Duke and N.C. State's football teams are going bowling. For UNC and N.C. Central, the season is over. Here's what happened this weekend.
Above: Duke Athletics.
Duke Blue Devils
The outcome: The Blue Devils (6-6, 3-5 ACC) won their second consecutive game and clinched bowl eligibility for the fifth time in six years by beating the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (7-5, 4-4 ACC) Saturday afternoon, 31-23.
What worked?: Duke’s secondary made life difficult for Wake Forest quarterback John Wolford. Wolford completed just 16 of his 33 pass attempts for 191 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Both interceptions came from Duke sophomore cornerback Mark Gilbert. Gilbert’s first interception came before halftime when Wake Forest marched into Duke territory. The sophomore’s second takeaway happened with 1:34 left in the game and sealed the victory for the Blue Devils.
What didn’t?: Duke redshirt sophomore quarterback Daniel Jones also threw his fair share of interceptions — three on the day. Two of Jones’ interceptions were from within Demon Deacons’ territory and one of them was on the opening drive of the game. Jones’ first pick of the game set up a four-play touchdown drive for Wake Forest and helped the Demon Deacons get on the board first. The Charlotte native now almost has the same amount of interceptions as he does touchdown passes on the season — 11 interceptions and 12 touchdowns.
What’s next?: The Blue Devils will now wait to find out their bowl destination. ESPN’s bowl projections currently have Duke in either the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl in St. Petersburg, Florida or the Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit, Michigan.
North Carolina State Wolfpack
The outcome: The Wolfpack (8-4, 6-2 ACC) beat its archrival, the North Carolina Tar Heels (3-9, 1-7 ACC), on Saturday afternoon, 33-21. N.C. State finishes the regular season with six ACC wins, its highest number of conference wins since 1994.
What worked?: Just as in the past three matchups between the Wolfpack and the Tar Heels, the team with the most rushing yards won the game. N.C. State junior running back Nyheim Hines had a career day. Hines ran for 196 yards and two scores — one 54-yard and one 48-yard touchdown rush. The Garner native’s first touchdown run came in the final seconds of the third quarter and gave the Wolfpack the momentum back. Once again, Hines saved the day for N.C. State. Hines’ big performance also helped him pass the 1,000-yard mark on the season. He became just the ninth N.C. State player to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season.
What didn’t?: The Wolfpack’s secondary looked suspect again. N.C. State let UNC redshirt sophomore quarterback Nathan Elliott throw for 277 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Anthony Ratliff-Williams was Elliott’s go-to target. Ratliff-Williams had five receptions for 131 yards, including a 51-yard touchdown grab in the first quarter. Special teams play was also an issue for the Wolfpack. Junior kicker Kyle Bambard missed a PAT after N.C. State’s first touchdown of the game. Bambard also missed a field goal from 41 yards out in the third quarter.
What’s next?: N.C. State now has to sit tight and wait to see where its bowl game will be. ESPN’s bowl projections currently have the Wolfpack in either the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in New York, New York or the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida.
North Carolina Tar Heels
The outcome: The Tar Heels (3-9, 1-7 ACC) fell on the road to their rival, the N.C. State Wolfpack (8-4, 6-2 ACC), 33-21.
What worked?: Redshirt sophomore quarterback Nathan Elliott didn’t look bad. Elliott threw for three touchdowns, to three different receivers. Redshirt sophomore receiver Anthony Ratliff-Williams broke the 100-yard receiving mark in a game for just the second time this season (Ratliff-Williams had 125 receiving yards against Duke). Ratliff-Williams’ 131 receiving yards is a career high.
What didn’t?: UNC led in the game for the end of the first quarter, the entire second quarter and all but 40 seconds of the third quarter. However, big plays took the Tar Heels out of the game. UNC allowed N.C. State running back Nyheim Hines to rush for a career-high 196 yards. A large bulk of Hines’ yardage came from two long touchdown runs. The Tar Heels let Hines get free on a 54-yard touchdown run and a 48-yard touchdown run, both in the second half.
What’s next?: North Carolina’s season is over. It was a forgettable campaign for the Tar Heels. However, one thing is for certain — this group never quit. In its last four games, UNC picked up two wins and played both a good Miami and N.C. State team down to the wire. The nucleus of Elliott, Ratliff-Williams, sophomore running back Jordon Brown and freshman running back Michael Carter gives UNC a solid foundation to build upon for next season.
North Carolina Central Eagles – Season ended last week with a loss to N.C. A&T.