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***

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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***

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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***

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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***

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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 wordcampraleigh.com

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!


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.

****Listen to the full interview***

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.



Remembering The Return

CHAPEL HILL – North Carolina won’t be in the friendly confines of Kenan Stadium for the Red-Blue rivalry this weekend, but players and fans in blue have been thinking back to the last minutes of last year’s home contest.

SBNation.com released its top 100 college football games of 2012 in January, and the 43-35 North Carolina victory of N.C.State came in at No. 6.

***WCHL’s Ran Northam has a listen back to that special day***


Carolina Managing Emotions Before Rivalry Showdown

CHAPEL HILL– The UNC football team is set to add another chapter to its gridiron rivalry against the N.C. State Wolfpack on Saturday. The Tar Heels will be looking to get a little winning streak going with a win in Raleigh, a place where Carolina has not tasted success since 2005.

To make things more complicated, Head Coach Larry Fedora says that due to injuries at the quarterback position, the offense the Wolfpack roll out at Carter-Finley Stadium remains a mystery. Coach Fedora is even soliciting help from the media to do a little scouting.

“It’s still a mystery. They all four do something different. You don’t know exactly who’s going to play or how healthy they all are. You don’t know all the details. If you guys would go over there and watch a practice and tell me, that would help,” Coach Fedora says.

However, there is some very positive news for Tar Heel fans and maybe bad news for opposing defenses. Coach Fedora now says the full offensive playbook package is now at quarterback Marquise Williams’ disposal.

“We have not restricted him in any way. He still has some packages that he is in charge of, but the entire game plan he’s running. Whatever we got going in the game plan, he’s got,” Coach Fedora says.

Big time rivalries are what make college football great. But how do you strike that balance between emotional excitement and focused discipline on game days?

“We want guys to be emotional and have fun with it. But also they can’t let their emotions control them. They have to be able to make decisions under duress. They got to be able to make decisions in the line of fire. […] At the same time, have fun and be excited,” Coach Fedora says.

Defensive coordinator Vic Koenning says defensive end Kareem Martin is “the guy” on his side of the football. Coach Koenning says the Tar Heels really need Martin to be that difference maker.

“I think he’s the most steady player we have right now. He needs to be. It’s squarely on his shoulders. If we’re going to have a guy to be the guy, obviously Kareem would be that person,” Coach Koenning says.

Coach Koenning says the Wolfpack offense will be a handful for the UNC defense on Saturday with athletes all over the field.

“They got a lot of good players. It isn’t like someone pulled the drain. They got great speed at receiver. Their linemen are big guys. They got a lot of tight ends. They play a lot of people,” Coach Koenning says.

How will the Tar Heels stack up? We won’t have to wait much longer to find out.



Martin Making Most of Senior Season

CHAPEL HILL– Senior defensive end Kareem Martin has been stepping up his game lately. Head Coach Larry Fedora says he attributes the spike in play to Martin seeing the light at the end of the tunnel on his career at Carolina.

“I think the thing that you see with Kareem is he can see that light at the end of the tunnel. He is trying to make the most of every play that he has,” Coach Fedora says.

Martin says despite the senior class being relatively small in number, they all have stepped up as vocal leaders on the team, providing guidance to their younger teammates.

“There is only about nine or so of us seniors. But you know even though there is less of us, we’re leading a lot more. There’s not many of us, but our impact can be seen in the locker room and on the field,” Martin says.

The rivalry game against N.C.State means a lot to Martin. He says he is pumped up about the chance to finish out his UNC career with two straight victories over the Wolfpack.

“Last year we were finally able to get the victory. To get two in a row against this squad would mean a whole lot. We’re taking it one game at a time, but to get this win would definitely be a lot bigger than maybe some of the others,” Martin says.

One year ago against N.C.State, lightning struck for the Tar Heels in the form of a punt return by Giovani Bernard. The moment will be enshrined in Carolina football folklore, and Martin says despite being on the sideline for the play, it was one of the best moments he’s had in a Carolina blue uniform.

“I was expecting him to get some yards, but I wasn’t expecting him to run it all the way back. I saw the set-up, and I saw the wall.  I just popped up; I was just like, ‘He might run this back!’ It was just crazy, everybody ran on the field. It was probably one of the best moments I’ve had since I’ve been here,” Martin says.

Martin has been causing more disruption in the backfield in the past couple of contests versus Miami and BostonCollege. He credits this to becoming more of a risk-taker.

“Taking risks is one of the biggest things. […] To make the plays you have to be willing to take the risks. You know, higher the risk, higher the reward. I think it’s been working for me,” Martin says.

Martin will be hoping some of those risks pay off again Saturday in Raleigh.




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.


Attorney: NC State’s Thornton Receiving Counseling

RALEIGH – The attorney for North Carolina State running back Shadrach Thornton says his client is receiving counseling that could lead to the dismissal of a misdemeanor charge of assault on a female.

E. Lee Turner Jr. said Thursday the court will monitor Thornton’s progress as part of a deferred prosecution following his June arrest after an incident involving his girlfriend. Turner says the charge could be dismissed next August if Thornton complies with court requirements.

Turner says Thornton started the counseling program last month. His next court hearing is Oct. 2.

Thornton, who ran for a team-best 694 yards in 2012, is suspended for the opener against Louisiana Tech under new coach Dave Doeren. Turner says Thornton is “happy to get it resolved” so he could focus on school and football.


North Carolina, NC State Football Game Named Sixth-Best Of 2012

CHAPEL HILL – SBNation.com released its top 100 college football games of 2012, and the 43-35 North Carolina victory over N.C. State came in at No. 6.

***Listen to the Story***