North Carolina (2-1)
Lost to East Carolina 70-41
What worked: The Tar Heels perfectly executed two trick plays that led directly to touchdowns. The first was Ryan Switzer’s 35-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Thorpe, who was wide open down the sideline after Marquise Williams, the quarterback, threw behind the line of scrimmage to Switzer. Later, UNC used a fake field-goal attempt – Tommy Hibbard, the holder, threw 29 yards to a wide-open Ethan Albright – for another score.
What needs work: UNC’s defense allowed more points, first downs and yards than it had ever allowed, so addressing the problems there have to be the greatest priority. At this point, though, it’s fair to wonder whether the defense can be fixed this season.
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Up next: The worst news of all, perhaps, is that the “easy” part of UNC’s schedule is over. The Tar Heels will travel to Clemson this weekend, and that starts a brutal stretch that also includes games against Virginia Tech and Notre Dame.
Beat Tulane 47-13
What worked: Tulane was sloppy in all three phases, and Duke took advantage. The Blue Devils scored 21 points off Tulane’s five turnovers – 14 came directly on interception returns by Joe Ajeigbe and Bryon Fields. Fields, a sophomore cornerback, and freshman linebacker Zavier Carmichael grabbed interceptions in zone coverages, a result of good play calls by defensive coordinator Jim Knowles and sound recognition by the players.
What needs work: Duke’s run defense had difficulties maintaining gap integrity and filling holes against Tulane’s two-running back set. The Blue Devils hadn’t been expecting that – the film suggested the Green Wave would operate with a single back – and Tulane’s three main rushers averaged a combined 5.2 yards per carry.
What’s next: ACC play will begin with a prime-time trip to Miami at 7:30 Saturday. The Blue Devils beat the Hurricanes last year in Durham.
N.C. State (4-0)
Beat Presbyterian 42-0
What worked: The Wolfpack rushed for 265 yards on 31 attempts, which was the third straight game it has eclipsed the 200-yard mark. The program hadn’t done that since 1994. Sophomore Matt Dayes led the team with 86 yards on just six carries.
The defense didn’t give up any points for the first time since a 13-0 home shutout of North Carolina in 2011. Linebacker Jerod Fernandez led the defense with 12 tackles.
What needs work: Quarterback Jacoby Brissett was a little off in the first quarter, as was the offense. The Wolfpack scored one touchdown in the first quarter against the Blue Hose and didn’t get its second touchdown until the final two minutes of the first half.
What’s next: No. 1 Florida State will come to Carter-Finley Stadium after surviving a 23-17 overtime home win against Clemson. The Seminoles lost at N.C. State in 2010 and ’12. N.C. State hasn’t hosted the No. 1 team since 1948. The game will kickoff at 3:30 p.m.
East Carolina (3-1)
Beat North Carolina 70-41
What worked: Just about everything. East Carolina put forth an epic performance during its rout of rival North Carolina to capture back-to-back victories over the rival Tar Heels for the first time in school history.
The Pirates erupted for a school-record 789 yards of offense, gaining 8.1 yards per play.
Quarterback Shane Carden accounted for six touchdowns and orchestrated the Pirates’ offense to perfection.
What went wrong: Early in the first quarter, North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams threw a screen pass to Ryan Switzer, who pulled up and launched a 35-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open T.J. Thorpe for a 10-7 lead.
North Carolina coach Larry Fedora fooled the Pirates again in the second quarter when hepulled out a fake field-goal attempt and temporarily pulled momentum toward the visitor’s sideline.
What’s next: The Pirates will get a week to recover before returning to home for their first American Athletic Conference matchup against a Southern Methodist team that dropped to 0-3 after losing 58-6 to No. 6 Texas A&M.
Appalachian State (1-2)
Lost at Southern Mississippi 21-20
What worked: The Mountaineers might have finally settled on a quarterback in redshirt freshman Taylor Lamb, who led them on a late drive that resulted in a touchdown that cut their deficit to one point. The Mountaineers moved the ball at will during several stretches, with running back Marcus Cox rushing for 119 yards on 22 carries.
What needs work: Zach Matic had a kick blocked on what would have been a tying extra point with six seconds remaining. He also missed two field-goal attempts (36 and 42) and had another blocked. The Mountaineers rolled up 455 yards but had only 20 points to show for them.
What’s next: The Mountaineers will play their first Sun Belt game Thursday at former Southern Conference foe Georgia Southern (2-2). The Eagles beat South Alabama 28-6 in their league opener Saturday.
Lost to No. 1 Florida State 23-17 (OT)
What worked: Freshman quarterback Deshaun Watson finally got extended playing time and came through. He completed 19 of 28 passes for 266 yards and ran for 30 yards and a touchdown. Coach Dabo Swinney said Sunday that Watson would start Saturday against North Carolina.
What needs work: The kicking game. If a major-college football program can’t count on making a field goal of 30 yards or less, that’s a big problem. The Tigers had their chance for a spectacular upset Saturday in Tallahassee, Fla., and the little things wasted that opportunity.
What’s next: Clemson will host North Carolina after the Tar Heels were blown out by East Carolina, giving up 70 points and 789 yards.
South Carolina (3-1)
Beat Vanderbilt 48-34
What worked: Quarterback Dylan Thompson completed 22 of 34 passes for 237 yards and three touchdowns. Pharoh Cooper lived up to preseason billing as a wildcat weapon with a 70-yard run. And the defense made a rare big play when Brison Williams returned an interception 53 yards. Bottom line, the Gamecocks survived an SEC East road game after starting flat, trailing 14-0.
What needs work: Obviously, the kickoff coverage. The same player – Vanderbilt’s Darrius Sims – returned two kicks for touchdowns. Shaky as South Carolina’s defense has been, the Gamecocks can’t afford that kind of special-teams sloppiness.
What’s next: The Gamecocks will host Missouri at 7 p.m. The Tigers were upset by Indiana 31-27.
Lost at Elon 20-13
What worked: The 49ers showed poise in driving late for what might have been a tying touchdown that was negated when quarterback Matt Johnson threw after crossing the line of scrimmage. Receiver Austin Duke had nine catches for 123 yards and a touchdown. Freshman Dustin Crouser, starting at inside linebacker for injured Nick Cook, had 15 tackles.
What needs work: Charlotte allowed the Phoenix to constantly throw underneath coverage, with Elon quarterback Mike Quinn completing 43 of 59 passes for 331 yards – 7.7 yards per completion. Although 49ers running back Kalif Phillips rushed for 80 yards on 24 carries, he often was bottled up inside by a defensive line that overpowered Charlotte’s offensive line.
What’s next: Charlotte will return to Richardson Stadium for a noon game against Charleston Southern (4-0), which beat The Citadel 20-18.
Wake Forest (2-2)
Beat Army 24-21
What worked: The Deacons found a running attack, led by freshman Isaiah Robinson’s 60 yards. Wake Forest shut down the Black Knights’ triple-option offense in the second half. Freshman quarterback John Wolford continued to progress, completing 25 of 35 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns.
What needs work: Wake Forest started slowly and trailed 21-14 at halftime. Although Army didn’t score in the second half, it still rushed for 341 yards. That’s something Wake Forest doesn’t need to be too concerned with, however, since the Deacons won’t face a similar offense again this season (Georgia Tech isn’t on the schedule).
What’s next: The Deacons will play Saturday at Louisville (3-1, 1-0). The ACC-newcomer Cardinals beat Florida International 34-3.