- File photo by Chris Baird
- With the Bull City Gridiron Classic in the rear-view mirror, Duke and NCCU face new challenges on Saturday.
It’s a rare Saturday when all four Division I football teams in the Triangle are favored to win on the same day.
But that’s going to be the case tomorrow.
UNC, N.C. Central and N.C. State are all playing home games in which they will write guarantee checks to lesser opponents.
Only Duke, which will travel to Memphis for what should be a fairer fight, seems to be facing a bit of a heavy lift.
The slate opens at 12:30 at Kenan Stadium, where the Tar Heels (0-1) play their home opener against Middle Tennessee State (1-0) of Conference USA.
N.C. Central (0-1) plays its home opener at O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium at 2 against former CIAA rival St. Augustine’s, which will be opening its season on Saturday.
Duke (1-0) visits Memphis of the American Athletic Conference in the Tigers’ season opener at 4:30.
And N.C. State (1-0) entertains Richmond (1-0) of the Colonial Athletic Association at 6 at Carter-Finley Stadium.
UNC vs. Middle Tennessee State
Larry Fedora’s Tar Heels are licking their wounds after losing 27-10 at then-No. 6 South Carolina in the season opener.
But they’ll be 17 ½-point favorites on Saturday against the Blue Raiders in the schools’ first meeting. The game will be shown live on WLFL-22.
Bryn Renner completed 26 of 43 passes for 194 yards and a TD against the Gamecocks, while Quinshad Davis caught four for 39 including the TD. Romar Morris carried 15 times for 69 yards.
“The biggest thing (we need to improve upon) is tackling,” Fedora said. “It’s definitely tackling, and two of the big plays that we gave up (against the Gamecocks) were because of tackling. The third play of the game we just get beat on a stick post with the corner and outside leverage. But if we tackle better as a football team, we don’t give up those big plays.”
MTSU’s Jordan Parker carried 22 times for 156 yards and a TD in the 45-24 season-opening win over visiting Western Carolina. Logan Kilgore completed 12 of 18 for 144 yards and a TD, while Tavarres Jefferson caught three passes for 34 yards.
N.C. Central vs. St. Augustine’s
The Eagles ran into a buzzsaw six days ago in their 45-0 loss at cross-town rival Duke in the third Bull City Gridiron Classic.
But this meeting with the smaller Raleigh school should give Dwayne Foster his first victory as a collegiate head coach. NCCU leads the all-time series against the Division II Falcons 26-2-1.
Jordan Reid completed 11 of 22 passes for 87 yards against Duke, while Marvin Poole caught four passes for 27. Idreis Augustus carried nine times for 60 yards.
“Duke is a very good FBS football team that was very deep and plays sound, physical football,” Foster said. “There were times when we were overmatched. We’re looking forward to playing St. Aug. They’ll be a good football team. Coach (Mike) Costa does a good job. They fly around and are active and we look forward to Saturday afternoon.”
Roderick Davenport carried 127 times for 627 yards and 11 TDs as a freshman for the Falcons, who went 6-4 last season. Byron Munro completed 17 of 30 passes for 285 yards and five TDs as the freshman backup QB, while Bryan Richards caught 47 passes for 464 yards and five TDs.
N.C. State vs. Richmond
The Wolfpack put on a show in its first game under head coach Dave Doeren last week, walloping Louisiana Tech 40-14.
This one is supposed to be easier. State, which is listed as a 26 ½-point favorite, leads the all-time series with the
State’s redshirt junior QB Pete Thomas, who took over when Brandon Mitchell suffered a broken foot, completed 15 of 27 passes for 212 yards with one interception against the Bulldogs. Rashard Smith caught five passes for 82 yards, while true freshman Matt Dayes rushed 17 times for 86 yards and three TDs.
“Thomas came in and played well,” Doeren said. “Once he settled down, we were able to finish the game and got a lot of people in. We forced some turnovers and protected the ball. I thought our kicker Niklas Sade did a nice job in our opening game. We come back with a game with Richmond, ranked 12th (in the FCS). We know they’re a good football team, returning a lot of starters, a team that has done well in the past playing up.”
Michael Strauss completed 23 of 36 passes for 265 yards and three TDs with one interception in the Spiders’ 34-0 win over VMI, with Ben Edwards catching seven for 95 with one TD. Jacobi Green rushed eight times for 95 yards.
Duke at Memphis
Duke definitely got off on the right foot with new starting QB Anthony Boone under center against the Eagles.
David Cutcliffe’s team certainly needs to keep that momentum up at Memphis (4-8 last season) if the Blue Devils want to stay on track for a second straight bowl trip. The Blue Devils will be 4 ½-point favorites as they finish the two-year home-and-home with the Tigers following a 38-14 romp in Durham.
Boone completed 16 of 20 passes for 176 yards and ran for one TD against the Eagles, while Jamison Crowder caught six passes for 62 yards and returned a punt for a TD. Jela Duncan carried 11 times for 76 yards and a TD.
“We played better (on the defensive front) than we played against Central a year ago by a longshot,” Cutcliffe said. “That’s all you really have to compare it to because of being similar opponents. I liked what we did. I liked what our backups did. Do we have a lot of work to do? Yes. (Memphis’) is a different offensive line and also a different style of running game – a little bit more two-back run game with some one-back run game mixed in. I’ll be interested to see how we handle more of a power run game than what Central runs.”
The Tigers’ Jacob Karam completed 176 of 274 passes for 1895 yards and 14 TDs as a junior, while Keiwone Malone caught 44 passes for 476 yards and three TDs. Brandon Hayes carried 118 times for 617 yards and six TDs.
Last week’s three stars
1. Jamison Crowder, WR, Duke. The junior returned five punts for 113 yards and a TD to earn ACC specialist of the week honors, also catching six passes for 62 yards.
2. Matt Dayes, RB, N.C. State. The true freshman rushed 17 times for 84 yards and three TDs in his debut.
3. Pete Thomas, QB, N.C. State. The redshirt junior completed 15 of 27 passes for 212 yards with one interception.