Williams Obliterates Duke and the Record Book: UNC Wins 66-31

The way all the jaws were hanging to the floor in Chapel Hill, it almost appeared as if the fans at Kenan Stadium had just seen a ghost–and in some ways they did.

In front of a sell-out crowd on Saturday, the No. 21 UNC football team matched its longest winning streak since 1997 with an emphatic 66-31 blowout over the arch-rival Duke Blue Devils.

Senior quarterback Marquise Williams put together a statistical performance normally only seen in video games–starting with an 89-yard flea flicker touchdown pass to junior Ryan Switzer on the team’s first offensive play.

It was something that the UNC coaches determined they would run right out of the gate if they saw a specific coverage they were looking for.

“If the safety is not gonna fit, you can’t run that play because he can be the backside safety and run over to where the ball’s gonna be placed at,” Williams said after the game. “And I was just praying, I prayed last night before I went to sleep hoping this play is the first play and the safety just fits.

Ryan Switzer breaks away for his game-changing touchdown. (UNC Athletics)

Ryan Switzer breaks away for his game-changing touchdown. (UNC Athletics)

“God answered my prayer,” he added.

From there, the Tar Heels refused to take their foot off the gas pedal, smashing any and every record they could get their hands on before the clock hit triple zeroes.

Having obviously eaten his Wheaties before the game, Williams completed 23-of-35 passes for 494 yards–a new school record–and accounted for five touchdowns in all. He also rushed for 30 yards, to finish with 524 total yards by himself–the first Tar Heel to ever break the 500 yard mark–in what was arguably the best performance ever by a UNC football player.

“Quise was on the money with it today,” Tar Heel head coach Larry Fedora said. “He did a really nice job. We got length on the outside, we got great quickness on the outside, so we’ve got great weapons in that area.”

UNC has now racked up eight consecutive wins, and has its fifth straight victory to begin ACC play. At 8-1 overall and 5-0 against conference opponents, Fedora has his squad sitting firmly atop the league’s Coastal Division.

Duke, meanwhile, has now lost two games in a row–dropping to 6-3 in all games, and 3-2 in conference play.

Coming into Saturday, the Blue Devils boasted the nation’s ninth ranked defense–a unit surrendering just 295 yards of offense per game.

But Williams and his uber-athletic group of receivers made scoring against the Duke secondary look like child’s play.

Along with Switzer’s crowd pleasing flea flicker touchdown, the Tar Heels scored in the first half on a 79-yard rainbow from Williams to Mack Hollins, and on a 49-yard dart to Bug Howard–a play that made the score 38-10 with just one second remaining before halftime.

MJ Stewart tackles Duke's Max McCaffrey. (UNC Athletics)

MJ Stewart tackles Duke’s Max McCaffrey. (UNC Athletics)

Hollins set a career-high with 5 catches for 165 yards, while Switzer also broke the century mark–ending the game with 107 yards on 5 receptions. Howard caught three balls for 83 yards, nearly making it three receivers above the 100-yard threshold.

Star running back Elijah Hood scored three times on 17 carries, gaining 69 yards. His main contributions came as a blocker, though, picking up the blitz on a couple of Williams’ long touchdown throws.

“We feed off explosive plays, and we’re an explosive offense,” Hood said. “So one big play, and you’re bound for more, I think, with us.”

At halftime, UNC had already amassed 486 yards of total offense–before eventually finishing with 704. It’s just the third time in school history that the Tar Heels have reached the 700-yard plateau.

The Blue Devils found success running the ball against Gene Chizik’s defense with running backs Shaquille Powell (13 carries for 98 yards) and Jela Duncan (13 carries for 115 yards)–but simply could not keep up with the Tar Heels’ break-neck scoring pace.

Duncan’s 52-yard touchdown run in the second quarter brought the score to 21-10. That was the closest it would get the rest of the game.

“I heard one of the [Duke players] tell [Ryan] Switzer, ‘This is gonna be a long day,'” Williams said. “I started laughing when I heard a guy said that. I told Coach [Fedora], ‘We gotta keep going, we gotta keep going. The guy’s already feeling like this is gonna be a long game for ’em, so let’s keep going.'”

Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk struggled with his accuracy, completing just 18 of his 37 throws for 191 yards and two interceptions on the day. He did do some damage of his own in the running game, however, scrambling eight times for 74 yards–including a pair of touchdown scampers in the third quarter, one from 53 yards out and another from four yards away.

The 2015 group gets to hold on to the Victory Bell for another year. (UNC Athletics)

The 2015 group gets to hold on to the Victory Bell for another year. (UNC Athletics)

UNC continued to show no mercy, however, as Elijah Hood ran in two scores of his own in the quarter. Williams also found senior Quinshad Davis during the frame to make it four touchdown passes to four different receivers.

As has become the norm this season when the Tar Heels play at home, the fourth quarter was strictly a formality.

The backups, led by sophomore quarterback Mitch Trubisky, played out the final period–but not without getting in on the fun.

Trubisky ran in a score from two yards out to put UNC above the 60-point mark, the first time it has hit that total this season.

For the second straight year, the Victory Bell will reside in Chapel Hill–much to the delight of Mack Hollins and the rest of the Tar Heel team.

“All week at practice, the bell was [there],” Hollins said. “I was big into screaming, ‘Duke Week’ and ‘Ring my bell’, and all that stuff. So to have it on our sideline after, and to know that it’s ours for a whole ‘nother 365 [days] is a great feeling.”

Up Next:

The red-hot Tar Heels will play their final home game of the year next Saturday against Miami. As it stands right now, UNC controls its own destiny in the ACC Coastal Division, and is in the driver’s seat for a spot in the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte.

Game Notes:

  • Marquise Williams’ 4-yard touchdown run in the first quarter was his 80th touchdown accounted for in a Carolina uniform, moving him past former quarterback Darian Durant (2001-2004) for the UNC school record in that category.
  • It took UNC just 2:01 with the ball to score its first two touchdowns.
  • The Tar Heels scored points on 10 of their 13 drives, and their 66 points were the most they’ve ever scored in an ACC game.



UNC-Duke: This One’s Bigger Than the Bell

Each year since 1948 UNC and Duke have battled on the gridiron for the right to ring the Victory Bell on the way out of the stadium.

But when the rivalry is renewed in Chapel Hill on Saturday, the Victory Bell won’t be the only thing at stake—which is a far cry from years past.

Winners of seven games in a row, the Tar Heels lead the ACC Coastal Division, are 4-0 against conference competition, and bring a 7-1 overall record into Saturday’s grudge match against coach David Cutcliffe’s Blue Devils–who are 6-2 with a 3-1 conference mark.

Marquise Williams has been the catalyst of the Tar Heels' recent win streak, and of their Victory Bell win against Duke last year. (Mark Dolejs/ USA Today Sports)

Marquise Williams has been the catalyst of the Tar Heels’ recent win streak, and of their Victory Bell win against Duke last year. (Mark Dolejs/ USA Today Sports)

UNC will also sport a fancy number next to its name during the broadcast for the first time this season, as the makers of the AP Top 25 ranked head coach Larry Fedora’s bunch as the 21st best squad in the land this week.

“I haven’t really talked to them about that,” Fedora said on Monday. “Because our goal hasn’t been to be in the poll. That’s not what our goal is. We’ve got bigger goals than that. That just happens to come with it.

“But it really doesn’t change who we are,” the coach continued. “Who we were [last] Thursday night [against Pitt] when we weren’t ranked and who we are today, we’re still the same team.”

Last week Duke was ranked 22nd in the polls, but lost to Miami by way of a miracle last second kickoff return. That play robbed fans of both schools from seeing them play as ranked football teams for the first time in 76 years.

For once, Tar Heels like senior receiver Quinshad Davis, had no clue how to feel about a Blue Devil loss.

“It was a love/hate thing,” Davis said about the wild finish. “Because [we] love that they lost, but we hate that they aren’t going to be ranked when we play ’em, and it’ll be a big time game.”

Kenan Stadium has been sold out for this meeting for over a week now, as the anticipation reaches basketball-level heights here in the Triangle area. Now that the football rivalry is beginning to spread its wings just a bit, Davis and the rest of his teammates are itching to hit the field and show what they can do in front of a packed house.

“[The rivalry’s] always been a big deal with the football team,” the receiver told reporters on Tuesday. “But as far as the fan base goes it’s become a big deal because both teams are winning and both have a chance to win the Coastal this year.”

For seniors like Davis, offensive guard Landon Turner, and quarterback Marquise Williams—this game is especially huge because they’ve played in it during times where neither team was on anyone’s national radar. Back then, it was all about the bell.

Among the football players, this rivalry has always been huge.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Among the football players themselves, this rivalry has always been huge. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

And in Turner’s eyes, that message has not been lost, regardless of what the standings say.

“It’s kinda nice to see it be big for everyone else, but it really hadn’t changed how we feel about it,” he said. “It’s the Battle for the Bell, and I think both teams–both football teams, not basketball teams–are really understanding of that.”

Over the last 24 games between the schools located just a handful of miles apart, the Tar Heels have dominated, going 21-3 in that span—including a 45-20 win in Durham last year where Williams was fantastic, throwing for 276 yards and accounting for four touchdowns.

“We took care of business last year, but this year’s a new year,” Williams said. “I’m looking forward to keeping [the bell] here where it belongs.

The Charlotte native continued by acknowledging this is the senior class’s final chance at glory in this classic rivalry.

“It’d be great for my last year to keep the bell here, and have our fans ringing the bell after the game,” he said.

A win Saturday would keep the bell in Chapel Hill, while also playing a large role in sending UNC to a place it’s never been before—the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte.

Doesn’t that have a nice ring to it?


Broadcast Information:

WCHL will be broadcasting the game live on our airwaves, with kickoff set to take place at noon. ESPN2 will have the TV coverage.

Game Notes:

  • Junior cornerback Brian Walker, a key cog in UNC’s pass defense ranked third in the country in yards allowed, left the team last Wednesday. He is expected to seek a transfer in order to get more playing time.
  • With two touchdowns on Saturday, Marquise Williams would become the school’s all-time leader in that category, passing former quarterback Darian Durant–who accounted for 79 in his career (passing, rushing, and receiving.)
  • UNC is one of only 10 teams in the country to average more than 200 yards rushing (210.3) and 250 yards passing (259.8) per game.

Cash Expected to Make Huge Impact on UNC-Duke Matchup

When UNC quarterback Marquise Williams gets the ball on Saturday in the Tar Heels’ battle with Duke, he’ll be facing a defense ranked ninth in the country, and giving up just 295 yards per game.

As good as they are as a group, there’s one Blue Devil in particular that Williams will have to keep his eye on all day to have a shot at pulling out the win.

All week long the Tar Heel players and coaches have had to take questions about Duke senior safety Jeremy Cash.

Jeremy Cash has proven that he can take over games for the Blue Devils. (Streeter Lecka/ Getty Images)

Jeremy Cash has proven that he can take over games for the Blue Devils. (Streeter Lecka/ Getty Images)

The 6-foot-2 Miami native transferred to Durham in 2012 from perennial powerhouse Ohio State and has been working his way up NFL Draft rankings ever since—racking up 181 tackles and eight sacks over the past year and a half.

That body of work has some analysts projecting him as a first round pick—which should be more than enough to merit Williams’ full attention.

“Jeremy Cash is one heck of a football player,” Williams said at Monday’s weekly press conference. “I’ve been watching him a couple years now. He’s been doing a tremendous job what he’s doing at blitz packages or covering guys.

“He’s one of the top guys in the ACC,” he continued. “Or in the country.”

UNC comes into the matchup averaging 470 yards of total offense per game, so something will have to give this weekend.

Sophomore running back Elijah Hood is on pace to be the Tar Heels’ first 1000-yard rusher since current Cincinnati Bengal Gio Bernard accomplished the feat in 2012–and just the third to do it since 1997–but he says the offense may have to make a few adjustments this week to deal with Cash’s unique skill set.

“I feel like this week we might have something a little special because Jeremy Cash is particularly a special player when it comes to blitzing and getting tackles for losses,” Hood said. “There might be something we put in just in case, you know, make sure we’re alerted whenever he’s in the nickel or trying to come off the edge.

“He can be…kind of a disruption whenever he has the opportunity.”

Although Cash’s primary role is that of a deep safety, he also plays some linebacker and cornerback—in order to stuff the run and match up with opposing inside receivers–which means UNC’s slithery slot man Ryan Switzer may have a tough time breaking off the big plays he’s produced in recent weeks.

Tar Heel head coach Larry Fedora wouldn’t disclose any of his game plan specifics, but did acknowledge the challenge in front of him.

“He is a really good football player,” Fedora said about Cash. “They put him in a lot of different places, they do a lot of things with him, and he’s really good. He’s the heart and soul of their defense.”

UNC's Ryan Switzer (3) will likely spend some time lining up against Cash this Saturday. (UNC Athletics)

UNC’s Ryan Switzer (3) will likely spend some time lining up against Cash this Saturday. (UNC Athletics)

Aside from last Saturday’s devastating loss to Miami, the result of a walk-off eight-lateral kick return touchdown, Cash and the Blue Devils have become contenders to win the ACC Coastal Division by limiting the type of explosive gains that have propelled the Tar Heels to the top of the division standings.

“They’re a sound fundamental football team,” Hood said. “They’re always in position. You don’t really see that many busts in what they’re doing or the way they’re attacking the [running] lanes. Their discipline and the way they execute in situations is something they do well.”

There’s an old saying in sports that talent recognizes talent.

So if there’s anyone that can speak to the ability of Duke’s super safety, it’s UNC’s own first round NFL prospect—senior offensive guard Landon Turner.

“I think his biggest thing is he just makes plays,” Turner said after practice on Tuesday. “It seems like he’s all over the field and he’s in every play.

“I can tell he’s definitely a leader on that side of the ball, and that’s tough to contend with,” he added. “We’re gonna have our hands full with that this weekend.”


Brandon Ingram ‘Creating Own Path’, Chooses Duke

Brandon Ingram, the No. 3 player in the basketball Class of 2015, chose Duke as his college destination Monday evening inside the Kinston High School gymnasium.

***Listen to the story***

For the Tar Heels, the decision hurts. UNC had recruited the five-star recruit heavily since his freshman year in high school.

ingram 4

Brandon Ingram sporting a Duke hat Monday (WITN)

But alas, Ingram will be playing for the national champions this fall, wearing a darker shade of blue.

Ingram says he’s ‘creating his own path’ in his basketball journey.

He made that statement loud and clear to the college hoops world when he slapped on a dark blue Blue Devil hat inside a packed gym lined with throngs of fans and media members.

UNC appeared to have the leg up on the competition in the Ingram Stakes. Roy Williams and the UNC coaching staff had him targeted for years. The Tar Heels also had the built-in advantage of former UNC players Jerry Stackhouse and Reggie Bullock hailing from Kinston – Ingram’s rural hometown.

Ingram had been talking to both and appeared destined to make his way to Chapel Hill. But instead, with the weight of the ominous NCAA cloud still hanging over Carolina, its most hated rival, Duke, swept in and grabbed the 6’ 8” talent at the eleventh hour.

Ingram with the slam dunk (Smith Hardy)

Ingram with the slam dunk (Smith Hardy)

But former Tar Heel great Phil Ford says deciding on a school to play ball is always a difficult decision, and it’s one each player must make for himself.

“It’s not a science in picking the right school. It’s just one of those things that you have to go with your heart. Follow your heart,” Ford says.

Yes, Ingram may be following his heart down the road to Durham, but that doesn’t make it sting any less for the Tar Heels.

Following his son’s announcement, Donald Ingram told the media the ongoing NCAA investigation ultimately killed UNC’s chances.

And his son doesn’t disagree. Brandon Ingram confirmed what had been a long-held belief by many – sans the NCAA cloud; he would have been wearing Carolina blue.

UNC has given out 13 offers to the class of 2015. Eleven of those players have opted for other schools – only Kenny Williams and Jaylen Brown remain.


Blue Devil Bats Wake Up, Crush Tar Heels

The Duke offense finally broke through on Sunday, lifting the Blue Devils to a 9-2 victory over the 11th ranked UNC baseball team at Boshamer Stadium in the final act of their three-game series. The loss is North Carolina’s first in ACC play in 2015, dropping its record to 2-1 in conference and 10-4 overall. As for Duke, it earned its first conference win, improving to 1-2 in the ACC and 11-3 for the year.

In a surprise move, the Tar Heels decided their scheduled starter, senior Benton Moss, needed more rest. So Coach Mike Fox and his staff decided to call on sophomore AJ Bogucki to try and get the job done.

“Moss is not ready to pitch right now,” Fox says, “If he was available to pitch, he would have pitched today. We’ll find out a little more about what’s going on with him probably the first of this week.” Coach also added that they believe it may be a forearm issue, but he didn’t have any other details.

Despite not recording a hit in the first inning, it would not take long for the Blue Devils to chase Bogucki from the game.

Sophomore AJ Bogucki did not have his best day making the start for Benton Moss. (UNC Athletics)

With two outs in the top of the second, Duke catcher Mike Rosenfeld singled up the middle to score third baseman Jack Labosky. After a passed ball sent Rosenfeld to second base, he was sent home when Justin Bellinger’s liner dropped into right-field, handing the team from Durham an early 2-0 lead.

UNC pitching coach Scott Forbes wasted no time heading to the mound, replacing Bogucki with Spencer Trayner, who struck out second baseman Andy Perez to end the inning.

Three errors by the Duke infield in the bottom half of the second allowed Carolina to get one run back off of their starter, sophomore Bailey Clark. UNC had runners on first and second with no outs after an error by Blue Devil shortstop Kenny Koplove let Alex Raburn cross the plate, but Clark escaped the jam without giving up anything more.

Duke senior catcher Mike Rosenfeld led the Blue Devil attack, going -

Duke senior catcher Mike Rosenfeld led the Blue Devil attack, going 3-4 with an RBI. (GoDuke.com)

Coming into the game with a fantastic 1.35 ERA, Clark continued his high level of play on Sunday, tossing eight innings while giving up just one earned run and four hits. He also struck out six.

“He came right at us, pounded the zone, and we knew he threw a lot of fastballs coming in, so that’s kind of what we looked for,” says UNC second baseman Alex Raburn, “He had a good outing. We didn’t really perform today. I guess that’s what it comes down to.”

Missing Moss proved to be crucial for the Tar Heels, as Peter Zyla and Justin Bellinger each hit two-run doubles for Duke in a third inning where the Blue Devils scored more runs (four) than they had in the previous two games combined (three).

To put the “loss of Moss” into perspective, Zac Gallen pitched seven innings on Friday, JB Bukauskas went six on Saturday, and Sunday UNC used four pitchers just to get through the first three.

They would end up going through eight arms in total, a number that could have been higher if not for strong outings from Trevor Kelley and Jason Morgan. Kelley pitched 3.1 scoreless innings in his third straight game with a relief appearance, while Morgan made his first career college appearance and threw 2.2 scoreless to reach the end of the game.

Afterwards, Kelley spoke about what allowed him to have success individually against the Blue Devils all weekend.

“I got in Friday, got in yesterday, so I kind of became familiar with their line-up,” Kelley says, “They’re all over the plate, so I knew bustin’ them in early in the count would open up my off-speed (pitches).”

Freshman first baseman Zack Gahagan provided the lone bright spot of the day for Carolina, hitting his second home run of the season in the bottom of the seventh.

Unfortunately the solo shot did not have much effect on the outcome, as it only slimmed Duke’s lead to 9-2, where it would stay until the end, as UNC didn’t get another hit for the rest of the game.

Coach Fox took a big picture approach to the loss.

“We had a good week. If you win every series, you know you’re gonna host a regional (in the NCAA tournament),” Coach says, “So that’s probably what I’ll go in there and tell (the players) just to make them feel a little bit better. It is important to win the series, and it’s important to win a series at home, especially.”

The Tar Heels close out the series with a 183-100-2 record all-time against Duke in baseball.

Up Next:

It’ll be time to hit the road again for the Tar Heels as they head to Conway, South Carolina for a game with Coastal Carolina set to begin at 4 P.M on Tuesday. Starting pitchers have not been announced.

Game Notes:

  • Duke hit 6-11 with runners in scoring position (.545).
  • UNC’s Zack Gahagan and Duke’s starting pitcher Bailey Clark are cousins. Gahagan homered off of Clark in the seventh.
  • The Blue Devils recorded 12 hits on Sunday after getting just 14 combined on Friday and Saturday




Duke Spoils Carolina’s Senior Night, Earns Season Sweep

The night in the Smith Center started with a rousing cheer. Mike Krzyzewski acknowledged his adoring fans. No, that’s not a typo.

This is Duke-Carolina after all. But the celebrations for the Blue Devils didn’t end after the pregame festivities. Postgame was pretty fun too.

***Listen to the story***

The No.19 North Carolina Tar Heel men’s basketball team, despite leading by as many as seven points in the second half, couldn’t keep up with the aggressive-minded No. 3 Duke Blue Devils Saturday night, falling 84-77.

It was a bit of déjà vu for Carolina, who once again, saw a second half lead dissipate quickly against its immensely talented rival from Durham.

Duke's defense bottled up Kennedy Meeks (Todd Melet)

Duke’s defense bottled up Kennedy Meeks (Todd Melet)

The Blue Devils improved to 28-3 on the season with a 15-3 mark in conference action. With the loss, the Tar Heels dropped to 21-10 overall and 11-7 in ACC play.

Duke freshman guard Tyus Jones led all scorers with 24 points and senior Quinn Cook added in 20 points of his own to apply a powerful one-two punch for a high-octane offense.

In addition, Duke showed its toughness. The Blue Devils battled their way to the foul line on 26 occasions, doubling up UNC, who made a mere 13 trips to the charity stripe. Too often, the Tar Heels settled for shots outside the paint – not a comfort zone.

For the second time in the last three seasons, UNC has failed to send out its seniors with a victory on Senior Night. And for that, UNC head coach Roy Williams was all torn up.

“I hate it on senior day but I was spoiled rotten. Ten years as an assistant coach, we always won on senior day. First 24 years as a head coach, we won on every senior day, and now we’ve lost two of the last three. Whatever I was doing earlier, I need to get back to doing a better job,” Coach Williams says.

***Listen to Roy Williams’ postgame remarks***

UNC junior guard Marcus Paige finished with a team-leading 23 points, but was understandably disappointed with the 16 turnovers committed by Carolina.

Roy Williams shares his side of the story to an official (Todd Melet)

Roy Williams shares his side of the story to an official (Todd Melet)

“We didn’t take care of the ball. We took a couple of quick shots. We weren’t complacent or comfortable with our 7-point lead, but we didn’t stick to what got us there. A couple passes got errant and they capitalized on every single one of them. They had 21 points off turnovers and a lot of them came during that run,” Paige says.

Coach K said there was little separating the two teams, but he was thrilled with the winning result.

“I think it was a similar game as the one in Durham where either team is deserving of winning. Like one play or one little spurt and both teams played unbelievably hard and we’re obviously really pleased because we won a hard fought game against an outstanding team that was obviously ready to play. They were ready to play. I thought our bench was terrific,” Coach K says.

The started with a J.P. Tokoto steal that led to an emphatic dunk by Brice Johnson that tallied the contest’s first points. The Smith Center promptly erupted.

But from there, Duke did Duke things, knocking down outside shots to take an early 14-8 lead.

Johnson was the emotional spearhead for the Tar Heels in the opening 20 minutes of play, screaming after critical rebounds and amping up the raucous fans.

A Paige three-pointer with 6:06 to go before halftime gave UNC its first lead of the contest. At intermission, the Tar Heels held a 33-31 edge thanks in large part to some subpar shooting from Duke.

The Tar Heels stretched it out to a seven-point lead out of the locker room only to watch Duke go on a 14-2 run midway through the second half.

Bodies were flying all over the Smith Center floor (Todd Melet)

Bodies were flying all over the Smith Center floor (Todd Melet)

Duke’s defensive press flustered UNC at times. Six points in less than 20 seconds always helps the cause as well. Two drained three-pointers gave Duke the 68-59 lead with 6:17 to play in the contest.

UNC’s final opportunity was snuffed out in the closing seconds when down five points, freshman Joel Berry fumbled an easy hand-off to Paige. The Smith Center crowd exodus promptly followed.

UNC freshman forward Justin Jackson pretty much summed up the evening for the Tar Heels.

“It just comes down to wanting it more. They made plays down the stretch that we didn’t, and that’s why we lost. It’s as simple as that. First half we came out, and we played pretty hard. Second half, at the start of it we played hard and got lackadaisical. Whenever you get lackadaisical with a team like that they take advantage of it, and that’s just the end of it,” Jackson says.

Next up for the Tar Heels comes the ACC Tournament and a Wednesday meeting in Greensboro with either Boston College or Georgia Tech.




Tar Heels Take Game 2, Clinch UNC-Duke Baseball Series Win

Saturday’s opening act of the UNC-Duke showdown took place on the diamond, where JB Bukauskas’s pitching and three hits from Logan Warmoth led the 11th ranked Tar Heels to a 6-2 win over the Blue Devils in Chapel Hill. Carolina opens ACC play 2-0 and moves to 10-3 overall. Duke falls to 0-2 in the conference with their second straight loss, and their overall record dips to 10-3.

Plenty of fans came out to Boshamer Stadium to show their support for the Tar Heels, but one could argue that there were just as many pro scouts in attendance trying to get a good look at the day’s pitching matchup.

The Blue Devils sent 6’6″ junior Michael Matuella, considered by some to be the top pitching prospect in college baseball, to face-off with UNC’s own prize recruit, Bukauskas.

This has been the sight at the Bosh all weekend. Zac Gallen struck out 12 on Friday, and JB Bukauskas sat down - on Saturday. (UNC Athletics)

This has been the sight at the Bosh all weekend. Zac Gallen struck out 12 on Friday, and JB Bukauskas sat down eight on Saturday. (UNC Athletics)

Security must have been out on vacation, because both men brought in cannons: their right arms.

Bukauskas’ fastball touched 96 on the radar gun, just a tad faster than Matuella’s, which sat right at 94 in the initial portion of the game.

The freshman was caught in a bit of a jam in the bottom of the second after Duke loaded the bases with just one out, but escaped by getting Blue Devil shortstop Kevin Koplove to ground into a double play, ending the inning.

Other than that initial scare, JB Bukauskas (2-1) was money, stealing the spotlight for himself.

He followed Friday’s 12 strikeout performance from Zac Gallen with his own masterpiece. Six scoreless innings and eight strikeouts, while giving up just four hits easily represented the best start of his career. At one point in the game he retired twelve hitters in a row; a streak snapped by Duke center-fielder Evan Dougherty’s two-out single in the top of the sixth.

Coach Mike Fox has been extremely impressed with Bukauskas’ composure in big moments, saying after the game that “He doesn’t let anything phase him. He’s just the same, it’s like he has no heartbeat, and that’s good. That’s good when you’re pitching.”

Logan Warmoth continued a great freshman year, going - with an RBI. (UNC Athletics)

Logan Warmoth continued a great freshman year, going 3-3 with an RBI. (UNC Athletics)

Matuella, on the other hand, delivered a solid, but short, outing as he recovers from forearm tightness that has plagued him over the past couple weeks. Duke head coach Chris Pollard pulled his star after he threw three scoreless innings and gave up one hit, a single to UNC third baseman Logan Warmoth.

“He throws 95 just like JB, he throws gas, so I was just trying to see it as long as I could,” Warmoth says about facing off with the big righty, “I took two fastballs that were good pitches, but he came back with another one, so I just put my bat on it. He supplied the power, so I barely had to hit it.”

Reliever Mitch Stallings, a freshman, came on to pitch the fourth inning for the Blue Devils, something the Tar Heel bats really seemed to appreciate. Landon Lassiter hit a lead-off double, and was immediately sent home by Tyler Ramirez’s RBI triple in the next at-bat. Ramirez scored soon after on a sacrifice fly by first baseman Adrian Chacon, and later in the same frame Warmoth’s second hit of the day plated Brian Miller–handing Carolina a 3-0 lead through four.

This seemed to change the flow of the game in the eyes of Carolina’s young pitching prodigy.

“I thought we battled well against him, but as soon as he came out I thought that was a weight off our shoulders and I wouldn’t say we let our guard down, but it kind of loosened things up, and we started, I think, playing a little bit better,” Bukauskas says.

Replacing Bukauskas to begin the seventh was one of the Tar Heels’ own freshman relievers, Hansen Butler, who was tasked with protecting the three-run lead. Unfortunately for Butler, the Blue Devils ended his outing quickly, loading the bases with no outs after two base-hits and a walk.

Tyler Ramirez slides into third for a triple. (UNC Athletics)

Tyler Ramirez slides into third for a triple. (UNC Athletics)

It was the reliable senior, Trevor Kelley, that got Carolina out of the seventh cleanly with a strikeout, a spectacular catch on a line drive hit right back at him, and a ground-out earned by a diving stop by first baseman Zack Gahagan. This sequence played out to a loud chorus of cheers from the Tar Heel faithful, a group worried that the Blue Devils had found a sign of life.

Kelley’s heroics must have motivated the UNC offense to give their bullpen some more breathing room, because they came out in their half of the seventh and added two more runs. Gahagan, a freshman, tripled in Alex Raburn and fellow first-year Brian Miller singled home Gahagan, all with two outs.

Duke finally broke through off of Kelley in the eighth when catcher Mike Rosenfeld smashed a double to left center-field, scoring two runs and cutting their deficit back to three. Nick Raquet appeared out of the Tar Heel bullpen and took the ball from Kelley to record the last out of the inning.

That would not be enough to stop the Tar Heels from winning their fourth game in a row.

Carolina tacked on an additional run in the eighth before Duke’s final chance in the ninth against UNC’s current closer Trent Thornton. Thornton wouldn’t need it, as he pitched a scoreless ninth and clinched the series win for Coach Fox and his club.

Up Next:

The series will close out tomorrow with the Tar Heels looking for the sweep. Game 3 will begin at 2 P.M, as UNC ace Benton Moss (2-0, 2.30 ERA) will head to the bump to face Duke’s sophomore right-hander Bailey Clark (1-0, 1.35 ERA).

Game Notes:

  • Matuella went three innings and threw 39 pitches for Duke after throwing just 25 in his last start. His ERA remains 0.00.
  • Tyler Ramirez’s fourth inning triple was his second of the season. He leads UNC in triples and home runs (with two in each category).
  • The loss is credited to Duke’s Mitch Stallings, who pitched the fourth and fifth innings, giving up three runs.
  • Carolina shortstop Wood Myers had his hitting streak snapped at 15 games.



Gallen’s 12 K’s Lead UNC Baseball to Victory Over Duke

Zac Gallen tallied 12 strikeouts in a phenomenal starting pitching performance, leading the 11th ranked UNC baseball team to a series opening win over the rival Duke Blue Devils by a score of 8-1 Friday afternoon in Chapel Hill. The win improves UNC to 9-3 and 1-0 in the ACC. It also ends Duke’s nine-game winning streak, dropping them to 10-2 and 0-1 in conference play so far in 2015.

Predictions for this series called for the games to be low scoring and dominated by pitching. Those forecasts certainly held true in the early going for each team, but ultimately this day was all about one man.

Gallen (1-1) came out of the gate firing missiles, striking out 10 Blue Devil batters in just the first four innings, surpassing his career high of nine set last Sunday against Rhode Island. By the end of the game he had put together arguably the best performance by a UNC player all season long.

“I watched a lot of video on them yesterday,” Gallen says, “And I just saw that they were kind of cheating to go away (from the plate), so same thing as last weekend, I just tried to establish the inner half and then open up the whole strike zone.”

Tyler Ramirez, the Tar Heel right-fielder, tripled and had an RBI in the opener vs. Duke. (UNC Athletics)

Tyler Ramirez, the Tar Heel right-fielder, tripled and had an RBI in the opener vs. Duke. (UNC Athletics)

He was moved up into the Friday start after Benton Moss was moved back in the rotation to Sunday for what Coach Mike Fox deemed “precautionary” reasons. Fox has been pleased with the maturity Gallen has shown this season, despite not yet having a clearly defined role.

“We started the season and he wasn’t one of our weekend guys. He was all last year as a freshman, but he didn’t pout,” Coach Fox says, “He wasn’t happy about it, but he didn’t pout. And then he pitched great out of the bullpen, then we throw him into the worst possible weather last weekend and he pitches great and got a little chip on his shoulder, and then for one reason or another we’re having to pitch him in our first ACC game.”

Although Duke was originally expected to start 6’6″ right-hander Michael Matuella, they opted instead to go with senior Andrew Istler (1-1), also a righty.  Istler came into the game with an amazing 1.53 ERA in his three previous starts on the year, showing how, as he too brought his best stuff right from the get-go.

Three innings into the game neither team had a run, and each pitcher had allowed just one hit. Freshmen Evan Dougherty (Duke) and Brian Miller (UNC) each had a single, representing the only offense in the first third of the game.

Shortstop Wood Myers played well in the field and scored a run in the fourth. (UNC Athletics)

Shortstop Wood Myers played well in the field and scored a run in the fourth. (UNC Athletics)

Carolina finally got the bats rolling off of Istler in the bottom of the fourth, after a pair of infield singles by Skye Bolt and Wood Myers with no outs.  Landon Lassiter walked to load the bases, which then set up Tyler Ramirez, who drove in Bolt with a sacrifice fly to strike first blood.

The Tar Heels were also able to plate Myers before the end of the inning, giving Gallen a 2-0 lead to work with.

Similar events took place the next two times around for UNC. Skye Bolt’s second single of the day scored third baseman Logan Warmoth in the fifth, and Alex Raburn hit a sacrifice fly that scored Tyler Ramirez in the sixth, after Ramirez led off that inning with a triple.

Istler would finally come out of the game in the bottom of the seventh inning after UNC catcher Korey Dunbar singled with one out. Despite his stellar performance at the beginning of the game, he took the loss by finishing with five earned runs and eight hits in 6.1 innings of work.

As for the Tar Heels, their sophomore from Gibbsboro, New Jersey continued to dominate the Duke line-up as the game wore on. Gallen’s pitch count rose over 100 in the top of the seventh, but his effectiveness never suffered; finishing with seven innings and just one earned run, to go along with all those strikeouts. He also gave up just four hits.

Behind the plate, with the best seat in the house for Gallen’s amazing day, Dunbar offered up a catcher’s perspective on what allowed his man to pitch so well.

Skye Bolt went 3-5 with 2 RBI to lead the Carolina offense. (WRAL)

Skye Bolt went 3-5 with 2 RBI to lead the Carolina offense. (WRAL)

“Location, location, location,” says Dunbar, “I don’t think he didn’t hit a spot. When you’re commanding your fastball and you have somewhat of a feel on your off-speed, you’re gonna have a great day no matter what, especially him, he works his tail off.”

Trevor Kelley, who earned the win against Liberty on Monday, relieved Gallen in the the eighth after Duke’s first baseman, Jalen Phillips, tripled to lead off the inning. Phillips would score on a wild pitch by Kelley, but the run was credited to Gallen, the one mark on his outstanding day.

A stand-up RBI triple with two outs in the bottom of the eighth by Dunbar, and another RBI single from Bolt, put the Tar Heels on the board for the fifth consecutive inning. These plays led to a three-run inning that put the lead out of reach, at 8-1, heading into Duke’s final at-bats.

Staying on to close it in the ninth was Kelley. The senior sat down the Duke lineup without facing any significant threats to wrap up the Tar Heels’ first win over Duke since 2013.

Up Next:

If you like fastballs, then Saturday’s pitching matchup is for you. Carolina will send freshman JB Bukauskas and his 97 mph heater to face-off with the much-hyped junior, Matuella, who also possesses a mid-to-high 90’s fastball in his devastating repertoire. Matuella has also not allowed an earned run yet this season in seven innings of work.

The game is set to begin at 2 P.M. and will be broadcast on WCHL.

Game Notes:

  • Skye Bolt (hitting just .206 heading into Friday) started in center-field for UNC after coming off the bench on Wednesday against VCU and sitting out against Liberty. He played much better, going 3-5 with two RBI.
  • Duke had a runner on second base in three of the first four innings, failing to score each time.
  • Gallen’s ERA drops to 1.69 in 15 innings on the season.
  • The Blue Devils failed to get a hit all game with a runner on base.



Stakes Are High For Duke-Carolina, Round Two

The Tar Heels have the chance to end the regular season with an exclamation point Saturday night in the Smith Center, as is generally the case when the Blue Devils come to Chapel Hill.

***Listen to the story***

No. 19 North Carolina will remember well its 92-90 overtime loss at Cameron Indoor a few weeks ago. Up by double digits in the closing minutes of regulation, some sloppy mistakes in a rowdy environment cost the Tar Heels dearly.

Saturday offers a chance at redemption. That chance at revenge certainly isn’t lost on UNC head coach Roy Williams. Roy’s all fired up.

Roy Williams all fired up on the sidelines (Todd Melet)

Roy Williams all fired up on the sidelines (Todd Melet)

“If we have a letdown this time, we don’t have a freaking heart. Come on. We’re playing Duke, they beat us last time, and it’s the greatest rivalry in all of college basketball. If we get beat, it won’t be because of a letdown. If we have a letdown Saturday, I mean, what have we done? We’re not even in the top four,” Coach Williams says.

Roy pointed out another interesting subplot to Saturday evening’s festivities.

Louisville and UNC are competing for the No. 4 seed in next week’s ACC Tournament. The Cardinals face the back-to-back ACC regular season champion Virginia Cavaliers in game one of ESPN’s doubleheader. A loss there would open the door for the Tar Heels to secure the precious double bye in Greensboro next week.

As for Duke,  head coach Mike Krzyzewski has no such worries. His Blue Devils locked up the No. 2 seed next week with their senior night thrashing of Wake Forest Wednesday night.

Coach K is concerned, however, with a couple bum ankles.

“Our trainer said it didn’t seem bad. We’ll see. I don’t think long-lasting. I hope everybody is ready for Saturday. We only have the eight guys. That’s not a good thing. We’re concerned,” Coach K says.

Senior Quinn Cook meets with Coach K (Duke Photography)

Senior Quinn Cook meets with Coach K (Duke Photography)

The Tar Heels come into the rivalry matchup with some momentum. Coming off two road victories at Miami and Georgia Tech, Carolina appears to be in fine form.

“We tried to do a better job on the big guys in the second half [vs. GT]. We sort of meandered around there a little bit. We got enough breaks, enough layups and enough shots to go in the basket. But I do believe the whole thing is we just had more bodies than they did,” Coach Williams says.

A healthy Pinson adds even more depth to an already deep UNC lineup. Duke, on the other hand, doesn’t have that luxury. Getting into foul trouble is not an option for the shorthanded Blue Devils.

That’s why Coach K is emphasizing getting healthy.

“We secured the second spot for the ACC Tournament, which is great. Big game on Saturday. Let’s get healthy and go for it,” Coach K says.

Freshman Tar Heel Joel Berry tallied a career-high 15 points against Georgia Tech, including a trio of three-pointers.

If Berry’s knocking down outside shots, look out.

“You just got to put in the extra work if you want to see things happen in the game. I just try to after practice, get up extra shots. Once I get out on the court, game-time situation, that will help a lot,” Berry says.

Practice is in fact making perfect for Berry. The returning Pinson is hoping for the same.

“I’ve been running and cutting on it all week. I was pretty comfortable with it. I was just ready to get the heck out there and play basketball,” Pinson says.

Justin Jackson stretches to the basket (Todd Melet)

Justin Jackson stretches to the basket (Todd Melet)

The final member of the Tar Heel freshman trio, Justin Jackson, has been rounding into form as well. Jackson says he’s taking a more aggressive mindset to the floor.

“For our team to win, we need everybody to step up, me included. These past couple games, I’ve tried to be more aggressive and make things happen. It’s worked out pretty well,” Jackson says.

Carolina leads the all-time series with Duke 133-106, but the Blue Devils have won the past two meetings.

Our pregame coverage on 97.9 FM, WCHL begins at 7 p.m. Saturday with a special one-hour edition of the UNC Healthcare Countdown to Tipoff presented by Stanley-Martin Homes hosted by Ron Stutts. Listeners can also tune in to our live stream right here on Chapelboro.com.



UNC-Duke Rivalry Hits the Diamond

It’s UNC-Duke Week in Chapel Hill, and while most of the attention is on Saturday night’s basketball game, Coach Mike Fox and his 8-3, 11th ranked, Tar Heel baseball squad will also host a very talented Duke team. The Blue Devils will bring a 10-1 record into Friday’s opener.

Although they aren’t typically seen as a baseball powerhouse, head coach Chris Pollard has the Blue Devils currently on quite a roll,  as Duke brings a nine-game win streak into Boshamer Stadium.

Coach Fox says he’s well aware of the challenge in front of the Tar Heels this weekend.

Duke head coach Chris Pollard deserves a lot of credit for turning their program into a winner. (GoDuke.com)

Duke head coach Chris Pollard deserves a lot of credit for turning their program into a winner. (GoDuke.com)

“I think we’re gonna have our hands full,” Fox says, “I mean Duke’s played really well so far this pre-season. They’ve pitched exceptionally well. They’re gonna run three guys out there at us that are really, really good, and if we don’t match them on the mound, and if we don’t play good defense, we’re gonna have our hands full as I said.”

One of those great Duke pitchers is 6’6” junior Michael Matuella, considered by many pro scouts to be a lock for the first round of the MLB draft. He’ll likely start on Friday, but UNC sophomore outfielder Adam Pate says his team is confident in their game-plan against the big righty.

“He’s really talented, he’s really, really good, and obviously gonna be probably a first-rounder. Our approach to that is going to be to make him work, try and get his pitch count up, and try to get to their bullpen as soon as we can,” Pate says, adding that “When it comes to the match-up game I think we can play against just about anybody in the country.”

Senior Benton Moss has been the Tar Heels’ ace this year, with a 2-0 record and 27 strikeouts in just 15.2 innings pitched. However, it’ll be Zac Gallen on the mound in the opener, as Coach Fox says, “It looks like right now we’re gonna have to push Moss back a day. I think Coach Forbes pretty much made that decision, so it’s probably gonna be Zac Gallen (pitching Friday).”

Commenting on why the move was made, Fox was very brief, saying “Just a precaution, that’s kind of all I want to say.”

First pitch for the series will be thrown at 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon. Both weekend games will start at 2 p.m.