- File photo by Chris Baird
- UNC TE Jack Tabb finds running room against Middle Tennessee.
Most of the Triangle’s Division I football teams still have seasons that could take off in either direction.
But for UNC, the time to start winning is now. Urgently. Now.
The Tar Heels (1-4, 0-2 ACC) are going to have to win at least five of their last seven games to qualify for a bowl game, and it won’t be an easy task. That stretch run begins tonight at 7:45 at Kenan Stadium, when they host surprisingly good No. 10 Miami (5-0, 1-0) in an opportunity for a major upset — if they play by far their best game of this season.
The UNC-Miami showdown is one of three games involving Triangle squads this weekend. The other two games are Saturday.
N.C. Central (3-3, 1-1 MEAC) will look to get its ship righted when the Eagles host Morgan State (1-5, 1-1) at 2 p.m. at O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium.
Duke (4-2, 0-2 ACC) is on the road at Virginia (2-4, 0-2) for a 3:30 p.m. contest on Fox Sports South, and if the Blue Devils can win it they’ll be on track for a second straight bowl game and their best season since 1994.
N.C. State (3-3, 0-3), which is licking its wounds after back-to-back ACC losses in winnable games, is idle until next Saturday’s trip to Florida State.
UNC vs. Miami
This one was supposed to be a big game in the race for the ACC’s Coastal Division title, but the Tar Heels have yet to be as good as advertised.
UNC leads the series 11-5 and won an 18-14 road victory last year, but is listed as a 9 1/2-point underdog.
“We’ve got a lot of season to play,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said. “I’m far from believing this thing is over with. I mean, we’ve got a lot of work to do, but really, our focus is just on being 1-0 this week. If we get over the hump and do the things we need to do, then we get ready for the next one. But the focus, really, has been more on how we improve and what we need to improve as a football team.
“It’s been disappointing that we haven’t had a game-changing play in our special teams. We’ve had some called back, but we haven’t had any that we have put together and that’s been disappointing because of the amount of emphasis that we put on it.”
Bryn Renner has completed 91 of 152 passes for 1117 yards and seven TDs with three interceptions for the Tar Heels. Eric Ebron has caught 23 passes for 333 yards and two TDs, while Romar Morris has 38 carries for 171 yards and three TDs.
Stephen Morris leads Miami, completing 58 of 94 for 950 yards and nine TDs with four interceptions. Duke Johnson has 572 yards and four TDs on 84 carries, while Allen Hurns has 20 catches for 383 yards and three TDs.
NCCU vs. Morgan State
The Eagles are still smarting from their 44-3 whipping by MEAC rival South Carolina State on TV a week ago tonight.
But they’ll be favored in their homecoming contest against the reeling Bears. MSU leads the series 22-13-12, but NCCU won 24-20 last year in Baltimore. The Dunkel Index has NCCU as a 17-point favorite.
“It was a tough, disappointing loss to South Carolina State,” NCCU coach Dwayne Foster said. “We lost to a very good football team that didn’t make a lot of mistakes. We know we can’t start in a hole against a good football team. We’ve put it behind us and learned from the film. Morgan State is a good football team. Records mean nothing in this conference when you line up on Saturday afternoon.”
Jordan Reid has completed 92 of 178 passes for 985 yards and four TDs with two interceptions for NCCU. Idreis Augustus has rushed 67 times for 295 yards and three TDs, while Adrian Wilkins has 17 catches for 214 yards and one TD.
Seth Higgins has completed 32 of 62 for 380 yards and four TDs with four interceptions for Morgan, also rushing 48 times for 227 yards and three scores. Thomas Martin has 14 catches for 222 yards.
Duke at Virginia
It’s another winnable game for the Blue Devils, who need to get just two of their last six to earn a second straight bowl bid for the first time ever.
Virginia leads the series 33-31, but Duke has won four of the last five including a 42-17 romp in Durham last season. The Cavaliers are two-point favorites.
“It’s the seventh game of the year and only our second road game, so we’ve got to adjust gears quite a bit in that regard and focus ourselves into going and playing an ACC game on the road, which is always a huge challenge,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “Virginia is a very gifted, talented, big, physical team, which has always been a very
difficult match-up for us in that regard. We have to work hard on being a physical team ourselves.
“I think we used the open date a week ago prior to Navy. I think it really healed us, got us in a better frame of mind. Certainly I think our frame of mind is good, but after playing an option team, you still get yourself a little beat up.”
Anthony Boone, who returned last week but has played in only three games this season, has completed 38 of 74 passes for 570 yards and three TDs with one interception. Jela Duncan has carried 56 times for 292 yards and three TDs, while Jamison Crowder has 47 catches for 618 yards and two TDs.
Virginia’s David Watford has completed 128 of 215 passes for 1076 yards and four TDs with seven interceptions. Kevin Parks has carried 116 times for 510 yards and six TDs, while Jake McGee has caught 27 passes for 233 yards and two TDs.
Last week’s three stars:
1. Anthony Boone, QB, Duke. The starter came back off the injury list (broken collarbone), completing 31 of 38 passes for 295 yards and three TDs without an interception in a 35-7 rout of visiting Navy to earn ACC offensive back of the week honors.
2. Perry Simmons, OT, Duke. In his 43rd consecutive start, Simmons led a line that blocked for 435 yards total offense and converted 10 of 16 third downs. He was named ACC offensive lineman of the week.
3. Isaac Blakeney, WR, Duke. He caught five passes for 57 yards and two TDs.