicated. This came down to who were the tougher guys."

Wright, who took a big step forward in his development by out-playing Vick, had to depart in the first half after Tech end Darryl Tapp nailed him with a helmet shot to the chest and chin Wright described as "the hardest hit I've taken."

But this wasn't going to be the Miami line that surrendered too many sacks in the season's first half. The Hurricanes protected Wright brilliantly after halftime, allowing him to finish 13-for-22 for 146 yards.

"Once you get into the flow of the game and your defense keeps giving you the ball back, you just find your rhythm," said Wright, who credited his line, especially Wollschlager, for keeping things humming. "For [Wollschlager] to come in and physically dominate those guys up front, a first-year guy finishing blocks and pushing guys over piles and around piles, he was flat-out nasty."

N.C. State finds QB

North Carolina State may have found its quarterback of the future in sophomore Marcus Stone, who is 2-0 since replacing senior Jay Davis. It certainly has discovered its running back of the future in freshman tailback Andre Brown, who has rushed for 427 yards and three touchdowns during the win streak and is the reigning national Offensive Player of the Week.

But nothing pleased coach Chuck Amato more about Saturday's 20-15 upset win at Florida State - which leaves N.C. State at 4-4 and with a chance to become bowl-eligible - than the Wolfpack's careful ways with the ball.

Not that N.C. State was overly sharp. The Wolfpack survived two late punt blocks. But for the first time in 2005, N.C. State did not commit a turnover. This, after committing 20 miscues in its first seven games.

"Turnovers have been a nemesis for us," said Amato, a former Bobby Bowden assistant at Florida State. "We talked about it before the game. We talked about it Friday night, Thursday, Monday, Tuesday. Every coach in college football talks about how you can't turn the ball over."

Groza finalists

Twenty semifinalists have been named for the Lou Groza Award, which recognizes the nation's top place-kicker. Five of them are in the ACC. They are Jad Dean (Clemson), John Deraney (N.C. State), Connor Hughes (Virginia), Brandon Pace (Virginia Tech) and Sam Swank (Wake Forest).

Dean ranks fourth among kickers nationally with 9.7 points a game. Each of the ACC semifinalists has converted at least 80 percent of his field-goal tries.

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