Originally created 12/02/99

'Noles still king, but Clemson eyes throne



The 47th edition of Atlantic Coast Conference football has come to a close with a few surprises and one annual tradition still intact.

Florida State (11-0) captured its eighth consecutive ACC title, sixth outright, and will play Virginia Tech (11-0) for the national championship in the Jan. 4 Sugar Bowl. Clemson's one-year sentence to the conference cellar was pardoned by ACC Coach of the Year Tommy Bowden, who guided the Tigers (6-5) back to respectability while Georgia Tech (8-3) failed to dethrone the mighty Seminoles.

The following are a few of the highlights and lowlights from 1999:

Top Game: The Bowden Bowl. Clemson coach Tommy Bowden gave Papa Bobby quite a scare on Oct. 23 when the Tigers established a 14-3 halftime lead.

The No. 1 Seminoles escaped with a 17-14 victory but not before Clemson executed a fake field goal in which kicker Ryan Romano completed a 23-yard pass to linebacker Braxton K. Williams on fourth and 13 to set up a Tigers touchdown.

Offensive player of the year: Joe Hamilton was responsible for 3,060 passing yards, 734 rushing yards and 35 touchdowns. The Georgia Tech quarterback was also second in the nation with a 175 quarterback rating and a 344.9 yard total offense average.

Hamilton is the ACC's all-time leader in total offense with 10,640 yards.

Defensive player of the year: Corey Simon's statistics wouldn't justify his position as the ACC's top defender but then again statistics generally do not warrant constant double-teams.

Florida State's Simon registered 82 tackles, including 20 for loss and four sacks. He is expected to be a high first-round pick in April's NFL draft.

Breakout performer: Clemson sophomore linebacker Keith Adams. "The Termite" was told he was too small to play for hometown school, Georgia Tech, but Adams consistently infiltrated the opposition's backfield to lead the conference with 176 tackles, 16 sacks and 33 tackles for loss.

Biggest disappointment: N.C. State quarterback Jamie Barnette. Receiver Torry Holt's departure to the NFL hurt the Wolfpack (6-6) and Barnette, who threw for 849 fewer yards this season than in his junior campaign.

Barnette entered the season seventh on the ACC's all-time total offense list with 7,295 yards and ninth in passing yards (7,141). He finished second to Georgia Tech's Hamilton in total offense with 9,484 yards. Barnette is third in passing with 9,461 yards.

Most exciting play: Peter Warrick's 20-yard criss-cross touchdown run against Louisiana Tech in the season opener.

Florida State's Warrick took a handoff from quarterback Chris Weinke and cut to the middle, where he encountered would-be tacklers, then sliced to the left then to the right but not before bobbling the ball, picking it up and scoring.

Team to watch in 2000: Clemson. The Tigers completed the greatest one-year turnaround in ACC history in 1999. They improved from last to second place with their 5-3 ACC record. The second-annual Bowden Bowl may have greater significance than just a family reunion in the next millennium.

Coach of the year: Clemson's Bowden. Bowden's high-octane offense was a hit, and the first-year coach rejuvenated a young program depleted by the NFL and graduation.

Coaches in the hot seat for 2000: Maryland's Ron Vanderlinden and North Carolina's Carl Torbush. The Terrapins appeared destined for post-season play when they opened the season 5-2 but dropped their final four games. Torbush surprisingly was retained after a 3-8 season and will be asked for much improvement in 2000.

Worst referee impersonations: The crew that worked Clemson's game at N.C. State on Oct. 9. Six officials received one-game suspensions after bumbling several calls.

Two Andy Vanderveer touchdowns were controversial in the Wolfpack's 35-31 victory. On fourth and goal from the 1-yard line, the play clock appeared to have run out before Vanderveer made a touchdown catch. His fourth-quarter touchdown reception looked like it was trapped.

Reach Jimmy DeButts at (706) 823-3221.