It was a heartbreaker weekend for N.C. State and N.C. Central, but a great one for Duke and UNC. Read our football recap here.
Above: Jonathan Lloyd (5) and Duke made up for a lackluster season with a convincing win over Georgia Tech Saturday. Photo from the Herald-Sun.
North Carolina Central Eagles
The outcome: The Eagles (7-4, 5-3 MEAC) fell to their archrival North Carolina A&T Aggies (11-0, 8-0 MEAC) on Saturday afternoon, 24-10.
What worked?: NCCU’s only touchdown came on the ground late in the third quarter. Redshirt freshman running back Isaiah Totten ran three yards into the end zone to cut the Eagles’ deficit to 11 points heading into the fourth quarter. Totten was one of the Eagles’ bright spots in the loss. The Apex native had 11 carries for 61 yards, including a 40-yard breakaway run that set NCCU up for a field goal in the second quarter.
What didn’t?: N.C. Central’s rush defense was gashed, as the Aggies totaled 205 yards and two scores on the ground. N.C. A&T running back Jamari Smith had 14 carries for 99 yards. Aggies running back Marquell Cartwright added 60 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Both Cartwright’s scores came in the third quarter and put the game out of reach for the Eagles.
What’s next?: Expectations were high this season for head coach Jerry Mack and the Eagles. N.C. Central was picked to finish first in the MEAC this season, but finished the season fourth in the conference. With the win, N.C. A&T will move on to the Celebration Bowl and will play the winner of the Southwestern Athletic Conference on Dec. 16. The Eagles’ season is over. But after winning three consecutive league titles under Mack, NCCU will look to get back to the top of the conference in the 2018 season.
North Carolina Tar Heels
The outcome: The Tar Heels (3-8, 1-6 ACC) destroyed their FCS opponent, the Western Carolina Catamounts (7-5, 5-3 SoCon) on Saturday, 65-10.
What worked?: After a slow start, UNC’s offense exploded for 35 points in the second quarter and put the game on cruise control from there. The Tar Heels seemed to take their season-long frustrations out on the Catamounts. Sophomore quarterback Nathan Elliot completed 18 of 28 pass attempts for 240 yards and four touchdowns. Sophomore wide receiver Anthony Ratliff-Williams was Elliot’s primary target. Ratliff-Williams caught five balls for 88 yards and a touchdown. On the ground, freshman running back Michael Carter broke the 100-yard mark. Carter ran for 103 yards and a touchdown.
What didn’t?: UNC was forced to punt on their first possession after just seven plays. Western Carolina got on the board first — which should not be the case for UNC against a much weaker FCS opponent. Catamounts running back Detrez Newsome also broke 100 yards on 26 carries.
What’s next?: The Tar Heels will now take on their rival, the N.C. State Wolfpack, in Raleigh next Saturday. N.C. State has lost three of its last four games, and anything can happen in a rivalry. However, I believe UNC will lose this one by about 17 points.
Duke Blue Devils
The outcome: The Blue Devils (5-6, 2-5 ACC) snapped a six-game losing streak by destroying the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (5-5, 4-4 ACC) 43-20 on Saturday afternoon.
What worked?: Duke’s rushing attack finally looked formidable again. The Blue Devils totaled 319 rushing yards and two scores on the ground. Redshirt freshman running back Britain Brown ran for 116 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Daniel Jones also showed he can make plays on his feet. Jones ran for 91 yards and a touchdown. Senior running back Shaun Wilson pitched in, doing a little bit of everything and totaling 113 all-purpose yards. Wilson ran for 73 yards on the ground, caught two touchdown passes and threw for another on a trick play.
What didn’t?: The Blue Devils’ defense gave up 277 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. Yellow Jackets’ quarterback TaQuon Mitchell ran for 140 yards and a touchdown. Duke gave up a handful of big plays to Mitchell — most notably a 35-yard pass to the end zone in the first quarter and a 48-yard scramble in the second quarter.
What’s next?: Duke will now travel to Winston-Salem to take on a surging Wake Forest team in an attempt to clinch bowl eligibility. The Demon Deacons are coming off of back-to-back wins and have caught their stride at the right time. Look for Duke to lose here, in a close one, by about 3-7 points.
North Carolina State Wolfpack
The outcome: The Wolfpack (7-4, 5-2 ACC) lost its second conference game on Saturday night, 30-24 to the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (7-4, 4-3 ACC).
What worked?: N.C. State out-gained Wake Forest in total yards (502 to 334), had more first downs (28 to 18) and had the ball for longer (41:07 to 18:53). Redshirt junior quarterback Ryan Finley threw for 327 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Sophomore receiver Kelvin Harmon caught eight passes for 105 yards and redshirt sophomore receiver Jakobi Meyers caught 10 passes for 90 yards.
What didn’t?: N.C. State let Wake Forest find the end zone three times in the first half. Demon Deacons quarterback John Wolford had his way with the Wolfpack secondary. Wolford threw for 247 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Wake Forest receiver Tabari Hines had eight receptions for 139 yards and three touchdowns. Little mistakes cost the Wolfpack in the end. Freshman receiver Emeka Emezie fumbled the football as he reached for what would have been the go-ahead touchdown with 1:53 remaining in the game. However, this loss was due to a number of self-inflicted wounds by the Wolfpack.
What’s next?: What could have been a historical season for the Wolfpack has now turned into yet another mediocre campaign. N.C. State out-gained its opponents in three of its four losses but couldn’t get out of its own way. Now the Wolfpack will get set to take on archrival North Carolina next Saturday at home. N.C. State should win this one, by about 17 points.