Carolinas College Football: Weekend in review 09.14.14

Duke (3-0)

Beat Kansas 41-3

What worked: The defense played well, forcing its first turnovers of the season. Safeties DeVon Edwards and Evrett Edwards (no relation) came down with interceptions in the first half. The Blue Devils recorded two sacks and five quarterback hurries, generating significantly more pressure than they did the previous week against Troy (three sacks and one hurry).

Safety Jeremy Cash was all over Kansas’ read-option, finishing with 12 total tackles, a half sack, half tackle for loss and one hurry. Linebacker David Helton was the other Blue Devil to record double-digit tackles (11).

While the defense was impressive, it was freshman running back Shaun Wilson who stole the show. He set a school record for rushing yards in a game, racking up 245 yards on 12 carries. Not bad for his thrid career college game.

What needs work: Coach David Cutcliffe came as close to expressing public frustration with senior quarterback Anthony Boone as he ever has. After the first half, Boone was 9 for 22 for 99 yards, struggling with his accuracy.

In a trend that has carried over from last year, Boone goes through series where he consistently struggles to hit wide receivers, overthrowing them and bouncing balls off the grass.

“It was really just throwing the football, the mechanics of throwing the football,” Cutcliffe said of Boone’s struggles. “There’s times, the first half, it’s highly humid, highly wet, you know? You never really know. I would like to think that it’s not going to happen, but you saw what he did.”

Not really a comfortable thought, a second-year starter and fifth-year senior still consistently having mechanical issues. Boone corrected himself in the second quarter (10 of 11 for 81 yards), but ACC defenses will offer up much more of a challenge than Kansas did.

What’s next: Just one more double-digit underdog left to close out Duke’s nonconference schedule: Tulane. More importantly, the seriousness of the leg injuries to left guard Lucas Patrick and defensive end Dezmond Johnson should be determined this week. Both were carted off the field, but Cutcliffe said Sunday that neither injury appears season-ending.

Laura Keeley

East Carolina (2-1)

Beat No. 17 Virginia Tech 28-21

What went right: The Pirates picked the perfect time to score their first second-half touchdown against Virginia Tech during the Ruffin McNeill era. Heading into Saturday’s game in Blacksburg, Va., East Carolina had gone six straight quarters without crossing the goal line after halftime against the Hokies.

The streak extended to seven Saturday and nearly reached eight, but the Pirates put together a three-play, 65-yard drive that ended when quarterback Shane Carden scuttled into the end zone from a yard out with 16 seconds left in the game.

The TD plunge handed ECU its first road victory against a ranked opponent since it beat No.12 Miami 31-6 in 1996.

It was a storybook performance for senior Carden, who just a year ago turned in what was arguably the worst performance of his career against Virginia Tech. In 2013, Carden was intercepted three times and completed 19 of 31 attempts for 158 yards and one touchdown.

On Saturday, he aired it out for 427 yards to become the first QB to throw for more than 400 yards against a Bud Foster defense since the Hokies’ triple-overtime game against Syracuse in 2002. Carden completed the game interception free, adding three touchdown passes.

Led by a six-reception, 224-yard performance by senior wide receiver Cam Worthy, East Carolina racked up 502 yards of total offense, which was 186 more yards than its past two games against Virginia Tech combined.

Defensively, junior corner Josh Hawkins had interceptions on back-to-back drives and has three picks in the past two games.

Led by the return of nose tackle Terry Williams (leg injury), the Pirates were fierce up front, with three sacks and six tackles for loss. The defense limited Virginia Tech to 91 rushing yards and 4.4 yards per play.

What went wrong: The biggest win of McNeill’s five-year reign with the Pirates was not a flawless one. While ECU raced out of the gate to score three touchdowns on its first four possessions, it went scoreless on its next 10.

After putting the Hokies in a 21-0 hole, East Carolina missed out on a chance to bury Virginia Tech in the second quarter.

The Pirates opted to go for it on fourth-and-2 at the Virginia Tech 11 midway through the second and failed to get the first down. On the ensuing possession, Hawkins’ first interception of the game gave ECU the ball back inside the 25-yard line, but a Carden fumble wiped out a scoring opportunity.

On the next series, Hawkins’ second pick put East Carolina even closer at the 21. However, the Pirates lost a yard over the course of three downs before Warren Harvey missed a 37-yard field goal.

What’s next: East Carolina will attempt to win its fourth straight against an ACC team Saturday when it hosts North Carolina (2-0) at 3:30 p.m. The Tar Heels are coming off a bye week and will be looking to avenge last season’s 55-31 loss to the Pirates at Kenan Stadium.

Brian Hanes

N.C. State (3-0)

beat South Florida 49-17

What worked: N.C. State rushed for more than 300 yards for the first time since 2004 and the 315 yards were the most since 1994. Four running backs had 50 yards or more and receiver Bra’Lon Cherry ran for two touchdowns.

Junior quarterback Jacoby Brissett, from West Palm Beach, Fla., had a successful homecoming with 266 passing yards and two touchdowns.

Defensive tackle Thomas Teal got into South Florida’s backfield and created pressure. He also had the most important play of the game, a forced fumble in South Florida’s end of the field when the game was tied at 7.

What needs work: The punt return game was something of an adventure with one bobbled punt by Cherry and one fumbled. The Bulls punted seven times, and Cherry returned only four for a total of minus-1 yards.

The Bulls also hit a 75-yard pass for a touchdown and had an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown called back.

What’s next: N.C. State will host Presbyterian on Saturday. The Blue Hose opened the season with a 55-3 loss to Northern Illinois, Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren’s old team, but recovered with a 69-14 win against Bluefield and a 10-7 win against Furman. Kickoff will be at 6 p.m.

Joe Giglio

South Carolina (2-1)

Beat No. 6 Georgia 38-35

What worked: The way South Carolina’s defense has played this season, it was essential the Gamecocks played efficient ball control offense to minimize Georgia possessions. South Carolina had four 75-yard drives, all for touchdowns, and 27 first downs to Georgia’s 18.

Quarterback Dylan Thompson threw for 271 yards and three touchdowns. The offensive line – particularly the left side – had a terrific game.

Also, the Gamecocks got a key stop in the red zone in the fourth quarter when defensive lineman Gerald Dixon harassed quarterback Hutson Mason into an intentional-grounding penalty.

What needs work: It’s no secret the Gamecocks’ defense struggles to get opposing offenses to the sideline. Georgia punted just twice in 10 possessions. Had Bulldogs kicker Marshall Morgan not missed two field goals (one from 28 yards), the Gamecocks might well be 0-2 in the SEC.

What’s next: The Gamecocks will play their first road game of the season at Vanderbilt, which has struggled big-time this early season.

Rick Bonnell

Charlotte (3-0)

Beat N.C. Central 40-28

What worked: The 49ers played a nearly flawless game – through three quarters. Quarterback Matt Johnson was key in Charlotte jumping to a 40-0 lead, finishing the game with a school-record 150 yards rushing (including a 70-yarder) and 143 yards passing (including a 65-yard scoring pass to Austin Duke on the first play of the game).

The defense had several big plays, including a 52-yard fumble recovery by safety Branden Dozier (caused by Desmond Cooper) for a touchdown and an interception late in the game by cornerback Tank Norman that finally ended the Eagles’ rally.

What needs work: The 49ers looked like a team that doesn’t know how to finish an otherwise impressive performance. Two of N.C. Central’s four fourth-quarter touchdowns were the result of 49ers turnovers – an interception return for a score and after a fumble recovery.

What’s next: The 49ers will play Saturday at Elon (0-2), which lost at N.C. A&T 17-12. Elon, a former Southern Conference program, is playing in the Colonial Athletic Association.

David Scott

Wake Forest (1-2)

Lost to Utah State 36-24

What worked: Freshman quarterback John Wolford continued to show signs of progress, throwing for 257 yards and two touchdowns. The Deacons showed moxie, rallying in the third quarter to cut a 29-7 halftime deficit to 29-21.

What needs work: Wake Forest’s offensive line didn’t do a good job of protecting Wolford, who was sacked six times – he also threw two interceptions. Thanks to those sacks, the Deacons’ rushing numbers were desultory – they “gained” minus-25 yards. Isaiah Robinson’s 13 yards led Wake Forest.

What’s next: The Deacons will host Army (1-1), which lost to No. 15 Stanford 35-0. D.S.