UNC Football vs. Miami

The 8-1 UNC football team will take on Miami in an ACC battle on Saturday, November 14th.  The game kicks off at 3:30 in Kenan Stadium.

You can listen to UNC Football vs. Miami on 97.9 FM and 1360 AM WCHL.

WCHL will broadcast Countdown to Kickoff with Ron Stutts from 12:30 until 2:30 from Hickory Tavern.  The UNC pregame show starts at 2:30 from Kenan Stadium.

The Tar Heels are sitting atop the ACC Coastal division after defeating the Duke Blue Devils 66-31 last Saturday.  Senior quarterback Marquise 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.

The performance launched the UNC football team from Number 21 to Number 17 in the AP Poll.  After being unlisted in the College Football Playoff rankings, Carolina is now Number 23.

The Miami Hurricanes will come into Chapel Hill with a 6-3 record.  The team is 2-0 since the firing of head coach Al Golden.  In the ACC Coastal division, Miami is tied for third place with Pittsburgh.


UNC-Duke Football Pregame at Hickory Tavern

UNC-Duke football.  Tobacco Road football that matters in November.

Join WCHL at Hickory Tavern in Carrboro for your Tar Heel Football pregame festivities.

WCHL will be broadcasting “Countdown to Kickoff with Ron Stutts” from 9:00 until 11:00 AM on Saturday, November 7 on 97.9 FM, 1360 AM and online at Chapelboro.com.

The Tar Heels take on the Duke Blue Devils in Kenan Stadium at noon.  Carolina is 7-1 on the season and is looking to go 5-0 in the ACC after last week’s win over Pitt.  Despite Duke’s last-second loss against Miami, this game decides who will be in the driver’s seat in the ACC Coastal Division.

Hickory Tavern is located on 310-110 East Main Street in Carrboro.

While you are visiting Hickory Tavern, be sure to sign up for our Carolina Basketball Holiday Hoops in Brooklyn Giveaway.




Chansky’s Notebook: No Mickey Mouse for Heels?

Pitt returned the favor to Carolina. Ugh.

I can just envision Larry Fedora having his team over to the football center Thursday night to watch Virginia Tech at Pitt in the Tar Heels’ best chance to regain control of the Coastal Division as they head into their off weekend.

In order for Carolina to control its own destiny for the rest of the season, the Hokies have to lose another game, and their visit to Heinz Field in Pittsburgh was their toughest ACC encounter left on the schedule.

As you know by now, VaTech eked out a 39-36 victory, fueled a bunch of those lob, jump ball passes to their tall wide receivers that we saw in Kenan Stadium during the hurricane game of 2016. Pitt had some dynamic throw and catch plays down the middle of the field, and James Connor ran for 146 yards and three touchdowns. But the Hokies suddenly turned into a passing team and held on to win.

Pitt was no longer a threat to Carolina because it still has games at Miami and Clemson and the Tar Heels beat the Panthers back in September. That miraculous 14-point comeback win in the last six minutes stung Pitt, and it certainly returned the favor to UNC by losing at home to Virginia Tech, another game it would like to have back.

So, Carolina fans are left almost hopeless that the Hokies will lose at Duke on November 5 or to Georgia Tech or Virginia at home in their last two ACC games. Fat chance. They have lost to Duke two of the last three years and are way better than the Blue Bellies this season. And they aren’t losing at home to the Yellow Jackets or Cavaliers, ACC also-rans, with the Coastal Division title in sight.

Fedora’s bunch can win out, finish 10-2 and go to a pretty good bowl game. But it is long odds that they will first play in the ACC championship game again, this year moved to Orlando thanks to HB2. The only saving grace of that development is that Tar Heels fans who planned to go will save a bunch of jack not having to fly to Florida and dropping a few hundred more if they took their kids and went to see Mickey Mouse at Disney World. “Oh, boy!”




Tommy Hatton Named ACC Rookie and O-Lineman of the Week

With injuries taking their toll on the UNC offensive line in recent weeks, new opportunities have presented themselves to young players like Tommy Hatton.

Filling in for senior left guard Caleb Peterson–who is out for the season after undergoing back surgery–Hatton was named the ACC’s Offensive Lineman of the Week award for his performance in the Tar Heels’ 35-14 win over Virginia on Saturday.

A redshirt freshman from Glen Rock, New Jersey, Hatton was also named the conference’s Rookie of the Week.

Hatton graded out at 90 percent against Virginia, while not allowing a sack or hit on quarterback Mitch Trubisky. He also led an inexperienced offensive line that played well above its years–paving the way for running backs Elijah Hood and TJ Logan to combine for 168 yards on 26 carries.

This is the first time Hatton–a former Under Armour All-American in high school–has earned an ACC Player of the Week honor. It certainly may not be the last, however.

Since taking time away from the team earlier in the season due to personal reasons, Hatton has returned playing as good as anyone the Tar Heels have up front.


UNC Football Up to No. 21 in Latest AP Top 25

Saturday’s win at Virginia–the UNC football team’s ninth straight victory on the road–marked the first time in 2016 that the Tar Heels have won as a ranked team.

Then ranked No. 22, head coach Larry Fedora’s squad moved up one spot in this week’s poll to No. 21.

The Tar Heels are 6-2 as they enter their bye week, but the team had previously lost to both Georgia and Virginia Tech as a member of the top 25.

Now, though, its schedule has lightened up and UNC is back on track.

Of UNC’s final four games, none are against schools listed as part of the top 25, or that received votes for the top 25.

Clemson (No. 3), Louisville (No. 5) and Florida State (No. 12) are the only other ACC teams listed ahead of the Tar Heels. However, each of these schools plays in the league’s Atlantic Division.

UNC, at No. 21, is the highest ranked team out of the Coastal Division. In reality, the Tar Heels are positioned in a three-way tie atop the division with No. 25 Virginia Tech and Pitt, which didn’t quite receive enough votes to enter the rankings.

The SEC leads all conferences with six teams among the top 25–including No. 1 Alabama. Both the ACC and the Big Ten are right behind with five ranked teams apiece.




UNC Starts Slow, Finishes Strong In 35-14 Win at Virginia

Despite a slow start, the No. 22 UNC football team eventually recovered and outclassed its opponents in every possible way on Saturday—defeating the Virginia Cavaliers 35-14 in Charlottesville for the team’s ninth straight win on the road.

Now 6-2 in 2016 with a 4-1 ACC mark, the Tar Heels received yet another solid performance from junior quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns.

UNC tailbacks Elijah Hood and TJ Logan each had solid days on the ground, as well. The duo combined for 168 yards with both players making a trip into the end zone.

TJ Logan helped the Tar Heels begin to pull away from Virginia with touchdown run in the second half. (Jeffrey A. Camarati/ UNC Athletics)

TJ Logan helped the Tar Heels begin to pull away from Virginia with his touchdown run in the second half. (Jeffrey A. Camarati/ UNC Athletics)

Virginia (2-5, 1-2 ACC), meanwhile, was limited to just 253 total yards as head coach Larry Fedora’s team continues to make drastic improvements on that side of the ball.

Although it took until the second half for things to really get moving, the Tar Heels did everything they could to ensure this most recent road win wouldn’t need to come down to the final minutes.

“We talked about it at the beginning of the year that if we were gonna be successful and reach our goals this year we were gonna have to be road warriors,” Fedora said after the game. “And they’ve done that, they really have.”

With senior wide receiver Mack Hollins lost for the season with a broken collarbone, it seemed like the Tar Heels needed a few drives to find their rhythm early on. Not only that, UNC was without the services of Caleb Peterson and Jon Heck—two of its most experienced and talented offensive linemen.

This led to a sloppy first half that saw the Tar Heels up just 14-7, with each team scoring a touchdown on a trick play.

Still, though, UNC was able to manufacture three touchdown drives in the second half behind a solid running game and the combination of Trubisky and receiver Bug Howard—who put up his second straight 100-yard game while wearing Hollins’ No. 13 as a tribute.

“To me, we were very inconsistent in the first half,” Fedora said. “I thought we ran the ball well, so those offensive linemen must have done some nice things up there for us to run the ball the way we did.

“We just needed to be a little more consistent,” he continued. “And part of that is when you’ve got two or three new guys up there—you’re working on that.”

The UNC offense was forced into three-and-outs on four separate occasions, while also losing two fumbles during the game. The Tar Heels were able to make plays when they were necessary, but may not have had such an easy time without the help of their defense.

This was a common sight in Charlottesville on Saturday, as the UNC defense put together its best four-quarter performance of the year against Virginia. (Jeffrey A. Camarati/ UNC Athletics)

This was a common sight in Charlottesville on Saturday, as the UNC defense put together its best four-quarter performance of the year against Virginia. (Jeffrey A. Camarati/ UNC Athletics)

Facing immense pressure from a rejuvenated Tar Heel defensive line, Virginia completed less than half of its 45 passes and averaged less than three yards per carry. Once considered the team’s weak link, it could easily be argued that the defense has been the more impressive unit in back-to-back games.

“They’ve got confidence,” Fedora said about his defense. “They’re getting better every week. They’re playing solid. Everybody’s where they’re supposed to be, and they’re taking care of their job.

With just three games remaining against ACC competition, the Tar Heels find themselves still tied atop the Coastal Division.

Off on a bye next week, though, they’ll get a chance to rest and watch as Virginia Tech and Pitt—which are each tied with UNC—face each other in a game that’ll have crucial implications on the rest of the season.

While the Tar Heels will certainly have their eyes on that matchup, the most important aspect of the bye week—according to their coach—is taking a step back from football.

“We gotta get some guys healed up,” Fedora said. “That’s probably our biggest concern, is getting these guys that have played a lot some rest and recovery—and get ‘em back where they’re feeling fresh.”

Up Next:

UNC takes next week off, but will return to action at Kenan Stadium on Saturday Nov. 5 against Georgia Tech.

Game Notes:

  • The Tar Heels’ seven-game win streak over Virginia is UNC’s longest against the Cavaliers since winning nine in a row from 1974-82.
  • UNC held Virginia to just 93 total yards of offense in the second half.  It was the second straight game the Tar Heels held an opponent to less than 20 points.
  • Saturday’s game featured 17 total punts, including 10 by Virginia and seven for the Tar Heels.  The last time a UNC opponent punted 10 times was Old Dominion in 2013.


Chansky’s Notebook: Let’s Not Forget

It’s been 20 years since the heartbreak in ‘Hooville.

With the Tar Heels going to Virginia on Saturday for a game they are favored to win, what better reminder of a having letdown than the infamous outcome 20 years ago in Scott Stadium, when Carolina had seemingly broken the long drought in Charlottesville? Or so we thought. Certainly, every UNC football fan over 30 remembers what happened.

The Heels have not won at UVA since 1981 despite having a better program over those 15 years. But this time they mounted a 17-3 lead late in the game when Brian Simmons picked off a pass and returned it to the shadow of the Virginia goal line. Game over, right? Another TD, or at least a field goal, puts it out of reach. Then All-ACC quarterback Chris Keldorf tried to rub it in by throwing the ball to the end zone. Either Keldorf missed his target or receiver Octavus Barnes turned the wrong way; that has been debated for two decades.

But Antwan Harris, from Raleigh, intercepted the pass and returned it almost 100 yards to awaken the Cavaliers and their fans, who to that point had imbibed themselves into a blither of disappointment. Still, Carolina led 17-10 and could have put the game away. But, uncharacteristically for a Mack Brown team, the Tar Heels fell apart. They could not move the ball, punted and allowed Virginia to tie the score. Ditto on the next possession, and the Wahoos completed the shocker by kicking a 32-yard field goal with 43 seconds remaining to pull off the 20-17 comeback.

Let the memory of that awful evening Charlottesville hang in the air Saturday so these Tar Heels, many of whom weren’t even born yet in 1996, get a lead a continue dominating the series as they have since the turn of the century. Let’s not forget that pain of 20 years ago. Let’s remember it, and shove it further into the past.


UNC Football Doesn’t Buy-In to “Trap Game” Mentality Against Virginia

Over the first couple weeks of the 2016 college football season, many analysts wondered if Virginia was among the worst teams in a Power Five conference.

The Cavaliers have found life recently, however, shifting the narrative quite a bit—with some wondering if the UNC football team’s trip to Charlottesville this weekend should be viewed as a trap game.

Prior to the season, it was widely recognized that the stretch from the middle of September to the middle of October—the first four ACC games– would be toughest slate of opponents the Tar Heels would see all season.


Playing without senior receiver Mack Hollins--who was lost for the season with a broken clavicle--means unheralded players like Thomas Jackson will need to step up for UNC. (Smith Cameron Photography)

Playing without senior receiver Mack Hollins–who was lost for the season with a broken clavicle–means unheralded players like Thomas Jackson will need to step up for UNC. (Smith Cameron Photography)

While UNC’s loss against Virginia Tech was its first at home since 2014, the team can take pride in opening conference play 3-1 against a group that included three teams ranked in the top 25 at the time and a Pitt squad that remains one of the tougher groups in the ACC Coastal Division.

Taking into account Virginia Tech’s loss at Syracuse this past weekend, quarterback Mitch Trubisky and the Tar Heels enter the home stretch with a great shot to repeat as Coastal Champions, provided they stay focused on the big picture.

“I never thought we were out of it just because we lost one game,” Trubisky said at Monday’s press conference. “It’s a long season, and pretty much anything can happen.

“That gives us confidence because [we] want to see things fall in place for us to be able to reach our goals at the end.”

UNC’s defensive resurgence not only lifted the team to a win over Miami, it also gave the Tar Heels a return to the Top 25—coming in at No. 22 this week.

That hasn’t always meant good things, however.

On both occasions UNC has played as a ranked team this season, they’ve come up on the wrong side of the scoreboard.

Although nobody has confused this Virginia team for Georgia or Virginia Tech—which were each ranked when they beat UNC—the Cavaliers have gone 2-1 while averaging 38 points per game in their last three outings.

This comes after they opened the year 0-3 under new head coach Bronco Mendenhall–with a sputtering offense that scored just over 18 points per game in losses to Oregon, UCONN, and Richmond, an FCS school.

UNC defensive coordinator Gene Chizik spoke after practice Tuesday about the difference he’s seen in his opponent this season.

“It’s night and day different,” Chizik said of Virginia’s transformation. “I think they were really trying to figure out who they were, and what they wanted to be and what their players could actually do productivity-wise.

“They’ve definitely hit that groove now,” he continued. “They’re very efficient in what they do—throwing the ball and running the ball.”

Virginia tailback Taquan Mizzell has proven during his career that he is very dangerous with the ball in his hands--no matter how it gets there. (AP Photo/ Steve Helber)

Virginia tailback Taquan Mizzell has proven during his career that he is very dangerous with the ball in his hands–no matter how it gets there. (AP Photo/ Steve Helber)

Quarterback Kurt Benkert has been a large part of Virginia’s recent improvement, as he’s picked up his game significantly over the last three weeks. While Benkert is a serviceable player under center, Chizik pinpointed tailback Taquan Mizzell as the Cavaliers’ most dangerous threat.

So far this season, Mizzell leads Virginia in rushing and is fourth on the team in both receptions and receiving yards.

He also set an ACC record last season for most receiving yards in a single season by a running back, with 721.

“He’s really a great player,” Chizik said of Mizzell. “They find ways to get him the ball, and rightly so.

He’s great catching the ball out of the backfield and he’s great with the ball in his hands as a running back,” the coach added. “He’s just a very productive player.”

Taking into account UNC’s long-term goals and Virginia’s recent upswing in performance, it’s easy to see why it would be an awful time for the Tar Heels to sleep on their opponents this week.

Obviously every team wants to win all its games, but upsets happen all the time when one team overlooks another that could be considered less talented.

That, of course, is where the idea of the trap game originated.

Tar Heel fans shouldn’t fear, however, as Trubisky is doing his part to keep that negative mentality out of the locker room this week.

“I don’t see it as a trap game,” Trubisky said. “It’s a big game for us in the Coastal. Virginia’s gotten better each week. They’re gonna be a really tough team.

“It’s a big game for us,” he continued. “I don’t see it [as a trap], and I hope nobody else on our team sees it that way.”


Defense Savoring Its Moment Following UNC Football’s Win Over Miami

Up until the UNC football team’s 20-13 win over Miami on Saturday, it had become common practice for anyone talking or writing about the Tar Heels to mention the major deficiencies on defense.

After that same defense saved the game against the Hurricanes, though, defensive tackle Jeremiah Clarke wasn’t afraid to admit that the criticism helped them savor their moment that much more.

“It felt great to finally win one on defense,” Clarke said at Monday’s press conference. “But like [Defensive Coordinator Gene] Chizik and the guys have been saying, it’s a golf swing mentality.

“A perfect hit or hitting it in the water is one golf swing away,” he continued, lifting his hand to show his thumb and index finger scrunched together. “It’s literally this small of a chance, and we’ve been right there.

Clarke (left) picked up the fumble forced by Malik Carney late in Saturday's win over Miami--sealing the win for UNC in the process. (Smith Cameron Photography)

Clarke (left) picked up the fumble forced by Malik Carney late in Saturday’s win over Miami–sealing the win for UNC in the process. (Smith Cameron Photography)

“I feel like we’re finally playing as a defense that’s making less and less mistakes.”

The dominant theme for UNC’s defense in 2016 has been its struggles stopping the run. The Tar Heels spent the early part of the season ranked among the worst run defenses in the entire nation, let alone the ACC.

Following the win over James Madison in Week Three—a game against an FCS opponent where the Tar Heels gave up 209 yards on the ground, and trailed after the first quarter—Clarke said things began to change in the locker room. Guys on the defensive side of the ball started getting upset over the thought of being a burden to the team.

Pitt came in to Kenan Stadium the next week and gashed the Tar Heels for 281 rushing yards, but since then UNC has improved in each of its last three games—including holding Miami’s running game to just 139 yards.

“We really didn’t feel like we performed good in that game [against James Madison],” Clarke said. “So we all kinda had to look at ourselves in the mirror and go ‘How are we gonna look and go forward as a defensive line? Are we gonna keep hindering the defense or are we gonna make the improvements we have to make?’”

It hasn’t all been bad news defensively for the Tar Heels this season, however. They rank 31st nationally in passing yards allowed behind the strength of talented cornerbacks MJ Stewart and Des Lawrence.

The problem is that opponents have taken advantage of the spotty defensive line play whenever they’ve needed to move the ball.

This has, at times, turned the secondary into glorified linebackers—evidenced by the fact that strong safety Donnie Miles leads the team in tackles for the second straight year.

Now that the big guys have made good on their efforts to improve in recent weeks—including Malik Carney’s game-saving strip-sack against Miami–head coach Larry Fedora decided it was time to give them each the individual praise they’ve earned.

Junior defensive tackle Naz Jones has been the team's leader up front all year, setting the tone for everyone else around him on defense. (Smith Cameron Photography)

Junior defensive tackle Naz Jones has been the team’s leader up front all year, setting the tone for everyone else around him on defense. (Smith Cameron Photography)

“Naz [Jones], especially [has been playing well],” Fedora told reporters. “His game is getting better and better and better.

“Jalen Dalton, same thing–he’s starting to understand that role of moving inside,” the coach added. “Aaron Crawford, playing much better. Jeremiah Clarke, playing better. And the guy now who’s really starting to be a factor is Malik Carney.”

Despite having two losses, the Tar Heels have found themselves back in the top 25 and in a tie atop the ACC Coastal Division.

With an offense as strong as the one UNC already possesses, the way it finishes the season will likely come down to whether the defense can continue building on its gradual progress. The Miami game certainly put some people back on notice as to what the Tar Heels are capable of defensively, but it’s not likely to change everyone’s opinions overnight.

That, Clarke said, will have to happen the old-fashioned way.

“I think people underestimate the Carolina team,” Clarke said.

“You know, you see the beautiful UNC blue color and they assume it comes with soft players and actions,” he added, flashing a bright grin. “We’re just out here to prove that we’re just as good any team in the ACC and that people and teams should stop underestimating us.

“Maybe if we keep beating top opponents and ranked teams we’ll finally get the respect we deserve.”


Lucas Crowley Named ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week

Entering the 2016 college football season, UNC had the luxury of possessing one of the more experienced offensive lines in the country.

A pre-season injury to senior John Ferranto–followed by injuries during the season to fellow seniors Caleb Peterson and Jon Heck–have largely stripped the Tar Heels of that experience.

The one constant up front, however, has been senior center Lucas Crowley–who was named ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week for his performance in UNC’s 20-13 win over Miami on Saturday.

Crowley was outstanding as he helped a patchwork offensive line protect quarterback Mitch Trubisky and create running lanes for tailbacks TJ Logan and Elijah Hood.

It’s the second time this season Crowley has earned the honor, also picking it up in Week Two for his efforts in UNC’s road win at Illinois.

With Ferranto out for the season–and the current status of Peterson and Heck questionable–Crowley may continue to carry a large burden for the Tar Heel offensive line moving forward.

So far, though, he’s proven to be more than capable of handling the task.