BLACKSBURG, Va. — Kenny Lewis Jr. sat down, a half-dozen or more reporters quickly surrounding him, knowing he’s one of the most quotable players at Virginia Tech.
At a time when the Hokies have a quarterback controversy that coach Frank Beamer won’t discuss and Sean Glennon and Tyrod Taylor are not allowed to discuss, Lewis has become a go-to guy when the topic is the struggling offense, but the first question brought a smile.
"How about that performance?" he replied when asked if he’d seen former teammate Eddie Royal’s NFL debut for the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football. "I caught bits and pieces. I texted him when I saw him score. Of course he didn’t respond, but he looked really good."
Royal, a second-round draft choice this year, had nine catches for 146 yards, including a 26-yard scoring catch, as the Broncos pummeled the Oakland Raiders 41-14 in their opener.
Lewis said he’s kept in touch with Royal periodically.
"Going from college to the NFL, he said it’s way more physical," Lewis said.
Lewis burst into laughter when it was suggested that Royal had in one game almost as many receiving yards as the Hokies have managed in two games. They have totaled just 207.
"I know. That’s ridiculous," he said. "That’s Eddie Royal for you."
Beamer said he saw the first half, when Royal did most of his damage.
"He had a big night. I’m proud of him," Beamer said.
Clemson’s Cullen Harper expects his sore shoulder to be 100 percent on Saturday against North Carolina State. His psyche? That could be another story.
Harper, the Atlantic Coast Conference’s preseason player of the year, told reporters Tuesday he had dealt with a right shoulder sprain last week leading up to Clemson’s 45-17 win over The Citadel. The shoulder was the same one he hurt against Boston College last November, leading to offseason surgery.
Harper says the injury occurred against Alabama on Aug. 30. He took treatment up to four times a day to get ready for the Bulldogs.
Still, Harper’s downfield throws did not look as crisp as in the past, even though he finished 14 of 18 for 192 yards and his first touchdown pass of the season.
Clemson coach Tommy Bowden was asked about Harper’s play. "Coming out of The Citadel game there’s a lot of guys who could have played better," Bowden said. "What was he, 14 of 18? It’s nothing of any great concern."
Harper said Tuesday he thought he played well with the injury and didn’t mind Bowden’s push to improve. He only wished Bowden has told him in person instead of through the media.
Then again, Harper has dealt with slights before.
Just this Saturday with Clemson ahead big in the fourth quarter, Tiger fans at Death Valley gave a big, loud cheer to Harper’s backup, Willy Korn, when he got in.
Harper, a senior who set nearly two dozen school records last season, shrugs it off.
"My confidence is still up, and I think I’ve been doing a good job," he said.
Coming off a 24-14 loss to Middle Tennessee State, Maryland will take any advantage it can get against No. 23 California on Saturday.
The Golden Bears will have to travel across the country, and kickoff is scheduled at 9 a.m. West Coast time.
"That will help us out a little bit," Maryland defensive end Jeremy Navarre said. "But they’re an experienced team, so it’s not going to effect them that much. Their coach will get them up and get them ready."
It’s the first meeting between the schools, and California’s first trip to the East Coast since 2001.
"I think they’ll be ready, regardless," Terrapins defensive back Jeff Allen said.
Maryland can only hope to catch the Bears sleepwalking; they’re 2-0 and coming off a 66-3 rout of Washington State.
North Carolina hasn’t had many happy returns to Chapel Hill lately — and none under Butch Davis.
The Tar Heels have lost their last 20 games played outside the state’s border dating back to their victory at Arizona State in 2002. Davis’ 0-6 record in road games last season included three out-of-state losses.
Naturally, Davis is looking to end that trend Thursday night at Rutgers.
"Probably the two most important things for road games is, No. 1, talent ... and the second thing is experience," Davis said. "We’re not going to visit the Statue of Liberty. We’re not going to the zoo. We’re not going to stay overnight at Broadway and try to catch a play. It’s a business trip. When you’ve got a very, very young and inexperienced football team, it’s something that you have to constantly remind them to stay focused.
"When kids fall into a routine and they understand that it is a business trip, it gives you the best chance to play."
D-line leading Tech
Georgia Tech’s new spread option offense has been the hot topic on the team, but Paul Johnson knows defense gets the credit for the Yellow Jackets’ 2-0 start.
Quarterback Josh Nesbitt, a sophomore first-year starter, is still learning to make the proper reads in the offense, and the offensive line struggled to block Boston College’s pass rushers in last week’s 19-16 win for the Ramblin’ Wreck on the Eagles’ home field.
"We got our tail handed to us up front pretty good for most of the game," Johnson said.
Georgia Tech’s defensive front, led by Vance Walker, Darryl Richard and Michael Johnson, has played up to its preseason billing. Sophomore end Derrick Morgan is the only new starter on the four-man front, and he’s the early leader with 2.5 sacks.
Richard won ACC defensive lineman of the week honors after forcing a fumble, recording three tackles for losses and batting down a pass in the win over Boston College. Tech’s defense held the Eagles to 60 yards in the second half.
"There’s no question that’s the strength of the football team right now," Johnson said.