Tar Heels Try To Tame Wolfpack In Home Finale

The North Carolina football team, 6-5 overall and 4-3 in the ACC, closes out its regular season with a 12:30 p.m. kickoff Saturday afternoon against its rival from Raleigh – 6-5 N.C. State.

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The Tar Heels have been led by the gritty, determined play of junior signal caller Marquise Williams, who was named ACC Offensive Back of the Week for the fourth time this season Monday.

But according to Wolfpack defender Hakim Jones, Williams is a softy who “basically quits” when hit a few times.

UNC head coach Larry Fedora says he doesn’t think it’s wise to question his quarterback’s toughness.

“I wouldn’t question Marquise’s toughness. You have seen all of our games. You’ve seen how he gets hit and what he does. I haven’t looked at a game and thought he laid down for any reason,” Coach Fedora says.

Williams back for the snap (Elliott Rubin)

Williams back for the snap (Elliott Rubin)

If he got his way, Coach Fedora says he’d like Williams to go down to the ground a little quicker. But the Carolina skipper says that’s not even an option for the tough-natured Williams.

“I would like for him to go down more than he does, a whole lot more. But that’s not who he is. It’s not his makeup or in his DNA. He likes delivering blows,” Coach Fedora says.

There will certainly be plenty of heavy blows delivered Saturday afternoon in this rivalry matchup featuring two teams who don’t like each other.

Jones calling out Williams may be foolish, but it definitely throws more fuel on the fire of this intense rivalry that N.C. State head coach Dave Doeren says is fun to be a part of.

“It’s a great rivalry. The distance between the schools makes it special. They’re always heated and a lot of pageantry goes into them. I love everything about it. It’s a big challenge for our football team. Any time you’re in a game like this as a coach, it’s a pleasure,” Coach Doeren says.

Per usual, Coach Fedora turned the UNC locker room red last weekend. He says his interior decorating is partly motivational and partly just for fun.

“We like to have a good time. Whether that’s juvenile or not, the kids have fun with it. I don’t think it’s what motivates them to play the game. It’s kind of a joke, but they’ve had fun with it in the past,” Coach Fedora says.

The Wolfpack offense has found its feet this season in large part thanks to the play of Florida transfer quarterback Jacoby Brissett.

Coach Fedora says Brissett will make life difficult for the Tar Heel defense.

Jacoby Brissett (NBC Sports)

Jacoby Brissett (NBC Sports)

“That guy is really talented. He can beat you with his legs or beat you with his arms. He’s going to extend plays. He’s a special players, there’s no doubt,” Coach Fedora says.

The key to the game may come down to the running game. The team that has held the rushing advantage has won 19 of the last 22 meetings.

Luckily for the Tar Heels, running back T.J. Logan is running with ruthless intention at just the right time. His revitalization mimics the upward trajectory of the entire UNC team.

Senior linebacker Norkeithus Otis says his teammates have grown in confidence.

“We just keep working and believing in each other. We find ways to win games and keep fighting. A lot of the confidence has come up in all the guys,” Otis says.

The Tar Heels lead the all-time series with the Wolfpack, 65-32-6, and have never lost under the direction of Coach Fedora.


NCSU Head Coach Dave Doeren: Execution with Emotion

CHAPEL HILL– North Carolina State Head coach Dave Doeren says he understands the magnitude of the Wolfpack-Tar Heels game Saturday in Carter-Finley Stadium.

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Coach Dave Doeren

But Coach Doeren says his 3-4 team has been plagued by injuries all year.

“Well, we’ve dealt with a lot of adversity from an injury standpoint this year. It’s created some tough situations. Some we’ve handled well, and some we haven’t. We sit here 3-4. Obviously, we aren’t satisfied with that record or happy with it. But I am happy with way our guys continue to work,” Coach Doeren says.

One of the most dangerous weapons in the Wolfpack’s arsenal is running back Shadrach Thornton. Last week against the vaunted Florida State defense, he totaled an impressive 173 yards. But what makes Thornton so tough to bring down?

“He just plays hard. You know, he’s a guy that runs with an attitude. He’s a finisher. He’s a north and south guy. He’s not a dancer. He’s a hard guy to bring down because of that. He gets his pads down and runs behind them,” Coach Doeren says.

Coach Doeren says he wants to put the Wolfpack in position for postseason play, but a lot of those plans will hinge on the outcome of Saturday’s 12:30 kickoff against the hated UNC Tar Heels. Emotions will sure to be riding high.

“That’s the challenge. You have to be able to execute regardless of how excited you are to play, you have to execute. We talk about it a lot, but when you cross the white line, it’s going to come down to them being able to do it. […] We look forward to that opportunity to just play within ourselves and play for each other and execute the plan,” Coach Doeren says.

The Tar Heels, on the other hand, will be hoping to throw a wrench in those plans and keep their own run at the postseason intact.



Doeren Eager To See NC State Face Game Pressure

RALEIGH – North Carolina State is down to its final days of preparation for coach Dave Doeren’s first game with the Wolfpack. He’s eager to find out how his new players respond to game pressure.

Doeren said Monday the opener against Louisiana Tech will give the coaches a chance “to really see those pieces and how they interact.”

Doeren, who left Northern Illinois to replace Tom O’Brien, has spent the past month pushing the players to learn more of the offensive and defensive schemes installed during spring practices. But he said he won’t know for sure how much the players have processed or which guys will perform under pressure until Saturday.

Seven freshmen appear on the team’s depth chart, though the starting quarterback job remains open between Brandon Mitchell and Pete Thomas.


Wolfpack Searching for New QB, Faster Tempo

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina State is only a few workouts into the training camp that will reshape the Wolfpack under new coach Dave Doeren.

That leaves N.C. State with less than a month to figure out who is the starting quarterback leading a no-huddle offense and adjust to the faster tempo that Doeren wants in everything his players do.

Doeren says his players have had “bright eyes” and “good energy” to start training camp.

Receiver Rashard Smith says working at the faster tempo during spring practices helped prepare the players for the expectations that await them in August workouts. N.C. State opens the season at home Aug. 31 against Louisiana Tech.

Doeren led Northern Illinois to a BCS bowl last season before replacing Tom O’Brien, who was fired after six seasons.