Appalachian State (6-5, 5-2 Sun Belt)
Beat Louisiana-Lafayette 35-16
What worked: In winning their fifth consecutive game, the Mountaineers worked the Ragin’ Cajuns over on the ground, with Marcus Cox rushing for 151 yards and two touchdowns on 36 carries. Appalachian State held Louisiana-Lafayette to 99 yards rushing and sacked Terrance Broadway five times.
What needs work: Mountaineers quarterback Taylor Lamb wasn’t as sharp as he could have been, completing 11 of 22 passes.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
What’s next: The Mountaineers will close out their first Sun Belt season at home against Idaho (1-9, 1-6) Saturday. David Scott
Beat Morehead State 52-14
What worked: The 49ers put pressure on the Eagles’ offense early, forcing three first-quarter turnovers. The ground game was brutally effective, with sophomore Kalif Phillips running for 187 yards and Damarrell Alexander 107. Blake Brewer kicked a school-record 51-yard field goal.
What needs work: Charlotte’s defense stayed on the field longer than it wanted to, allowing Morehead State a 41:06-18:54 edge in time of possession. But the 49ers’ quick-strike offense makes that not much of a concern.
What’s next: The 49ers’ season is over. They head to the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision and Conference USA next season. David Scott
Clemson (8-3, 6-2 ACC)
Beat Georgia State 28-0
What worked: As the shutout suggests, the defense was superb. The Tigers ended this game with three interceptions, holding Georgia State to 155 yards and 10 first downs. Georgia State averaged 1.2 yards per rush.
What needs work: The Clemson passing game wasn’t as dominant as you might expect, considering the quality of opponent. The Tigers gained 148 yards through the air, with one touchdown and one interception.
What’s next: The Tigers will host cross-state rival South Carolina at noon Saturday. Rick Bonnell
No. 25 Duke (8-3, 4-3 ACC)
Lost to North Carolina 45-20
What worked: Coach David Cutcliffe told his team at halftime that “We’ve done some special things to keep it from being 42-7,” and he was right. The only reason UNC hadn’t put the game away before intermission was because of three straight fumbles by Tar Heels quarterback Marquise Williams that were recovered by Duke. Each time, UNC was inside the Duke 31. Credit safety DeVon Edwards and defensive end Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo with the forced fumbles
What needs work: Inconsistent quarterback play has hamstrung the offense for weeks, and that position was responsible for all three turnovers against the Tar Heels (a fumble apiece by Anthony Boone and Thomas Sirk, as well as a Boone interception on the opening drive of the third quarter). The bend-don’t-break defense broke pretty quickly, with North Carolina amassing 149 yards and 21 points in the first quarter. Even special teams let the Blue Devils down – it’s not often that a punter downs his own punt, but that’s what happened in the second quarter. Will Monday, from midfield, punted the ball straight up, and when it landed, it took a big bounce toward him, traveling a grand total of 15 yards. Monday was there to down it at North Carolina’s 36-yard line.
What’s next: The regular-season finale against Wake Forest (3-8, 1-6 ACC). Laura Keeley
East Carolina (7-3, 4-2 American Athletic)
Beat Tulane 34-6
What went right: The Pirates snapped a two-game losing streak and made history as wide receiver Justin Hardy caught his 350th career pass in the second quarter to break the Football Bowl Subdivision mark of 349 set by former Oklahoma star Ryan Broyles. Hardy, who caught nine passes for 104 yards, recorded his 15th 100-yard receiving game and ranks 13th on the FBS’ all-time receiving yards list with 4,153.
Penalties have been a big issue this season, averaging 8.8 flags per contest. On Saturday, ECU managed five penalties for 40 yards.
One week after surrendering a season-high 586 yards during their 54-46 loss at Cincinnati, the Pirates clamped down on Tulane, allowing a pair of field goals. It was the first time ECU has not surrendered a touchdown since 2008.
The defensive effort was led by a front seven that decimated Tulane at the line of scrimmage. The Green Wave averaged less than a yard per rushing attempt (27 carries for 24 yards), and the Pirates tallied four sacks and nine tackles for a loss.
What went wrong: There wasn’t much but the Pirates failed to convert what could have been two critical fourth downs.
The first attempt came on ECU’s first possession, as the Pirates found themselves facing fourth-and-1 at their own 48. The Pirates turned to running back Breon Allen to pick up the yard, but he was stuffed by the Green Wave.
The second attempt came on a fourth-and-1 at the Tulane 1. Coach Ruffin McNeill opted to try and run Allen off tackle instead of going to kicker Warren Harvey. Allen could not find the end zone.
What’s next: The Pirates will hit the road to play Tulsa (2-9, 2-5) at 8:30 Friday. Brian Hanes
N.C. State (6-5, 2-5 ACC)
Jarvis Byrd suffered the first of his three major knee injuries against North Carolina in 2009. N.C. State coach Dave Doeren is hopeful the sixth-year senior will be able to play Saturday against the Tar Heels.
Byrd, who has been dealing with an ankle injury, missed the 42-13 win against Wake Forest on Nov. 15. The safety had another week to rest with the Wolfpack’s bye week this past Saturday.
“I’m hopeful he’ll be back for this one, because I know it’s important to him to be on the field against Carolina,” Doeren said.
Just getting back on the field, and making a key pass breakup in the season-opening win against Georgia Southern, was an accomplishment for Byrd. He has played in eight of the Wolfpack’s first 11 games and has six tackles.
For his resilience, Byrd was nominated for the Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award this week.
What’s next: At UNC (6-5), 12:30 p.m. Saturday. Joe Giglio
North Carolina (6-5, 4-3 ACC)
Beat No. 25 Duke 45-20
What worked: Nearly everything worked, finally, for the Tar Heels. They played their most complete game of the season at Duke and controlled all three phases. Offensively, UNC set season highs in total yards (592) and yards per play (7.04), and the Tar Heels got off to a fast start. Marquise Williams, outside of three fumbles during the second quarter, played well and finished with 374 yards of offense and four touchdowns. The biggest difference for UNC, though, was its defense. The Tar Heels are in the midst of one of the worst defensive seasons in school history but Thursday night forced three turnovers and held Duke to 378 yards and 4.91 yards per play.
What needs work: Williams’ three fumbles were the only blemish on a performance that otherwise was nearly perfect. The Tar Heels led 28-7 in the second quarter and those turnovers prevented them from putting the game away as early as they could have. The main thing UNC needs to do is carry over the positives into the regular-season finale against N.C. State on Saturday. Defensively, especially, the Tar Heels have some momentum and good mojo going.
What’s next: UNC, which became bowl eligible, will finish the regular season Saturday at home against N.C. State. This will be the first time the teams will end the regular season against each other since 2009. Andrew Carter
Wake Forest (3-8, 1-6 ACC)
Beat Virginia Tech 6-3 (2OT)
What worked: The Deacons held the Hokies scoreless in regulation, limiting the Hokies to 254 yards. Wake Forest’s Mike Weaver made two field goals in overtime after missing two tries in regulation.
What needs work: Wake Forest’s offense has struggled all season and this game was no different. The Deacons had 234 total yards, including 74rushing.
What’s next: The Deacons will wrap up their season Saturday at Duke. David Scott