Chansky’s Notebook: Big Four Bonanza

What a weekend for Big Four football.

You will have to go way back in the record books and personal memory banks to find a weekend that matches what happened to the generally beleaguered Big Four football programs. Three of them won in distinctly different scenarios and the fourth did not play but garnered almost as much attention as the other three.

Let’s start, of course, with Carolina, which had no business pulling out a 37-36 win over Pitt in the ACC opener for both teams after things went south for the Tar Heels in the first few minutes. Ryan Switzer’s 90-yard punt to the house was called back by a hold that occurred before Switzer ever caught the ball. Then Switz got caught for a safety on UNC’s first play from scrimmage.

Another turnover led the Panthers to a two touchdown lead they held until 6 minutes remained in the game. That’s when Pitt pulled in the reins on its running game that UNC could not stop, giving Carolina enough time to remarkably score 14 points on two Mitch Trubisky TD passes to Bug Howard that won the game. A loss at home would have all but killed Carolina’s chances of defending the ACC Coastal crown, while Pitt went home with its collective bell rung.

Meanwhile, Duke magically transformed itself from one of the worst football teams I have ever seen the week before at Northwestern to looking like a juggernaut at obviously overconfident but actually pretty mediocre Notre Dame in a 38-35 stunner at South Bend. Daniel Jones emerged as perhaps Duke’s next great quarterback and Breon Borders as the Blue Devils’ new Jeremy Cash in the secondary. David Cutcliffe called it the greatest victory in the history of the Duke program; certainly the most amazing win.

At Bloomington, the state of Indiana suffered another harsh embarrassment from the ACC when Wake Forest beat the unbeaten Hoosiers 33-28 to go 4-0 for the first time since the Jim Grobe era. And while N.C. State was idle, it got plenty of publicity on Thursday night when alumnus rookie third-string quarterback Jacoby Brisett led the New England Patriots to a 27-0 win over the favored Houston Texans.

Bring On Clemson: No. 14 UNC Rolls Past NC State, Completes 8-0 ACC Season

Pinch yourselves Tar Heel fans.

You might just realize that this dream-like season is for real. Not only that,  it’s not over yet.

After clinching the ACC Coastal Division last week against Virginia Tech, the No. 14 UNC football team took care of its other season-long goal in Raleigh on Saturday–defeating the rival NC State Wolfpack 45-34 behind another explosive offensive performance to earn a “State Championship”–the reward for beating all three in-state conference opponents this year.

The school-record 11th consecutive victory has head coach Larry Fedora’s Tar Heels at 11-1, and also completes the program’s first 8-0 finish in the ACC—putting the team in a position to possibly reach the College Football Playoff with a win over No. 1 Clemson in next week’s conference title game.

“It’s incredible,” Fedora said afterwards. “This group of seniors that’s leading this team, and the rest of these guys–they’re doing some things that have never been done here at UNC.

“What a tremendous legacy these seniors are leaving,” he added. “They’re having a lot of fun with each other, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Elijah Hood ran for a career-high 220 yards. (Photo by Smith Cameron Photography)

Elijah Hood ran for a career-high 220 yards. (Photo by Smith Cameron Photography)

Sophomore tailback Elijah Hood gashed the Wolfpack defense for a career-high 220 yards on 21 carries. He also added a pair of touchdowns to help send NC State’s record tumbling to 7-5 overall and 3-5 in the ACC.

“Things were definitely going my way, judging by those stats,” he said with a laugh when informed of his final numbers. “I think we had an excellent gameplan, in all honesty. We came out and played real physical.

“Everyone blocked really well for me out there, from the O-line to the receivers at the second level,” Hood continued. “They gave me a lot of room to make some things happen.”

Hood picked up 52 yards on the opening drive alone, as the Tar Heels got some sweet, symbolic revenge after last season’s 35-7 loss to the Wolfpack in Chapel Hill–going ahead 35-7 in this game before the first quarter ended.

UNC finished the game with a whopping 374 yards on the ground, as speedy second-string running back TJ Logan gave Hood a break in the first quarter by scoring once from 42 yards out, and then again from 40 yards out–and finishing the game with 100 on just six touches.

Through the air, senior quarterback Marquise Williams completed 19-of-30 passes for 174 yards, including a 53-yard touchdown to Mack Hollins during the early explosion. He threw an interception in the second quarter–but it was his first since October 24th at home against Virginia.

“Our thing was, [NC State] thought we were the same team as last year,” Williams said. “We lost to Virginia Tech last year and we came and took care of business [this year]. We lost to Miami bad [last year], came and took care of business. We lost to State bad, came and took care of business.

“We’re the 2015 team, and that’s what I love about this team,” he added. “This team has that grit, and just wants to finish.”

Despite jumping out to the huge lead early in the game, UNC was unable to keep the Wolfpack from clawing their way back into contention.

A pair of lost fumbles in the second half (one by Williams, one by Hood)–led to 13 NC State points, as the Tar Heel offense began to sputter. After piling on 35 in the first 14:09, UNC failed to score in either the second or third quarters.

Wolfpack quarterback Jacoby Brissett completed just 17 of his 37 throws, but picked up 204 yards and two passing touchdowns. A physical, dual-threat player, he also had 128 rushing yards and two scores on the ground to keep his team from being blown out.

UNC vs. NC State

(Photo by Smith Cameron Photography)

By the start of the fourth quarter, after a 3-yard scoring run from Brissett, NC State had shrunk the UNC lead to 35-23.

The fans in Carter-Finley Stadium were beginning to regain hope.

It was a moment reminiscent of the Tar Heels’ sloppy finish against Virginia Tech a week ago, where they allowed two touchdowns in the final three minutes of regulation before winning in overtime.

But an 11-play, 73-yard drive by UNC was capped at the beginning of the final period with Hood’s 1-yard touchdown run–giving the team some much needed breathing room down the stretch.

A fumble by Hood on the next Tar Heel possession looked like it would set up the Wolfpack with another score, but Gene Chizik’s UNC defense forced a field goal, which kept the lead at 16.

After the Tar Heels drove down and got a field goal of their own, NC State finally broke through for another touchdown on a 20-yard pass by Brissett to David Grinnage–but with only 1:50 remaining, it was too little, too late.

UNC recovered the ensuing onside kick, and went into the victory formation to kneel out the game clock–putting the final stamp on its most successful regular season in program history.

Fedora has explained that he began each team meeting this year by stating two goals.

Coastal Division Champs. State Champs.

With both of those goals accomplished, though, he can finally turn his focus elsewhere.

“Well, now it’s time to reset our goals,” the coach said after the game. “Our goal now will be to be ACC Champions.”

North Carolina Tar Heels vs. NC State Wolfpack in Photos

Up Next:

Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte now awaits Fedora and the Tar Heels, where they will get a shot at the nation’s top-ranked team–the 12-0 Clemson Tigers. That game will take place next Saturday, December 5th at 8 p.m.

Game Notes:

  • Elijah Hood has now run for 1,280 yards this season–good enough for the third-best single-season rushing total in school history.
  • The first touchdown of the game was a 5-yard pass to Quinshad Davis by backup quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who entered the game for one play because Williams’ helmet fell off on the play before.
  • The 35 points scored in the first quarter were the most scored in a single quarter in school history.
  • UNC’s previous high-mark for rushing yards this season was 294 against Miami.


Tar Heels Out For Revenge Against the Wolfpack

With the ACC Coastal Division wrapped up–and a spot in the conference title game against Clemson assured—the No. 14 UNC football team has already put together its best season since 1997.

It’s not over yet, though, as the Tar Heels close out the year in Raleigh against their most-hated football rivals, NC State–seeking revenge for the 35-7 loss they suffered at the hands of the Wolfpack in Chapel Hill last season.

Ten straight victories have head coach Larry Fedora’s Tar Heels sitting at 10-1 this year—with a perfect 7-0 mark against conference foes. Last week’s division-clinching win over Virginia Tech helped UNC reach the first of the goals Fedora has preached in team meetings all year.

For most teams it could be easy to be complacent in this situation. But the Wolfpack are the opponent this weekend—and well, that just means the Tar Heels have yet another opportunity to take care of another year-long goal.

UNC vs Virginia Tech

Larry Fedora and Marquise Williams have UNC making history this season. (Smith Cameron Photography)

“It’s been one of our goals to be state champs,” Fedora said at his weekly press conference on Monday. “Whether we played [NC State] early or late, it was still going to be the same way.

“This goal is equally important to us [as winning the Coastal],” he added. “I don’t worry about this team, a letdown, or ‘Are they gonna be motivated enough?’ That really hasn’t entered into my mind.”

To become state champs, the Tar Heels have already beaten Duke and Wake Forest, but will now have to defeat a 7-4 NC State team that is one of the few in the ACC with as much athleticism as UNC.

Not to mention the bragging rights the Wolfpack hold in this rivalry, winning six of the last eight meetings between the two schools—including the demoralizing victory a year ago.

“Cannot forget it,” senior linebacker Shakeel Rashad said in reference to that game. “Football’s an emotional game, and so obviously that’s been in the back of our minds—it’s a salty game—so that taste has been in the back of our mouths since the game ended last year.

“We have to remember what it felt like, the way we lost that game.”

After the win in 2014, Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren took some subtle jabs at UNC, saying that his is a “blue-collar, hands-in-the-dirt” school.

The Tar Heel players and coaches chose not to address those words directly in the lead-up to the game this week, but senior quarterback Marquise Williams did speak about how the loss affected the team’s close to the season, including the 40-21 bowl loss to Rutgers.

“It was bad, you know, that feeling,” Williams said. “A rival team, that came here and stomped [us] on [our] own ground. It was tough for us–and we had to overcome it, and move on from it.”

“It seemed like we didn’t overcome [the loss to State] because then we went out and got stomped some more.”

The star of last year’s NC State team—dual-threat quarterback Jacoby Brissett—is back this year, and will provide Williams with a near mirror of himself whenever he’s watching from the sidelines. Not only that, the weapons around Brissett, like speedy tailbacks Jaylen Samuels and Nyheim Hines, will present the UNC defense with a stiff challenge all day long.

Wolfpack  quarterback Jacoby Brissett plays very similar to Williams--and also wears number 12. (Lance King/Getty Images)

Wolfpack quarterback Jacoby Brissett plays very similar to Williams–and also wears number 12. (Lance King/Getty Images)

“These guys are not slaps,” Williams said about his opponents this weekend. “This is a good football team, and they’re a good football team that’s been competing, playing very well. They played Clemson very well, they played Florida State very well, and they’ve been doing great things.”

The Wolfpack lost a 56-41shootout when they played Clemson, the No. 1 team in the country, and fell 34-17 in Tallahassee against Florida State.

Now they’ll get one final chance at a marquee upset when they meet a Tar Heel team not only hell bent on revenge, but locked in on goals it’s never reached before—a message Fedora made clear about his squad.

“We’re not done,” Fedora said. “I won’t sit back and look back until it’s all over with. I told [the players] earlier in the week ‘We’ve come too far to only come this far.’

“We still have our blinders on, our heads down, and continue to be focused on the job at hand.”

Broadcast Information:

The game will be broadcast live on WCHL’s radio airwaves, on 97.9 FM and 1360 AM. It will also be televised on ABC. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.

Game Notes

  • It will be the 105th meeting all-time between the local rivals. UNC leads the all-time series at 65-33-6.
  • Sophomore tailback Elijah Hood last week became the first Tar Heel to rush for 1,000 yards in a season since Gio Bernard did it in 2012.
  • Carolina’s 10-game win streak is the third longest in the country at the moment.

3 Years Ago: Giovani Bernard Returns Game Winning Touchdown

“No he’s not!  Yes he is!”

Jones Angell exclaimed those words three years ago when Giovani Bernard returned a Wolfpack punt for a game-winning touchdown.

The game, on October 27, 2012, was tied at 35 with 30 seconds left in regulation.  NC State punter Wil Baumann stood on his team’s 11 yard line.  He took the long-snap, stepped up, and booted the football away.

Fifteen seconds later, Giovani Bernard was running into the end-zone and the Kenan Stadium crowd went wild.  It was a good day for Giovani Bernard.  This was his third touchdown.

The 73-yard punt return by Giovani Bernard put the Tar Heels up 41-35 over the Wolfpack.  A two-point conversion pushed the lead to 43-35.  The Wolfpack failed at an onside-kick attempt and then Bryn Renner took a knee to end the game.

SBNation said the game was one of the best of 2012.

Head coach Larry Fedora was in his first year with the Tar Heels.  The win was Carolina’s first over NC State after five straight losses.

Giovani Bernard was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2013.  In less than 3 seasons in the NFL, the running back has scored 17 total touchdowns.  All of that scoring has come on offense.

In 2015, the Tar Heel football team is beginning to generate the kind of excitement that was seen in Kenan Stadium on October 27, 2012.  The Tar Heels are undefeated in the ACC and are 6-1, overall.

Relive the magical play via the ACC Digital Network.  We get the call from television at the beginning of the video, so make sure you stick around for the second angle of the play featuring the incredible radio call from Jones Angell.

Back to Drawing Board for Fedora, Heels

UNC head football coach Larry Fedora was at a loss for words following his team’s 35-7 blowout loss to their rivals in red. The Tar Heels came into the contest on a high off the dominant Duke win, but the roles were reversed Saturday afternoon.

***Listen to the story***

Carolina’s football team couldn’t match the physicality and intensity of the N.C. State Wolfpack Saturday afternoon inside Kenan Stadium and as a result, finished the regular season with a disappointing 6-6 record.

Their Wolfpack rivals improved to 7-5 on the season and snapped a two-game losing slide to the Tar Heels.

***Click here for NCSU game recap***

Both UNC quarterback Marquise Williams and receiver Ryan Switzer were knocked out of the game by the relentless Wolfpack attack, and the enigmatic Carolina regular season came to a close with a resounding thud.

Coach Fedora wasn’t mincing any words after the game. He says he can’t remember a worse offensive output in his coaching career.

Mitch Trubisky was thrust into action Saturday (Elliott Rubin)

Mitch Trubisky was thrust into action Saturday (Elliott Rubin)

“You got to at least be decent up front, and we weren’t. We just didn’t have anybody make any plays. Give them credit. We didn’t match the energy level. That’s one of the worst offensive performances I’ve been around,” Coach Fedora says.

It’s hard to argue with the Carolina skipper. The Tar Heels only mustered 207 yards of total offense against the 454 yards racked up by the Wolfpack.

N.C. State shot out of the gates with high intensity and ruthless intention, dominating the line of scrimmage and delivering punishing blow after punishing blow to UNC signal caller Williams.

Carolina offensive lineman Landon Turner says the O-line’s struggles were all mental.

“I think before the game, everyone had plenty of energy. I think, mentally, somewhere down the line we lost some guys. It was more of a mental issue than a physical issue today,” Turner says.

The defensive line didn’t fare any better for the Tar Heels, giving up a whopping 388 rushing yards to the Wolfpack.

What’s more, N.C. State quarterback Jacoby Brissett ran all over the Tar Heels, setting his school’s single-game rushing record for a quarterback with 167 yards.

The only bright spot for the Tar Heels came with 1:48 remaining in the contest. Quinshad Davis tied Hakeem Nicks for the all-time career receiving touchdowns record with his 21st score.

There was plenty of red inside Kenan Stadium (Elliott Rubin)

There was plenty of red inside Kenan Stadium (Elliott Rubin)

But that was no consolation prize for the junior receiver. Davis says his team didn’t respond at all to N.C. State’s aggression.

“We felt like we were ready to go. They just hit us in the mouth, and we didn’t react. That’s that,” Davis says.

What’s next for the Tar Heel football team? The demoralized Tar Heels will now await their postseason bowl destination, likely a lower-tier bowl game.

But in the meantime, Coach Fedora says the coaching staff will hit the recruiting trail and the players will focus on finishing up their coursework strong.

“The coaches will be on the road recruiting. Our guys have got their last few days of class, so they’ll be concentrating on finishing up well in the classroom. We will probably lift them and run them some just to keep them moving around, but really we’ll try to give their bodies a break here,” Coach Fedora says.

Wolfpack Thrashes Williams, Tar Heels

The North Carolina football team couldn’t match the physicality and intensity of the N.C. State Wolfpack Saturday afternoon inside Kenan Stadium and was soundly beaten 35-7.

With the win, the Wolfpack improved to 7-5 on the season, while the Tar Heels dropped to 6-6 overall with the defeat.

NC State huddle  (Elliott Rubin)

NC State huddle (Elliott Rubin)

Both Marquise Williams and Ryan Switzer were knocked out of the game by the relentless attack by the Wolfpack, and the enigmatic Carolina regular season came to a close with a resounding thud.

“Stunning is a good word. It was very disappointing. I was very surprised, actually. But, it’s what it was. No matter how you look at it, they dominated the line of scrimmage. It’s like what we did a week ago; it was the exact opposite this week. It’s hard to win a game when you don’t win upfront,” UNC head coach Larry Fedora says.

The Wolfpack shot out of the gates with high intensity and ruthless intention, dominating the line of scrimmage and delivering punishing blow after punishing blow to UNC quarterback Marquise Williams.

“That was definitely one of our worst games as an offensive line. It wasn’t a lack of ability. I think it was more of a mental gap. We got in our own heads today,” junior guard Landon Turner says.

The defensive line didn’t fare any better for the Tar Heels, giving up 388 rushing yards to the Wolfpack.

NC State quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who set the single-game rushing record for rushing yards at his school with 167, capped off the 79-yard opening drive with a 17-yard touchdown run that gave the visitors a 7-0 lead with 11:02 on the first quarter clock.

Brissett followed that score up with another impressive drive that ended with a 2-yard touchdown pass to sophomore tight end David Grinnage with 9:52 to play in the half.

UNC’s Thomas Moore missed a makeable 35-yard field goal attempt and the Wolfpack responded with a 4-yard touchdown dive from running back Shadrach Thornton to grab his team a 21-0 advantage at intermission.

Mitch Trubisky was thrust into action Saturday (Elliott Rubin)

Mitch Trubisky was thrust into action Saturday (Elliott Rubin)

The pounding on Williams didn’t stop after halftime. A venomous tackle left Williams flat on his back before being helped up and off the field early days in the third quarter.

A three-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Purvis at the close of an extended drive gave NC State an insurmountable 28-0 lead with 4:21 remaining in the third quarter.

To make matters worse, Ryan Switzer was pummeled on a punt return and stayed down on the ground for minutes before being helped off the field in the fourth quarter.

The only bright spot for the Tar Heels came with 1:48 remaining in the contest. Quinshad Davis tied Hakeem Micks for the all-time career receiving touchdowns record with his 21st score.

“Very, very proud of the NC State Wolfpack football team and our coaching staff and our players and the preparation. For two games in a row, we’ve dominated an in-state opponent, and that’s what it was – 388 yards rushing and held them to 30. It was a great performance, in all three phases, by a bunch of different people,” NC State head coach Dave Doeren says.

The demoralized Tar Heels will now await their postseason bowl destination, likely a lower-tier bowl game, after a disappointing 6-6 regular season finish.


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.

***Listen to the story***

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.

Tar Heels Take Down Wolfpack, Spoil NCSU Homecoming

RALEIGH—The atmosphere was electric inside Carter-Finley Stadium, but Carolina spoiled the Homecoming hopes of the crowd with a 27-19 road win to improve to 3-5 on the season and 2-3 in the ACC. NC State dropped to 3-5 overall and 0-5 in conference play.

The wolf howls were echoing throughout the raucous stadium as the Tar Heels received the kickoff to open the contest between 2-5 UNC and 3-4 N.C. State.

The opening drive for Carolina was woeful. Bryn Renner hung out a ball that was easily picked off by a hungry Wolfpack defender. And just like that, NC State was in prime position to draw first blood.

Brandon Mitchell trotted out onto the field to lead the Wolfpack. And he took the ball in his hands with a couple of quarterback keepers to bash the ball inside the Carolina 10-yard line.

And a few plays later, Mitchell waltzed into the end zone untouched to put the Wolfpack ahead 7-0 to the delight of the fans in attendance.

Carolina’s next try with the ball nearly ended in more disaster with Ebron fumbling the ball, but recovering it in the nick of time.

And the series was halted by a sack of Renner. The punt unit was forced on the field for the Tar Heels.

Mitchell delivered a clean ball to a wide open receiver to move the chains and start another assault on the Carolina defense. It was clear that N.C. State’s game plan was to run the ball over and over again in Mitchell’s hands. It was working.

The Carolina sideline seemed dead as the players were lined up looking on in dismay as the Wolfpack were now first and goal. But Tre Boston soon stepped up with a solid one-on-one tackle to force a field goal for NC State.

With 7:12 left in the first quarter, it was a perfect start for the fired up Wolfpack. The score stood at 10-0 in favor of the team in red.

Carolina knew they had to do something different. And they inserted Marquise Williams in at the quarterback position. Williams connected with Ebron and then Logan burst ahead for a first down carry.

Bug Howard then snagged a crisply thrown ball by Williams to set the Tar Heels up for a solid scoring chance. Williams then tucked the ball and ran ahead for some positive yardage.

A disqualification call by the official on a NC State player was controversial inside the stadium. But the Tar Heels weren’t complaining. The penalty handed them a first and goal situation from the 4-yard line.

A grab from Quinshad Davis in the corner of the end zone scored a much needed touchdown for the Tar Heels. Williams threw a perfect pass to ignite the Tar Heel sideline and get the Tar Heels right back in the game now down 10-7 with 4:41 remaining.

***Listen to the call***

FB NCSU Final 1

Williams impressively went 4-4 passing for 43 yards and a touchdown on the scoring drive.

The authoritative drive by UNC signaled to the Wolfpack that they were here to compete.  And if it didn’t the spirited play of their defense on the next series certainly would. The Tar Heels forced a three and out.

Next, Coach Doeren made a questionable, if not flat out crazy decision to go for a fake punt. He failed, and the UNC offense was gifted prime field position on the NC State side of the field.

The four play, 29-yard scoring drive was capped off by a one-yard touchdown run by Renner to push the Tar Heels ahead on the road 14-10 and temporarily silence the Wolfpack fans.

***Listen to the call***

FB NCSU Final 2

On the next possession for NC State, tailback Shadrach Thornton rumbled ahead for a 24 yard gain into UNC territory. The Wolfpack were just outside of the red zone when time ran out in the first quarter of play. Carolina was holding on to a 14-10 lead.

The Wolfpack held a 137-97 edge in total yardage.

Oh boy! At the start of the second quarter, a Wolfpack receiver dropped a wide open pass to set up third down. And the next Mitchell pass fell to the turf harmlessly to set up a field goal try for NC State.

The Nick Sade field goal sailed through the uprights to place the score at 14-13 in favor of Carolina with 14:48 remaining in second quarter.

A controversial spot by the officials on what appeared to be a first down reception for the Tar Heels forced a punt and handed the ball back to the Wolfpack.

Thornton was rolling with the football as the offense of NC State was driving into UNC territory looking to reclaim the lead. The UNC defense pushed Mitchell out of bounds shy of the first down marker to force another Sade field goal attempt. Sade punched it through to give the Wolfpack back the lead 16-14 with 10:31 left in the half.

How would the Tar Heels respond? Williams was clobbered in the back field and the decibel level inside Carter-Finley was turned up a notch. Facing a crucial third down play, NC State called a time out to get set.

Renner delivered the goods on third down to keep the drive alive thanks to the capable hands of TJ Thorpe. And lightning struck on the very next play. A 59-yard pass from Ryan Switzer to Davis showed off some tricks in the UNC offensive playbook. The Tar Heels were vaulted back ahead 21-16 with 9:43 left in the half.

***Listen to the call***

FB NCSU Final 3

What would happen next in this back and forth tussle?  Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, bandit Norkeithus Otis was injured and walked off the field on the next series.

The Tar Heel defense put together a solid three and out effort. The Wolfpack were forced to punt.

But it was nothing doing for the UNC offense on the following possession as Tommy Hibbard was on the field for beautiful punt that pinned the Wolfpack back down at their own 2-yard line.

A third down throw was almost intercepted by Tre Boston, but NC State’s punt was fielded by Switzer to give the Tar Heels great field position at the 40-yard line of NC State.

But the Tar Heels faced a fourth down decision at the Wolfpack 36-yard line. Would they punt or go for it? Coach Fedora called a time out to think things over with 4:56 remaining in half.

And one timeout wasn’t enough. He called another one, and then elected to punt the ball.

A great defensive series was put in by the Tar Heels to earn the ball back for the offense. How would Carolina fare this go around?

Not well at all as the Wolfpack defensive line broke through on third down and Renner was forced to throw the ball away.

NC State was happy to run out the clock and go into the locker room down five with the score sitting at 21-16 in favor of Carolina.

At the half, the stat lines were almost dead even. North Carolina held a slim 216-192 yard edge in total yardage. Brandon Mitchell led the Wolfpack in total rush yards with 76 yards while Khris Francis led the Tar Heels with a mere 16 yards on the ground.

Quinshad Davis was the highlight for the Tar Heel offense with two touchdown grabs. One was thrown from Williams, the other from Switzer.

The ball went to NC State to open proceedings in the second half, but the drive stalled and a solid punt pinned the Tar Heel offense back inside their five-yard line.

Renner was back behind center in the first series and he delivered a clutch throw to Sean Tapley on third down in the shadow of his own end zone.

The dual threat combo at quarterback continued for Carolina as Williams picked up a first down on a sneak up the middle off some solid blocking by the young Tar Heel offensive line.

Renner took a look deep, but the pass fell incomplete. A 39-yard punt by Hibbard gave NC State the ball at the 11-yard line.

Travis Hughes applied some good pressure on Mitchell on first down, but then the quarterback ran ahead for a huge gain only made better by a late hit penalty on UNC.

Coach Fedora was furious on the referee’s decision on the penalty. But Mitchell wasn’t fazed for NC State. He delivered a bullet completion to push the Wolfpack into the red zone.

The drive was halted by a gang tackle in the back field by the Carolina defense. Sade’s field goal was good. The score stood at 21-19 Tar Heels with 4:50 left in third quarter.

On a helmet-to-helmet collision on a third down play, no flag was thrown by the officials. Marquise Williams was shaken up on the play, but walked off the field.

A Hibbard punt resulted in a hefty return by NC State across the 50-yard line.

Tar Heel cornerback Tim Scott came up with a timely interception to give the UNC offense another crack at it. But a holding call on center Russell Bodine set the offense behind schedule to begin the drive.

Renner was hit hard and knocked out of the game, temporarily at least. The third quarter came to a close with the Tar Heels setting up for a field goal attempt from the 26-yard line. Carolina held a slim 21-19 lead heading into the final period of play.

After three, Carolina and NC State were deadlocked at 15 first downs apiece.

Moore’s field goal attempt was pushed to the right. NC State was fired up, but they weren’t able to build off the momentum, forced to punt.

On the ensuing drive, Carolina was mixing up the play calling well. Ebron hauled in a clutch third down conversion and Bug Howard caught a nice one. The drive was capped off by a run into the end zone by TJ Logan. But a missed extra point by Thomas Moore kept the Wolfpack in the game down just one score and a two-point conversion at 27-19 with 11:19 remaining in the contest.

***Listen to the call***

FB NCSU Final 4

The Tar Heels got the ball right back off an interception by Brian Walker. Now, UNC could see the finish line if they were able to add points to the scoreboard on this drive.

Well, the story of the next drive for the Tar Heels was unfortunately the yellow flag. Carolina shot themselves in the foot with two holding calls that moved them out of field goal position and forced them to punt the ball back to NC State with 6:20 remaining in the contest. How big would those penalties end up being to the outcome of the game?

It was up to the Wolfpack to take advantage. And they answered the bell with an extensive drive that was spearheaded by tough, physical running by Shadrach Thornton. But soon, it was fourth down and the Tar Heels broke up a pass by Mitchell to get the ball back with 2:42 remaining.

AJ Blue picked up the dagger first down for the Tar Heels, and Carolina ran out the clock from there.

It was a much needed rivalry win for Carolina. The 27-19 win marked the first time the Tar Heels had won in Carter-Finley Stadium since 2005. Carolina kept their bowl hopes alive and awaits Homecoming against Virginia next week.

Breakin’ It Down: NC State



Photo courtesy of

Offense: The Tar Heels have shown drastic improvement in this category as the season has progressed. With playmakers like running back T.J. Logan and receiver Bug Howard emerging in recent weeks, Carolina has a solid stable of options for the dual threat quarterback combo of senior Bryn Renner and sophomore Marquise Williams. And now that we’re talking about the signal callers, it has been a pleasure observing the seamless transition between the rotations. Renner has been nothing but class through the entire process. Trust me, no senior wants to split duties with his sophomore counterpart. But this sophomore Williams is a dynamic player that adds much needed wrinkles to Offensive Coordinator Blake Anderson’s offense. Will he take it and run? Will he sling it down the field? And boy, we haven’t even mentioned that man named Eric Ebron. He leads the team in receiving yards as a tight end. He’s electric. So, it appears the Tar Heel offense is clicking nicely heading into Raleigh Saturday.


The N.C. State Wolfpack remain somewhat of a mystery on this side of the ball. First of all, who will start at the quarterback position? Head Coach Dave Doeren says Brandon Mitchell, who just got back from injury, gives them the best chance at winning if he runs the offense properly. But that’s a BIG IF after the manner it which he was dismantled in Tallahassee last weekend against the stingy Florida State Seminoles. But let there be no mistake. The Wolfpack don’t make their hay through the air. They ride the feet of star running back Shadrach Thornton. Thornton is a furious north-south runner who is extremely difficult to bring down. Just ask the vaunted FSU defense. Thornton tallied up 173 yards on the Seminoles. Carolina is probably shaking in their boots…


EDGE: Carolina


Defense: The Tar Heels have suddenly figured out how to tackle. One-on-one tackling seemed an impossible task for the hapless Heels in the first three or four games of the season, but now is a different story. And a lot of this improvement has to go to Coach Vic Koenning’s relentless drive in practice. He says the Tar Heels have been simplifying everything and focusing all their energies on playing with passion and taking down the man in front of them. It appears to be paying off. The Carolina defense held BostonCollege to a mere 10 points last weekend in Chapel Hill. If you had to pick out one special player for UNC on defense, you would have to go with senior defensive end Kareem Martin. This guy has stepped up tremendously the past couple games. Zero Dark Thursday didn’t turn the lights out on Martin. It’s as if the light bulb went off and boom! Here he is. He’s been causing havoc in the back field ever since and raising the level of the entire defense with him. Martin is a leader to many of the under-classmen on the Tar Heel roster. If they continue to make one-on-one tackles and play with the heart they’ve displayed the past couple contests, a ‘W’ may come a lot easier for Carolina on Saturday.


As for the Wolfpack, their defense had been rather solid until Jameis Winston and FloridaState chewed through them last time out. But let’s be honest. That remains an outlier. Most every team is being embarrassed by the Seminoles this season. The NC State defense features some big boys that will be a handful for the youthful Carolina offensive line. The battle of the trenches will be huge. In addition to being able to apply pressure to opposing quarterbacks, NC State had come up with eight interceptions this year. So an active secondary is set to greet the Tar Heels in Cartwer-Finley. Errant throws will greedily be devoured by the NCSU defenders.




Intangibles: This is a tough call. Both teams have reason to claim the edge in this category. Carolina believes they are on the sharp upswing. The players are talking confidently off the field. The entire team seems unite under the banner of running the table the rest of the way. And the really scary part? They just may. In addition, Head Coach Larry Fedora and the rest of his coaching staff have circled this game on the calendar each season since the man from Southern Mississippi stepped foot in Chapel Hill a year and a half ago. And they got the job done last year with a little help from Gio. But the bottom line: NC State may have been looked over by the Tar Heels in the past, but no longer. Coach Fedora simply won’t allow it.


On the other hand, NC State is the home team. And that’s a big boost. The stadium will be packed and rowdy. What’s more, Carolina hasn’t won a game in Raleigh since 2005. History is on the Wolfpack side. And it has to be said. This is NC State’s Super Bowl. It means everything to them. They will be absolutely ravenous for a win. Can the Tar Heels match their intensity?


EDGE: NC State


QUICK PICK: Tar Heels 34, Wolfpack 24

Go Gio, Go! Tar Heel Star Continues to ‘Wow’ in NFL

Photo courtesy of Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Photo courtesy of Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports


A year ago, UNC running back Giovani Bernard delivered one of the most memorable Tar Heel football moments in recent history, maybe ever.

Yes, his electric punt return for a touchdown to push Carolina past NC State was a sight to behold. All who witnessed the events will tuck the memory away in one of their most cherished recollections, unless of course, you are a State fan.

But what is Gio authoring as an encore on this anniversary of  ‘ The Return ‘ ?  Well, he’s doing what Gio knows how to do best-find the end zone with cannonball-like power and athleticism.

Oh how Tar Heel nation envies the Cincinnati Bengals’ situation. Gio is now theirs. Just think if he had returned to don a Carolina blue uniform this season? Think things may have turned out a bit differently? But alas, Gio is in orange these days.

But everyone, and I mean everyone, needs to watch Gio’s magic Thursday night!

Click here and enjoy!