Carolinas College Football: Weekend in review

Clemson (6-2, 5-1 ACC)

Beat Syracuse 16-6

What worked: The Tigers held a decent Syracuse offense to two field goals, 10 first downs and 170 yards of total offense. Clemson’s defense has been solid and sometimes dominant (the shutout of N.C. State) since getting pushed around by Georgia in the season-opener. Syracuse quarterback A.J. Long was under constant pressure, resulting in four sacks and just 82 passing yards.

What needs work: It’s no revelation that fifth-year senior Cole Stoudt isn’t Deshaun Watson at quarterback. He struggled for much of the game early, finishing with two interceptions and a fumble. Until Watson comes back from a broken finger, the days of Clemson’s offense generating 500 yards of offense might be on hold..

What’s next: The Tigers have an open date Saturday before playing at Wake Forest on a Nov. 6 Thursday-night game. Rick Bonnell

Duke (6-1, 2-1 ACC)

Did not play

After two open dates in the past four weeks, the Blue Devils are relatively healthy for their November stretch run.

Defensive tackle Jamal Wallace, who missed the Georgia Tech and Virginia games in between Duke’s open dates with a leg injury, is the only outstanding notable injury, and coach David Cutcliffe said earlier in the week that there was hope he could be ready for Pittsburgh Saturday.

Defensive end Dezmond Johnson, who returned against Virginia after missing three games with his own leg injury, didn’t have any additional setbacks.

Duke will need its health to last the rest of the way, as five straight ACC games await to close out the regular season (at Pittsburgh, at Syracuse, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Wake Forest).

At 3-1 in the ACC, the Blue Devils stand alone atop the Coastal Division with a golden opportunity to earn a repeat trip to Charlotte for the ACC championship game.

Duke controls its own destiny. Starting this week, it’s full speed ahead. Laura Keeley

No. 18 East Carolina (6-1, 3-0 AAC)

Beat Connecticut 31-21

What worked: An ECU ground game that managed only 73 yards during the first three quarters, erupted for 63 in the fourth. Breon Allen ripped off a 23-yard run during a six-play, 46-yard drive that helped set up a Warren Harvey 31-yard field goal to take a 24-21 lead, then Allen scored the game-clinching TD from nine yards out with a little over a minute left in the game.

The Pirates defense that surrendered some deep passes to UConn throughout the contest, stepped up to pitch a fourth-quarter shutout and secure the win.

Head coach Ruffin McNeill’s aggressive first-quarter play-calling paid off for the Pirates. On its second possession of the game, ECU went for it on fourth down twice, converting both times to complete a 10-play, 47-yard drive to take a 14-0 lead.

What needs work: A couple of uncharacteristic misfires on long balls set the Pirates back and allowed the Huskies to stay in the game. Wide receiver Cam Worthy, who caught seven passes for 138 yards, failed to pull in a long Carden pass during a scoreless second quarter that would have likely have led to points. Later in the quarter, Carden couldn’t complete a deep ball to Hardy, again blowing another big-play opportunity.

Once again, penalties plagued the Pirates. East Carolina racked up 12 flags for a season-high 148 yards during its last contest versus South Florida. After going into a bye week in which emphasis was placed on reducing penalties, ECU tallied 11 flags for 105 yards.

Despite their Air Raid offense, the Pirates have been able to effectively run the ball all year. Their 1,160 rushing yards after the first five games was the highest total since the 2001 season. However, on Thursday night the ground game got grounded by a sturdy Huskies defense. The lack of a rushing attack resulted in 65 pass attempts by Carden.

What’s next: East Carolina will attempt to win its sixth straight game when it travels to Philadelphia to face Temple (4-3, 2-2 AAC) at noon. The Owls have lost two straight after falling 34-14 to Central Florida on Saturday. Brian Haines

North Carolina (4-4, 2-2 ACC)

Beat Virginia 28-27

What worked: In the final 6 1/2 minutes, pretty much everything worked for the Tar Heels. They came up with a key turnover – Nazair Jones’ interception – that led to their most successful possession of the second half. That ended in Mitch Trubisky’s 16-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Thorpe, which came after Marquise Williams, the starting quarterback, was forced to the sideline for one play after his helmet came off. And then, after the touchdown, UNC’s execution of an onside kick couldn’t have been better. Overall, the Tar Heels weren’t great – or even very good – in any phase, but they made the necessary plays at the right time to win a game that they probably would have lost at earlier points this season.

What needs work: By now UNC’s defensive problems have been well established. Again, though, the Tar Heels played poorly defensively for long stretches on Saturday. UNC improved significantly in the second half, but in the first half it allowed 313 yards to a Virginia offense that has been mediocre this season. Even so, the defense did force the turnover that eventually led to UNC’s victory. The Tar Heels’ special teams also provided one of the most important plays of the game – the successful onside kick – but UNC’s inability to make a field goal longer than 35 yards is a glaring weaknesses. The Tar Heels missed two field goals between 35 and 39 yards and are now 0-for-5 this season on attempts longer than 30 yards.

What’s next: The Tar Heels, who are right back in the thick of the Coastal Division race, travels to Miami this weekend. The Hurricanes defeated Virginia Tech, 30-6, last Thursday. Andrew Carter

N.C. State (4-4, 0-4 ACC)

Did not play

Dave Doeren said his players needed some time off, so he gave them five days off the practice field during the Wolfpack’s open date on the schedule.

“We’ll never be back to 100 percent because we lost a few guys for the season, but we’ll be as close as we can be coming out of the bye week,” Doeren said.

N.C. State will try to end a 12-game ACC losing streak at Syracuse on Saturday. The Wolfpack will get seven players back who were suspended for the 30-18 loss at Louisville on Oct. 18. Even with the return of linebacker Jerod Fernandez, Doeren said he expects to find a more regular role on defense for freshman linebacker Airius Moore.

“Airius definitely deserves playing time,” Doeren said. “When you play the way he did, you’re going to earn playing time. And he did.”

Moore had eight tackles, including a sack, in his first career start vs. Louisville. He also had a 76-yard fumble return for a touchdown called back. Through eight games, Fernandez leads the Wolfpack with 58 tackles.

While the suspensions of the seven players from the BB-gun incident earlier in October are over, senior defensive tackle T.Y. McGill will miss his second straight game with a suspension for violating team rules. McGill’s suspension was not related to the BB-gun incident. Joe Giglio

South Carolina (4-4, 2-4 SEC)

Lost to Auburn 42-35

What worked: Gambles for sure. Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier knew his team had little chance to beat fifth-ranked Auburn on the road without taking some risks. An on-side kick and four fourth-down conversion attempts were all successful. But quarterback Dylan Thompson’s incompletion on 4th and 14finally failed after so many daring attempts.

What needs work: That South Carolina struggled to contain Auburn’s offense is no surprise considering what has occurred e on previously this season. The Gamecocks never really had an answer for Auburn’s Nick Marshall, who finished with three rushing touchdowns and a touchdown pass.

What’s next: South Carolina hosts Tennessee in a night game Saturday, a year removed from the Volunteers upsetting the Gamecocks in Knoxville 23-21. Rick Bonnell

Wake Forest (2-6, 0-4 ACC)

Lost to Boston College 23-17

What worked: The Deacons, facing a 0-4 start in ACC play, rallied in the second half after falling behind 17-0 at halftime. Freshman quarterback John Wolford threw for 242 yards, 233 of them coming in the second half.

What needs work: Wolford lost his poise when he threw an ill-advised pass late that was intercepted with 2:06 remaining, icing the game for the Eagles. Wake Forest’s offense in the first half was nonexistent: The Deacons had minus-1 yard in offense at one point in the second quarter.

What’s next: The Deacons are off until Nov. 6, when they play a Thursday night game against Clemson at BB&T Field. The Tigers (6-2, 5-1) beat Syracuse 16-6 Saturday. David Scott